The Washington Redskins NFL football franchise started in Boston in 1932. The team played at the city’s National League baseball team’s park and shared the team’s name – the “Boston Braves.”
In its second year, the team moved across town to Fenway Park, the home of Boston’s American League baseball team. In order to avoid confusion with their old baseball hosts, and apparently to fit in with their new baseball hosts name, while retaining the Native-American nature of the nickname, the football took on a new name. Their new hosts were the “Boston Red Sox,” and the football team took on the name “Boston Redskins” (frequently spelled “Red Skins”).[i] The new name wasn’t much of a stretch, as the Boston Braves had been regularly referred to in the press as “Redskins” for years (as had the Cleveland Indians and Indianapolis Indians baseball teams).
If the Redskins did not choose the nickname to honor their Native-American coach and several players, and they only chose the name Braves because they first played in a stadium with a team of the same name, then the reason the Redskins became the Braves (and then Redskins) is basically the same reason the Braves became Braves in the first place.
In 1915, Cleveland’s National League baseball team adopted a new name – the “Indians.” It is widely believed that they adopted the name, in part at least, to emulate the success of the Boston Braves, who won the World Series in 1914 after changing their name from “Rustlers” to “Braves” two seasons earlier.
The fact that Cleveland’s team had been regularly known as “Indians” over the course of two decades before its name change suggests that the popular story does not paint the full picture.
See my earlier post,
And if Cleveland was emulating the “Braves,” how did the “Braves” get their name? The official story is that a new owner chose the name because of his association with a New York City political machine named for an Indian.
As was the case with Cleveland, however, the official story of the Boston Brave’s name change for 1912 does not paint the full picture. They had been known by that name for at least a decade before the name change:
Montgomery, Ala., April 3. – “On to Birmingham” is the battle cry of Buck’s braves, and tonight, with two victories over Montgomery tucked away, Buckenberger led his recruits to Birmingham, where more scalps are looked for.
Boston Post (Massachusetts), April 4, 1904, page 3.
The Official Story
On December 21, 1911, after decades of generally being known as the “Beaneaters”, the team’s new owner, James Gaffney, broke with tradition and gave the team a more heroic name, the “Boston Braves”:
Boston, Mass., Dec. 21. – President Ward, of the Boston Nationals, states that his team will hereafter be known as the “Boston Braves.” In a spirit of levity last week, President Ward suggested to Mr. Gaffney, the new owner, the name “Boston Braves.” The suggestion made a hit with the owner, owing to his connection with the Tammany organization in New York. Henceforth the club will be known as the “Boston Braves,” if it is necessary that it carry a sobriquet.
Reading Times, December 22, 1911, page 6.
The new owner liked the name because he was a member of New York City’s powerful Tammany Hall political machine. Tammany Hall was named after a revered 17th Century Native-American statesman and leader, Tamanend or “Saint” Tamanend, who was widely considered the unofficial “Patron Saint” of America.[ii]
The official story may be true, as far as it goes. It does explain why the new owner liked the name, but it raises additional questions. Why did President Ward suggest the name in the first place, and why did the name strike a chord with fans?
Just one year earlier, the team had been renamed the “Boston Rustlers,” after the previous owner, W. Hepburn Russell, who owned the team for only one season. The team had been variously known as the Red Stockings, Red Caps and Doves in previous years. And yet, despite the various informal nicknames and name changes, the team was regularly referred to as the “Boston Braves” or “Buck’s Braves” between 1902 and 1912. Something else may have been going on.
As was the case with Cleveland, Boston’s new name could have been influenced by many factors. Sports-writers of the day frequently peppered their prose with American-Indian metaphors to emphasize the sporting ideals of esprit de corps and a strong fighting spirit, which were generally understood as being admirable qualities of Native-American culture. Native-Americans were also becoming increasingly visible, successful and popular in football, track and baseball, and their athletic abilities were widely admired and praised in print.[iii] In Boston, the name “Braves” may have been more directly influenced by a manager named “Buck” and the informal name of a local militia unit.
And in any case, the Boston Braves were not the first team in the Greater-Boston Metropolitan Area to be named after a 17th Century Native-American statesman and leader (more on that later).
