“I learned about the various ceremonies and what certain practices meant,” he said from his home in Dayton. “I remember there was a display on lifestyles and fishing methods and one on language and culture.”
Klein said the team, which is not playing this year after the minor league season was canceled because of the pandemic, also helps finance charitable efforts on the reservation, including a fund for children, and they are helping to rebuild the local baseball field.
But Harjo said donations from teams to local Native groups could be used to induce the endorsement of local groups. She pointed to contributions made by Florida State University to the Seminole people (Florida State’s teams are known as the Seminoles).
“It always makes me sad to hear that Native people, especially tribal leaders, have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to stereotypes,” she said. “There really is no such thing as a good stereotype.”
Stephanie Fryberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, is a member of the Tulalip Nation in Western Washington State, a group that is part of the Coastal Salish people. Her research has shown that an overwhelming majority of Native Americans who are engaged in cultural practices are offended by Native sports teams names and logos.
She said that as a scientist, she would need more data to fully evaluate the Spokane situation — including surveys of people’s feelings and opinions — but on the surface, she said there appears to be a respectful approach by the team.
“This seems to be a different story,” Fryberg said, contrasting the Spokane situation with many other more contentious team names and mascots. “I would still like to change the name, but I think there is a place for specific Native names. The goal isn’t to get rid of them completely, but to use them appropriately. You can’t use a mascot appropriately.”