Spokane team works with Indian tribe on new logo

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Spokane Indians on Wednesday unveiled a new logo developed in conjunction with the minor league baseball team's namesake Spokane Tribe of Indians.

In a rare instance of a sports team working with a local Indian tribe on the sensitive issues of racial stereotypes in nicknames, mascots or logos, the tribe gave its blessings to the design.

The logo, a red "S" over a baseball inside a circle containing two eagle feathers, replaces the existing logo that contains the words "Indians" and "Spokane" over a baseball.

An alternate logo features the words "Spokane Indians Baseball Club" written in Salish, the native language of the tribe whose reservation is about 50 miles northwest of here.

"We are excited about our new look, but most of all we are proud of our strong partnership with the Spokane Tribe," Spokane Indians President Andrew Billig said. "We wanted this new identity to show respect for the Spokane Tribe and honor the rich 104-year history of the team. I think we accomplished both of our goals."

The Class A Northwest League team is affiliated with the Texas Rangers.

The new logo and redesigned team uniforms were unveiled at Spokane's Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, which features extensive Indian and baseball collections.

Team officials said they wanted to avoid American Indian imagery when they began considering a new logo two years ago, but found in meetings with the tribe's culture committee that a design using subtle and respectful Indian images would be welcomed.

"The Spokane Tribal Council, along with comments from its culture committee, and community elders wanted to use this opportunity to build a long-lasting successful working relationship with the baseball team carrying the Spokane Tribe's name," the tribal council said in a statement supporting the new logo.

There are no plans for the team to have an Indian-themed mascot. The team's current mascot is called Otto the Spokanasauraus.

The logo redesign comes as professional and college teams with Indian nicknames, logos or mascots are being criticized as culturally insensitive.

Several universities changed or agreed to change their nicknames or logos after an NCAA policy discouraging use of ethnically or racially "hostile" or "abusive" nicknames, mascots and imagery was announced in 2005.

The College of William & Mary in Virginia said it will phase out the use of the school's athletic logo, using two feathers. Oklahoma's Northeastern State is changing its nickname from Redmen to RiverHawks to comply with the NCAA ban.

The University of North Dakota sued the NCAA after its appeal to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname was rejected.

The Washington Redskins of the NFL and major league baseball's Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves also have received criticism for their mascots or cheers.

The Spokane Indians baseball team is owned by Brett Sports and Entertainment, which also owns the Spokane Chiefs junior hockey team.