The Boston Nationals (or Beaneaters, Doves or Rustlers) were sporadically referred to as “Braves” between 1905 and 1911:
. . . The Boston braves came up, swung according to their best lights, then went back to the bucket.
Indianapolis News, October 6, 1908, page 10.
St. Louis Squad Scalped by the Boston Braves
Los Angeles Herald, June 22 1905 page 4.
The occasional use of “Braves” after 1904 may have been a carry-over from Al “Buck” Buckenberger’s three-years with the team from 1902 through 1904, when the team was frequently referred to as “Buck’s Braves” or “Boston Braves”:
|Pittsburgh Press, August 21, 1904, page 19.|
“Buck” and his Boston Braves moved on to Pittsburg last night, where they are to meet the champions to-morrow.
Cincinnati Enquirer, June 4, 1903, page 4.
A. C. Buckenberger and his Boston Braves are due to-day.
Cincinnati Enquirer, July 10, 1902, page 4.
On occasion, the Indian imagery was extended beyond “Braves” to “Tribe”:
|The Washington Times (Washington DC), July 1, 1902, page 4.|
|The Washington Times (Washington DC), July 19, 1902, page 4.|
Surprisingly, perhaps, even Boston’s American League team was occasionally referred to as “Boston braves” during the same period; perhaps a result of conflating the teams, or perhaps reflecting a pre-existing meaning of “Boston Braves” (more on that later):
Clark Griffith’s New York Americans will clash with Jimmy Collins’ champion Boston braves in New York.
The Winnipeg Tribune (Canada), April 16, 1904, page 17.
The defeat of the champion Pittsburgs by Jimmy Collins and his band of Boston braves was another blow to the nationals . . . .
Lewiston Evening Teller (Lewiston, Idaho), April 8, 1904, page 8 (Jimmy Collins led the Red Sox to a win over Pittsburgh in the first modern World Series in 1903).
The name “Buck’s Braves” did not originate in Boston. It followed Buckenberger to Boston from Pittsburgh, where he managed the Pirates from 1892-1894:
|Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), August 3, 1893, page 1.|
|Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), August 5, 1893, page 6.|
|Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), April 26, 1892, page 6.|
“Buck’s Braves” may have even pre-dated his term with Pittsburgh, as suggested by a later-reported anecdote about his time with Kalamazoo in 1897:
It was back in ’87, in the palmy days of the Tri-State league . . . . Buckenberger was manager of the team and played second base. There was one team in the league that was pie for them and that was Mansfield, where “Buck” and his braves had a clean slate of games won.
Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania), February 12, 1905, page 2.
Al Buckenberger was not the only “Buck” to lead a band of so-called “Braves” in the National League. The Cincinnati Reds were routinely referred to as “Buck’s Braves” from 1895 through 1899 when William “Buck” Ewing managed the team:
[The Senators] took advantage of every opportunity to let Buck’s Braves circle the circuit, and on counting up it was seen that eighteen of the Indians had passed Cartwright, Joyce, DeMontreville, Rogers and Jim McGuire and found a tally and a soft seat on the Cincinnati bench.
Washington Times (Washington DC), May 27, 1896, page 3.
It’s possible that the earlier use of “Buck’s Braves” in Pittsburgh could have influenced the later use for “Buck” Ewing’s Cincinnati teams. But it is also possible that a now archaic meaning of “Buck” may have contributed to the name.
|Princeton Union (Princeton, Minnesota), April 5, 1894, page 6.|
During the late-1800s, Native-American women were commonly referred to as “Squaws” and Native-American men as “Bucks”:
|Jamestown Weekly Alert (Jamestown, North Dakota), April 7, 1882, page 2.|
“Prince” Sitting Bull – “My father did not return for many days, and when he did there was a big celebration. It lasted for three days, and was marked by the giving away of young squaws to brave bucks, in recognition of their services.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, Washington), October 15, 1899, page 16.
A team with a manager named “Buck” would have been a prime target to be referred to as “Braves” or “Indians”. But they were not the only teams subjected to the ballplayer-as-Indian metaphor.
