Spokane Indians baseball uniforms sport Salish word

By Jim Kershner, The Spokesman-Review

Beginning in the 2014 season, the Spokane Indians baseball team will sport the team name in Salish on home jerseys.

Beginning in the 2014 season, the Spokane Indians baseball team will sport the team name in Salish on home jerseys.

When the Spokane Indians baseball players take the field this summer, the team name will be blazoned across their chests: “Sp’q’n’i.”

That’s the Spokane Salish language version of the name. On opening day, June 13, this Short Season Class A minor league baseball team will become the first-ever professional baseball team to use a Native American language in this way.

The jersey is the fruit of an unusual collaboration between a team and a tribe. Unusual, because in several high-profile examples – the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, to name two – the issue of Indian-related team names and mascots has generated more controversy than collaboration. In Cleveland, the “Chief Wahoo” mascot has been derided as a demeaning cartoon; in Washington, D.C., the team name has been derided as just plain racist.

In Spokane – or should we say Sp’q’n’i – both the tribe and its namesake team have worked hard in recent decades to establish the name Spokane Indians as a tribute, as opposed to just a mascot. In 2006, the tribe helped to create new circular team logo, with words written in the Salish language. This year, the tribe worked with the team in creating the new Sp’q’n’i jersey, and supplied the team with an accurate rendering of the word (which also includes a final symbol not found in the English alphabet).

Both Rudy Peone, chairman of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and Otto Klein, senior vice president of the Spokane Indians baseball team, are acutely aware of how sensitive these issues can be. That’s why the two institutions have developed a collaboration.

“The team, the name, it’s not named for a vague group,” said Peone. “… This is the Spokane Indians, named specifically for our tribe. We’ve accepted that and have a very close working relationship, in a respectful way.”

“We work with them, not against them,” Klein said. “We meet with the tribal chairman each year and say, ‘What have we done to promote the tribe, and what can we do?’ “

Barry Moses, a Spokane Tribe member who teaches Salish language classes at the Salish School of Spokane, has mixed feelings about it.

“On the one hand, Indian mascots in general are problematic and troublesome,” Moses said. “But it is a positive thing that they reached out to the tribe. It’s also a positive thing that it will give the Salish language wider representation in the culture.”

Peone believes this is the first time a professional baseball team has used a native language in this way on a uniform.

“There have been Native American teams that have done it, but, yes, this is the first time that we know of that a professional team has done so,” said Peone.

Meanwhile, the baseball team is working on giving Salish an even higher profile throughout Avista Stadium. Many of the signs in the park will be in both English and Salish. The team is also expanding its existing historical exhibit about the tribe, and moving it to more prominent positions around the park. The game jerseys themselves will be auctioned off at the end of the season, and proceeds will go to tribal youth programs.

Klein said he thinks local fans will quickly grasp the meaning and significance of the name. But what about visiting fans from out of town? Might they be confused about that word on the front of the uniforms? Klein said the section leaders will have information cards about the name and they will be happy to use the question as a “conversation piece” about the team’s 100-plus year tribal connection.

The preservation of the Salish language is particularly close to the hearts of many tribal members, because, as the decades go by, fewer and fewer people are fluent in the Spokane dialect of Salish. Peone called the new jerseys a way to “educate thousands of baseball fans about the language and culture” of the city’s first inhabitants.

Many Northwest tribes shared the Salish language, yet many had their own distinct dialect. In Moses’ estimation, there are only five or six fluent Spokane Salish speakers left, most of them elderly. However, there has been a recent resurgence of interest among younger generations. The Salish School of Spokane even has full-immersion Salish preschool.

The team won’t be able to wear the jerseys in every home game – at least not this year. The baseball team originally hoped the new Salish jerseys could be their everyday 2014 home jerseys. However, the team didn’t get the designs submitted to the league office before the deadline, so the Sp’q’n’i jerseys can only be used as “alternate” jerseys in 2014, which means they can be worn in under half of the home games. Klein said the team will wear them at most of 2014’s “biggest” home games, including Fridays, Saturdays and holidays, and also at the home opener. Then, in 2015, the Sp’q’n’i jerseys will be the primary home jerseys.

Klein said the collaboration has given his team a unique identity, steeped in history.

“We truly found our identity when we came up with that logo,” he said, referring to the 2006 Salish language logo. “We truly found our home.”

Klein said that, in recent years, the team has not received any kind of “flak” about its name. Yet Peone is certainly aware that there are “folks sensitive to the mascot issue.” The American Indian Movement’s National Coalition on Racism in Sport and Media has issued the following statement about Indian-themed sports mascots in general: “American Indians are a People. Not mascots for America’s fun and games.”

