Tuesday, October 15, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Native Americans Criticize Atlanta Braves Fans For Chants And Chops


MINNEAPOLIS - Some Native Americans in Minnesota are outraged after watching three days of televised "tomahawk chops," drumming and chanting by Atlanta Braves fans during the National League playoff games.

If Atlanta reaches the World Series, some Native Americans have said they will demonstrate outside the Metrodome before Saturday's opening game against the Minnesota Twins.

"They are stereotyping the image of Indian people," said Clyde Bellecourt, national director of the American Indian Movement and an organizer of the threatened demonstration. "They're portrayed as a bunch of savages who carry weapons and wear war paint all the time."

Although the Atlanta fans have engaged in their "Indian" imagery for most of the season, Native Americans in the Twin Cities said they only began taking note over the weekend, when all three games from Atlanta were televised to a national audience. At the games, the Atlanta fans chant while using plastic tomahawks or their arms in a chopping motion. Some wear headdresses, paint their faces and bang on drums.

The behavior touched a nerve in Minneapolis, where more than 23,000 Indians native Americans represent one of the largest concentrations of urban native Americans Indians in the nation. There are about 50,000 Indians native Americans in the state.

"People in Atlanta don't realize they're talking about an entire race of people, and it hurts to see these white boys in the bleachers singing and chanting like that," said Phil St. John, a Dakota Sioux and leader of a group called Concerned American Indian Parents, who pushed for an end to native American Indian names and mascots in Minneapolis.

Braves general manager John Schuerholz defended the Atlanta fans' antics as being good, clean fun, and said they were not meant to offend anyone.

"I can't get into the minds of other folks," he said Monday yesterday before Game 5 of the NL playoffs. "The fans are the ones who sort of took to the characterization of the Atlanta Braves as a winning team . . . simulating warriors in battle, all of which we view as very positive and certainly doing nothing to discriminate or in any way negatively impact."

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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