Native-American Imagery in Sports
The ballplayer-as-Indian may have reached its logical (or ridiculous) zenith in a piece about Buck Ewing’s Cincinnati Reds:
According to the Baltimore News Captain Buck Ewing is alleged to have harangued his braves in the following manner on the eve of the series with Hanlon’s champions [(the Baltimore Orioles)]:
“Braves and Red men, listen to my words of wisdom, listen to Old Man-Afraid-of-the-Undertaker and hearken to my words of wisdom. To-day we go up against the pale face squaw men from the land of oysters, and ere the sun sets the cactus plants to westward their scalp locks must dangle from our belts – Old Man-Afraid-of-the-Undertaker has spoken and it goes, see?
“Ugh! Why do these pale face squaw men come from the land of oysters and camp upon the trail of Buck’s braves? Why? Why do they come? Because the pale face squaw men want the calico rag [(pennant)] to fly from the top of their tepee; but they won’t get it – Old Man-Afraid-of-the-Undertaker has spoken and it goes, see?
“Ugh! Buck’s braves have their war paint ready and their tommyhawks glisten in the morning sunlight. Buck’s braves eat heap fatted dog and mean to get that calico rag or let the coyotes howl over their carcasses. Who are the first on the long trail through the prairie grass to victory? Buck’s braves. Who are playing ball like a lot of Pawnee medicine men full of fire water? Buck’s braves. Who do not care a papoose’s ejaculation for the Tebeau – heap Tebeau, Man-Who-Eats-Fireworks? Buck’s braves. . . . Buck’s braves will get the calico rag – Old Man-Afraid-of-the-Undertaker has spoken and it goes, see?
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 22, 1896, page 10.
Native-American imagery was also in general use in sports reporting of the era, even where the names of the manager or team did not naturally suggest it. In many cases, the imagery appears to have played off the notion that American-Indian culture was associated with a strong fighting spirit and teamwork, which are both admirable qualities in sports.
In many places and at many times, the term “tribe” was used as a euphemism for “team.” In this example, referring to the Boston Red Sox, the writer used no fewer than seven different terms to refer to the team, in an apparent effort to avoid repetition:
Hats off to Manager Fred Lake and his band of young ball tossers, the Boston Americans, who have jolted the baseball dopesters this year. In the spring the Red Sox looked like the joke club of the league, but Lake has taken a bunch of youngsters and whipped them into wonderful shape, so that right now they appear to be the best balanced team in the league. If one were asked to pick a real individual star on the Red Sox team he couldn’t do it. . . . [T]hat Boston tribe is playing the game.
Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), August 20, 1909, page 7.
The Chicago Cubs, for example, were a “tribe” on occasion:
|Washington Herald (Washington DC), September 29, 1910, page 8.|
|Detroit Free Press, July 1, 1910, page 11.|
In 1907, the Topeka Kansas team was referred to as the “tribe of Cooley” (after their manager), in 1905, the Minneapolis Millers were referred to as the “Watkins tribe” (after one of their owners); and in 1906, the “Ned” Hanlon’s Cincinnati Reds were referred to as the “Cincinnati tribe.”[iv]
In 1904, the University of Nebraska’s football team worried about their practices being “spied upon by the representative of a rival tribe, for his braves are trying the new signals and need every attention that he can possibly give them.”[v]
In some instances, a euphemistic “tribe” might be on the proverbial warpath for opposing team’s metaphoric “scalps”:
The Chicago tribe of Loftus, with five New York scalps hanging to their belts, came to town yesterday to tomahawk the locals.
The torture was well under way when the tables were turned and Loftus’s men received a rude surprise. A batting rally, aided by poor pitching on the part of the Windy City slab artists, allowed the locals to tie the score.
The St. Louis Republic (Missouri), July 23, 1901, page 6.