The coalition decries the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo, the “tomahawk chop” and the name Washington Redskins. Yet there is no consensus on this complicated issue, as evidenced by the fact that the sports teams at Wellpinit High School, the main high school on the Spokane Reservation, are named the Redskins.

The Spokane Indians baseball team does not use an Indian-costumed mascot. The team’s mascot is Otto, a bright blue “reptile with style.” Nor does the team lead its fans in the tomahawk chop. To Peone, the use of the Salish language in the logo and jerseys makes the Spokane Indians “more than a mascot.” He said the tribe has been generally supportive of the partnership because of the way in which it kas been done.

Meanwhile, the unique Sp’q’n’i jerseys may prove to be a big hit at the merchandise store – although Klein said that was certainly not the team’s motivation. A portion of those proceeds, too, will go toward tribal youth programs.

Native Advocates Ramp Up Support for Sen. Tester’s Language Bill

Just before Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) took up the gavel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February, he introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act.

Just before Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) took up the gavel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February, he introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act.


Rob Capriccioso, ICTMN


Just before Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) took up the gavel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February, he introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide increased federal financial support to Native American language programs at American Indian-focused schools.

RELATED: Tester, in Line to Be SCIA Chair, to Introduce Indian School Language Bill

If passed, the bill would establish a grant program to support schools using Native American languages as their primary language of instruction. The legislation would appropriate $5 million for fiscal year 2015, and “such sums as may be necessary for each of the succeeding 4 fiscal years.” The secretary of the Department of Education would be responsible for making grant awards to eligible institutions each of the years, and grantees would be required to submit annual reports.

“We are racing against the clock to save and revitalize our sacred Native American languages,” Tester said when he announced the bill. “Preserving Native languages will strengthen Indian culture and increase student confidence—leading to greater academic achievement and a stronger economy.”

Support from the National Congress of American Indians and many Native-focused organizations, which plan to hold a congressional briefing March 12 on Capitol Hill to heighten awareness of the bill, has been widespread.

“In introducing the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, Sen. Tester has answered the call from Indian country to invest in Native language immersion schools,” says Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “Not only are these unique schools our best hope to save and revitalize our sacred Native languages, but they offer Indian education the purest form of intellectual sovereignty, because no right is more sacred to Native peoples than the right to freely speak our Native languages.”

Native education advocates widely view the bill as an opportunity to influence ESEA reauthorization discussions that are ongoing in the Senate. While the ESEA, which includes the Indian Education Act, still faces some hurdles in passing this Congress, advocates are hopeful that Tester’s legislation can ultimately be included in that broader education legislation.

“Sen. Tester’s bill offers Indian country heightened ownership in its educational destiny and a lifeline in saving Native Languages,” says Ryan Wilson, president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, which is hosting the Capitol Hill briefing. “Just as important to Indian country it is good policy and reflects a sharpened focus and stronger Indian Education Act.”

Wilson says that tribal recommendations to enhance the Native language and education components of the ESEA have gone unheeded by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) to date.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs recommendations from the 112th Congress that were contained in the groundbreaking Native Class Act and Native Build Act were not reflected as well,” Wilson adds. “Native language provisions published within the White House ESEA blueprint were also not included.”

Wilson says the Alliance is calling on Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the HELP committee, to include provisions contained within the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act when the committee ultimately moves its ESEA bill to the Senate floor.

As this policy discussion unfolds, tribal advocates are also noting ideas that they believe could strengthen Tester’s bill.

John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), which provides legal counsel to the Tribal Education Department National Assembly, is taking the opportunity to advocate for a strong role for tribal governments in saving Native languages as part of this legislation.

“Many tribes now have Tribal Education Departments or Agencies (TEAs),” Echohawk says. “Under tribal law, under the laws of some states, and increasingly even under federal law, TEAs are in the best position to coordinate resources from tribal, federal, and state programs to focus on language immersion programs in schools and communities.  Some TEAs are even developing and implementing the needed language preservation and immersion programs.

“As they grow in numbers and capacity, TEAs are consistently taking the lead in meeting the need for tribal language, culture, and history programs and curricula,” Echohawk says. “TEAs are very familiar with the link—as recognized in scores of federal reports—between culturally relevant schooling, including language immersion programs, and Native student success.”

