Hello from Hogan Holler: What’s In a Name?


When asked my political party affiliation, I reply that I’m a proud member of the Mugwump Party. My mug is on one side of the fence; my wump is on the other. We Mugwumps believe it’s okay to be “on the fence” or undecided about an issue. And we reserve the right to change our minds if we so choose.

Lucy Van Pelt would label me, as she often did Charlie Brown, as wishy-washy. She’d be right. These days I’m wishy-washy about lots of things. For example, I’ve changed my mind about some of the name changes being implemented or proposed, and I’m on the fence about others. 

The city of Asheville is discussing renaming (or tearing down) the Vance Monument, a 65-foot obelisk in downtown that honors North Carolina Civil War governor Zebulon Vance, a slave owner and KKK member. There’s also talk of renaming city streets that are named for slave owners. I used to be against the monument issue. Now I’m for it. Renaming it, that is, not tearing it down. But I don’t think it’s practical to rename streets. I could change my mind, though.

One of the most vulgar words in our language is “squaw.” It’s highly offensive to North American Indian women and girls. But how possible or practical would it be to rename every valley, mountain, gap, lake, river, ranch, township, resort, etc. in the United States and Canada, that contains the slur? Wish we could though.

Since February is Super Bowl month and, COVID permitting, the beginning of Major League Baseball spring training, let’s look at the name-changing efforts among sports teams.

The Washington NFL team has dropped the Redskins name. Yet to come up with a new moniker, they just call themselves the Washington Football Team. Since the nickname for a football is “pigskin,” I suggest the Washington Pigskins, which would enable them to keep using the ‘Skins nickname. Besides, for years they called their offensive line the Hogs. Somehow, I doubt my suggestion will be adopted. (Maybe when pigs fly?)

I was on the fence about the Washington name change, but while in Cherokee one day, the thought occurred to me that I would never call an Indian on the Reservation a redskin. That sealed it for me. Change the name.

The Cleveland Indians have dropped their cartoonish and racially insensitive Chief Wahoo logo and have announced they’ll change their name after this baseball season. Many Cleveland fans contend the nickname could be kept so long as it’s used in a manner that respects and honors American Indians. I straddle the fence on this one.

The Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, and Golden State Warriors are among other teams under pressure to change their names.

When I first started attending Braves games, Chief Noc-A-Homa was their live mascot, for a time joined by Princess Win-A-Lotta. Prior to each game, they dressed in “Indian” costumes, did a dance on the pitcher’s mound, and then the chief chased the princess to a teepee set up in the left-field stands. 

Those mascots were discontinued in 1986 when the team had a falling out with Chief Noc-A-Homa over money and the Braves owner at the time, Ted Turner, wanted the teepee removed to make room for more seats. Ironically, the “chief” was played by an American Indian, Levi Walker.

Pressure is building for a Braves name-change, too. Since the death of “Hammerin” Hank Aaron, some want the team, in his honor, to be called the Hammers.

The team has been working closely with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to assure the Braves name is used respectfully, in a way that honors the tribe. I’ve yet to encounter an Indian on the Reservation who objects to the name; they often point out their sports teams in Cherokee are called the Braves.

So I’d prefer they keep the Braves name. But…I’m on the fence about the war chant and the tomahawk chop. Hey, after all, I’m a Mugwump, and I won’t be changing my mind about that!

After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email davealtonhogan@gmail.com.


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