A similarly war-like account of a game from 1896 coincidentally involved George Tebeau, the brother of Patsy Tebeau who managed “Tebeau’s Indians,” Cleveland’s first team to be known as “Indians”):
[I]t was Big Chief Ganzel, of the Newcastle tribe, and behind him, in single file, trudged his little and silent band of braves. The big chief did not stop until he had reached the open ground then, as he shaded his eyes with his ponderous hands, he silently surveyed the horizon. Seemingly satisfied, he uttered a guttural “ugh,” and the rest of the band came from the forest into the bright sunlight of the prairie and silently, as before, followed their chief across the dead and seared turf towards the setting sun.
Away off to the west, unobserved by the painted warriors, a brave, with feathers in his hair, his battle ax in his hand and bow and arrow slung across his broad shoulders, stood scanning the eastern slopes. . . . With a low whistle, as the cooing of a dove, there arose, as from the earth, eight warriors, dressed as their chief, and sprang to his side. With a few words of command the chief sprang to the front, and, silently as the wind and as swiftly as a frightened deer, the band approached the coming marauders. It was Chief Tebeau and those that followed were his braves, tried and true. . . .
Big Chief Ganzel’s eagle eye discovered the approaching Colts and with the eagerness of a panther he and his associates sprang forward. The two bands met on the shady banks of the historic Maumee. The battle lasted one hour and fifty minutes, and then Big Chief Ganzel withdrew his men from the field. . . . [F]rom present appearances the big chief will be driven back to his eastern hunting grounds with his brow broken and his scalp left dangling on the centre pole of Chief Tebeau’s tepee.
The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Indiana), September 4, 1896, page 1.
Ancient and Honorable “Boston Braves”
In the late-1890s and early 1900s, members of the “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts,” the oldest chartered military organization in North America, were regularly referred to (and referred to each other) as, “Boston Braves”:
There is consternation in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston. The Attorney General has decided that the Ancients may not wear their present brave uniforms, but must array their martial forms in something not so nearly resembling the uniform of the regular army.
New York Tribune, June 13, 1905, page 6.
The Wet Durbar to be held by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston next fall . . . is already the subject of respectful comments among students of the art of war . . . .
We expect to hear that awful war song,
“Take out the ‘dead ones!’
Bring in the ‘live ones!’”
In the general chorus of compliment to these Boston braves, one voice, kind enough in intention, seems a little harsh and cracked.
Iron County Register (Ironton, Missouri), January 15, 1903, page 1.
Rumor tells with pale lips that the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston intends to invade Halifax. . . . If worst comes to worst, and the invincible Boston braves insist upon marching into Nova Scotia, the first thing to be done by the repellers of the invasion will be to put signs on the outside of the citadel: “Positively No Bar!”
The Sun (New York), August 17, 1897, page 6.
The warriors of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston have taken pity on Baltimore, and nobly resolved to pay their own way, and to buy their own food and supplies while honoring that city with their martial presence. . . . Yet the resources of the Boston braves are great.
The Sun (New York), October 7, 1896, page 6.
In a letter written to welcome home a delegation of Ancient and Honorables returning from London:
. . . You will please make my apologies and extend for me a cordial welcome to the returning braves.
Two-Hundered and Fiftieth Annual Record of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, Boston, Mudge & Son, 1888, page 41.
In a hint of irony, the Ancient and Honorables were founded, at least in part, to provide protection against Indians (at least as told in a brief historical sketch of the company published in 1888):
When the first white settlers settled in Massachusetts, as is known to every school boy who has read his history of the colonies, they were surrounded by wild and savage tribes of Indians, who were exceedingly treacherous, and who, jealous of the foothold the whites were gaining on the soil, harassed them continually, thus rendering the subject of military protection most engrossing.
Several of the settlers had been members of the Honourable Artillery company of London, and were men who had in that way become somewhat proficient in martial duties, and it occurred to these to establish such a company in their new colony.
The Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita Daily Eagle), June 24, 1888, page 12.