Echohawk is scheduled to appear at the March 12 Capitol Hill briefing on the legislation.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/11/native-advocates-ramp-support-sen-testers-language-bill-153956?page=0%2C1


CSUSB to Aid in Preservation of Serrano Language Through Course Offering

Kenneth Shoji, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – The ancient Native American language of Serrano, which was dying out as fewer and fewer native speakers of the language remained, has received a lifeline through the work of tribal people and academics.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (Yuhaviatam Clan of Serrano) signed a historic agreement with Cal State San Bernardino on Friday, May 24, to have the Serrano language taught at the university by San Manuel linguists and a tribal elder through CSUSB’s world languages and literature department.

“Serrano is a language that came close to extinction,” said CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales. “Now through this agreement, the Serrano language will not only be perpetuated, but also its use will be expanded.”

Under the agreement, San Manuel’s Serrano Language Revitalization Project staff will teach the Serrano language course series – Serrano 101, 102 and 103 – at Cal State San Bernardino for the academic year 2013-2014, in collaboration with Ernest Siva of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center. The course will cover the language, history and culture of the Serrano people. Along with CSUSB students, tribal citizens also will be able to take the Serrano course series through the university’s College of Extended Learning and receive college credit.

And, as part of the agreement, the tribe’s sponsorship in providing the instructors and curriculum for the course will be considered as a donation to the CSUSB Philanthropic Foundation.

“As we increasingly become an academic center that supports and encourages tribal heritage, we want to continue to build our relations with our native partners,” Morales said. “We want the tribal members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to feel CSUSB is their home. We also want to extend that feeling of welcome to other tribes in our region.”

“It is my belief that our identity as Serrano people is rooted in our land, our culture and our language, each an aspect of the Serrano world connecting us to all that has passed before and all that is yet to come,” said San Manuel Chairperson Carla Rodriguez. “This course will allow Serrano Indian people and Cal State San Bernardino students an opportunity to bring new life to our ancient and sacred language.”

The Serrano Language Revitalization Program, a function of the San Manuel Education Department,  conducts regular, ongoing research to develop and publish Serrano resources, including a dictionary and grammar book. This process includes weekly field work with Ernest Siva and is directed by San Manuel Tribal Members, including Education Committee Chairman Paakuma’ Tawinat, who helped lead the tribal effort to establish the Serrano language course series.

“By being involved in the community through our educational outreach, San Manuel has found opportunities and partners to bring new vitality to the Serrano language and culture. On the reservation, we have made great strides to take a traditionally only-spoken language and create a modern written language,” Tawinat said. “The Serrano language is a very important part of our lives, and along with our traditions, it defines who we are as people. It is a great honor to share our language with students, to see it grow and preserve the memory of our ancestors.”

Siva, who has also taught prior courses on culture and language at CSUSB, agreed. “I’m honored to be involved in making the language available to anyone who wants to learn it. It’s kind of like a dream,” he said. “Who’d ever think it would happen?”

Siva grew up on the Morongo Indian Reservation, where he learned the Serrano language and serves as tribal historian and cultural adviser for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Siva, who has been a strong proponent for the preservation of American Indian culture, founded and serves as president of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, which saves and shares all Southern California’s American Indian cultures, languages, history, music and other traditional arts.

Siva earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music education and choral music from the University of Southern California and serves as a distinguished guest artist in Native American culture at Cal State San Bernardino. Siva also serves on the board of directors of the California Indian Storytelling Association, the board of trustees of Idyllwild Arts, and the board of the Riverside Arts Council. He also is a member of the CSUSB Philanthropic Board of Directors and recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the university in 2009.

Morales said the university’s courses on cultural resource management, museum studies, geography and archaeology will focus on maintaining Native American cultural identity and protecting tribal autonomy to further cement the university’s commitment to work with American Indian tribes in the region.

The agreement is another part of the university’s ongoing effort to preserve Native American records.

Over the past year, Thomas Long, an associate professor in the CSUSB history department and its coordinator of public history and internships, has had his students digitize and catalogue the Mission Indian Federation records at the National Archives.

Long’s students also have been digitizing and cataloguing the St. Boniface Indian School records at the San Bernardino Roman Catholic Diocese archives. The archiving project will run through the summer and fall quarter of 2013. At its conclusion, a full copy-set of the materials will be delivered to the San Manuel archives.

In addition, Long’s students have been completing their internship work at the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, working on various projects aimed at the Serrano and Cahuilla culture preservation as well as other significant archival projects with tribal elder Ernest and his wife, June Siva.

Visit the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center website at

www.dorothyramon.org for more information, as well as the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians website at http://www.sanmanuel-nsn.gov/.

For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.