The “Boston Braves” of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company were not the only social organization to call themselves “Braves” during the period.
|The “Great Incohee” of the IORM, 1904.|
I. O. R. M.
During the first decade of the 1900s, the International Order of Red Men was one of the “leading secret, fraternal and benevolent organizations” in the United States, with nearly 400,000 members in 1904.[vi] The Benevolent and Protectice Order of Elks (B. P. O. E.), by way of comparison, did not surpass the 300,000 mark until 1909.[vii]
|“Great Chiefs” of the IORM, 1904.|
The IORM was a group of grown men and women (the Order of Pocahontas) who gave each other titles such as the “Great Incohee,” “Great Prophet,” “Sachem” and “Brave,” organized themselves into regions called “Reservations” or “Hunting Grounds,” counted the years and months in “Suns” and “Moons”, and wrote the official records of their meetings in F-Troop Indian dialect.
The “Red Men” were active in all states and many territories, and their meetings and activities were regularly reported in the press, replete with reference to “Sachems”, “Braves” and other American-Indian imagery.
So, when the Boston Beaneaters became the Boston Braves, the concept of naming an organized group of men using Indian terminology was not far-fetched or exotic. It was part of the every-day landscape of American pop-culture – and had been (in some form or another) since the founding of the country.
The International Order of Red Men traced its history to “Tammany Societies” of the early United States, the oldest surviving one of which was New York’s Tammany Hall, to which the Boston Braves’ new owner belonged in 1911. Tammany (or Tamanand) was a Delaware Indian who was revered by Native-Americans and Anglo colonists during the 18th century. May 1st was celebrated as Tammany Day throughout much of the Middle-Atlantic region.
Although many of the stories passed down through the Tammany societies read paint him as a god-like figure on the order of a Greek god, he is believed to have been an actual person. His name appears on at least one treaty, ceding land to William Penn in 1683, and he may have been involved in negotiating a second treaty signed in 1685. The fact that his name does not appear on the second treaty leads some to believe that he died sometime between 1683 and 1685.
Tammany (or Tamanand) was remembered as a model of good government, wisdom and liberty:
He was kind, merciful , and brave. . . . Such was the man whom the patriots of the Revolution adopted as their tutelary saint; and if they could not claim that he had performed miracles, they could at least point to him as one who had rendered good service both to his own people and to the whites, and who, while he endeavored to live in peace with all men, would suffer neither wrong nor abuse, nor submit to a loss of his liberty or his rights.
Proceedings of the Tammany Society (1867).[viii]
Revolutionary Patriots revered him as a personification of liberty and individual rights. The decision to call him a “Saint,” however, was more of a joke at the expense of Brits and Europeans than a sign of religious reverence:
His friends adopted the idea of calling him a saint merely to ridicule the foreign societies founded about the period of the Revolutionary war, which had generally designated their organizations by the name of some European saint. The Sons of Liberty were determined that America should not be behind other countries in the illustrious character of her productions, and hence they invented the legendary accounts of the distinguished chieftain, a portion of which were based on the stories received from his descendants.
Proceedings of the Tammany Society (1867).[ix]
Like the Improved Order of the Red Man a century later, meetings of the St. Tammany societies included common tropes and cultural clichés associated with Native-American culture, as illustrated by reports of an early meeting of the St. Tammany Society of New York City in 1787:
At eight o’clock, P. M. the society sat down to an elegant supper, provided by Mr. Hall, after which the following toasts were drank, viz.
. . . May the war hatchet be buried, and the pipe of peace be smoaked, until time shall be no more;
May the industry of the beaver, the frugality of the ant, and constancy of the dove, be the perpetual characteristicks of the sons of St. Tammany;
The daughters of St. Tamany and their paupooces. . . .
May honour, virtue, a true sense of liberty, and a detestation of slavery, be the characteristicks of Americans, and all their adopted brethren.
[A]fter drinking the above toasts, and singing some excellent songs, in honour of their Tutelar Saint, and smoaking the pipe of peace, every man departed to his own wigwam and hunting ground.
The Worcester Magazine, Volume 3, Number 8, Fourth Week in May, 1787, page 99.
In 1794, a successful stage play celebrated the life of Tammany, portraying his quest for liberty against foreign oppression as a metaphor for the United States’ newly established democratic experiment. A British compared the costumes worn in the production with the more garish garb and faux-Indian make-up worn by Tammany societies:
How these sons of the forest [(Native-Americans)] must have despised the sorry imitators of barbarism, who followed in their train, with painted cheeks, rings in their noses, and bladders smeared with red ochre drawn over their powdered locks. Hodgkinson’s [(the actor)] dress was not so barbarous, for the actor took care not to excite disgust or laughter.
William Dunlap, History of the American Theatre, London, R. Bentley, 1833, page 201.
Some of the earliest Tammany societies were, in turn, related to the “Sons of Liberty,” the Revolutionary-era organization whose members included, Samuel Adams, Benedict Arnold, John Hancock, Patrick Henry and Paul Revere. The Sons of Liberty were known to use American-Indian imagery in some of their pro-independence propaganda. Paul Revere, for example, designed an illuminated obelisk which, on one panel, depicted an oppressed American as an Indian lying under a Liberty Tree.[x]
In 1773, the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Indians for more practical reasons. They disguised themselves as Mohawks, boarded three British vessels loaded with tea, and threw the entire shipment into Boston Harbor – the “Boston Tea Party. A song written to commemorate the party remembered the participants as “Braves” and “Chiefs”:
Rally, Mohawks! Bring out your axes!
And tell King George we’ll pay no taxes
On his foreign tea! . . .
Our country’s ‘braves’ and firm defenders
Shall n’er be left by true North-Enders,
Fighting Freedom’s cause!
Then rally, boys, and hasten on
To meet our chiefs at the Green Dragon.
Francis S. Drake, Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents Relating to the Shipment of Tea to the American Colonies in the Year 1773, by the East India Tea Company, Boston, A. O. Crane, 1884, page 176.
Forty years after the Boston Tea Party, a British observer managed to insult his country’s and Canada’s First-People’s allies more than his American enemies, while noting the irony of white Tammany cultists preparing to do battle with Tecumseh during the War of 1812:
[The Tammany Society] has, by a sort of retrograde movement in the path of civilization, adopted not only an Indian tutelary saint, but many of the emblems, customs, names, and manners of their Indian neighbours, who are at present signalizing their gratitude on the borders of Canada. The sons of Tammany, as they affectionately denominate themselves, have probably of late become not a little sick of their patron Saint, and his whole race, and it is to be hoped will never again insult their wounded country, by the exhibition of such barbarous mummery, or degrade themselves by affecting either the dress, decorations, or manners, of such detestable monsters, who, though to the shame of every honest Briton, associated with the sole remaining “bulwark of our faith,” are only distinguishable from the tiger by their form.
W. Allston, The Sylph of the Seasons, with other poems, London, W. Pople, 1813, Note IV, page 172.
The aftermath of Tecumseh’s War and the War of 1812 forever shifted the balance of power between the United States and Native-American tribes, paving the way for westward expansion and future disputes and Indian wars.
One hundred years later, a baseball team in Boston assumed the name “Boston Braves,” in part based on its owner’s membership in a club named for Saint Tammany.
Surprisingly, perhaps, it was not the first team in the greater-Boston area to be named after a 17th century Native-American leader and statesman. That honor goes to the “King Philips” of East Abington (later Rockland), the amateur champions of Massachusetts in 1874.
The “King Philips”
The “King Philips”, a successful Boston-area baseball team in the 1870s, was still remembered fondly in 1915:
Next Thursday night quite a gathering of baseball men will be entertained by the Knights of Columbus at Rockland. Among the number will be [Red Sox] Pres. Joseph J. Lannin, [Red Sox] manager William Carrigan and Harold Janvrin. The writer will go along to meet the few members left of the famous King Philips, champions of New England when Rockland was called East Abington.
Boston Daily Globe, January 10, 1915. [xi]
The “King Philips” were named for the Wampanoag Sachem or chief Metacomet, who later in life adopted the English name, “King Philip.” He was killed during “King Philip’s War,” a three-year conflict between and among Native-Americans and English colonists.
Although there does not appear to be any specific, direct connection between the naming of the “King Philips” baseball team in the 1870s and the naming of the Boston “Braves” in 1911, the name of the earlier team at least demonstrates the early openness to naming baseball teams after Native-Americans.
In 1903, two amateur baseball teams fighting it out for cross-river bragging rights in Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa displayed a similar openness to taking on the names of revered Indian leaders who died fighting for their freedom:
While 300 interested spectators looked on, interested witnesses, the King Philip baseball team neatly scalped the Tecumseh tribe of Davenport, and hung the gory locks at its belt as another record of its prowess on the field of battle. The outing took place Sunday at Rock river.
Rock Island Argus, September 15, 1903, page 2.
What’s in a Name?
The Boston Nationals’ decision to officially adopt the name “Boston Braves” in late-1911 may resulted from a confluence of several factors; an owner who belonged to Tammany Hall, a team that had once been widely known as “Buck’s Braves,” and/or a widespread sports-reporting tradition of applying Native-American imagery to team sports.
The name was chosen at a time when Native-American sports stars were numerous, popular, well-known and widely admired and praised in the press. The name itself (despite some now-cringe-worthy imagery used in association with the name) may have grown out of a long-standing tradition of respecting and honoring perceived admirable characteristics of Native-American culture and its heroes St. Tammany and King Philip (even if done in what might now seem like a ham-handed or cynical manner), and the new nickname was fondly embraced by fans who adopted the name as their own.
In the case of the football team, the switch from “Braves” to “Red Skins” seems to have been a simple case of fitting in with their new stadium, as opposed by a conscious decision to choose what is viewed now as a more blatantly racist name.
Are the names honorable titles reflecting admiration for Native-American traditions and culture, and a remaining vestige of a time when American-Indian athletes were tearing up the cinder track, baseball diamonds and football gridirons?
Is this all a tempest in a teapot, because 90% of Native-Americans are not offended by the name (according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post in May 2015)?
Is this all a tempest in a teapot, because 90% of Native-Americans are not offended by the name (according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post in May 2015)?
Are the names dishonorable legacies of widespread and long-lasting mistreatment Native-Americans and cynical appropriation of their cultural legacy (as suggested by Vice.com's Ty Shalter in June 2015, in a piece comparing the Redskins' name and logo to the Confederate Battle Flag)?
Are they innocent names, beloved by generations of sports fans with no conscious ill-will or openly racist sentiment, far-removed from the prejudices of earlier generations and untainted by long-past wrongs?
You be the judge.
But whatever you decide, please, not the “Beaneaters”!
[ii] Donald A. Grinde and Bruce E. Johnsen, Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the Evolution of Democracy, 7th Draft, April 1, 1990, online at radical.org, Chapter 9, “An American Synthesis, The Sons of St. Tammany or Columbian Order.”
[iv] Topeka State Journal (Kansas), April 4, 1907, page 2 (Topeka “tribe of Cooley”); Minneapolis Journal, July 1, 1905, page 20 (Minneapolis Millers “Watkins tribe”); Des Moines Register (Iowa), May 14, 1906, page 2 (“Cincinnati tribe”).
[v] The Minneapolis Journal, October 21, 1904, page 24.
[vi] Record of the Great Council of the United States of the Improved Order of Red Men, Fifty-Seventh Great Sun Council, Held at St. Joseph Missouri,Volume 12, Number 3, Page 21.
[vii] Charles Edward Ellis, Authentic History of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Chicago, self-published, 1910, page 265.
[viii] Proceedings of the Tammany Society, or Columbian Order, on Laying the Cornerstone of their New Hall in Fourteenth Street, and Celebrating the Ninety-First Anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence, July 4th, 1867, New York, York Printing Company, 1867, pages 108-109.
[ix] Proceedings of the Tammany Society, New York, York Printing Company, 1867, page 108.
[x] “Mohawk as Emerging as a Symbol of Liberty in the New Land,” Boston-Tea-Party.org, citing Donald Grinde and Bruce Johansen, Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the Evolution of Democracy (1991).
[xi] The King Philips were one of only eight teams in the Massachusetts Association of Amateur Base Ball Players in 1873(Boston Post, April 20, 1874, page 4). In 1874, they were considered the “amateur champions of the state” (Boston Post, August 24, 1874, page 3). They were in operation through at least 1879 (Boston Post, June 12, 1879, page 2).