The Kansas City Chiefs: How the team got its name and why it probably won’t change

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Across the nation, we’ve seen a push to change the name of sports teams due to racial tensions. From the name of high school mascots all the way up to the pros, it’s been a hot topic for the last several years.

Just two months ago, Shawnee Mission North High School, announced its efforts to retire the school’s mascot: the Indians.

The formerly known ‘Washington Redskins’ recently changed its name to the ‘Washington Football team,’ and that’s raising the question: will the Kansas City Chiefs follow suit?

The Chiefs have already prohibited fans from wearing Native American headdresses and some face paint while inside Arrowhead stadium, but will they go a step further?

Many will argue the Chiefs’ name doesn’t even refer to Native Americans, but to former KC Mayor H. Roe Bartle.

His nickname was Chief, and he created his own Indian tribe for the Boy Scouts.

“The tribe of Mic-O-Say essentially, it’s a made up Native American tribe at H. Roe Bartle came up with for his Boy Scout troop,” Caitlin Eckard, Exececutive Director of Jackson County Historical Society, said.

The troops who were “apart” of the Mic-O-Say Tribe wore Native American head gear and performed traditional Native American dances.

Bartle spent time in Wyoming with the Arapahoe Nation back in the 1920’s and learned about their culture. He then took that knowledge and created the tribe of Mic-O-Say to fuel more interest in Native Americans and Boy Scouts. 

“They were really taught about this culture from a place of admiration and respect. A lot of them didn’t learn any of this in school,” Eckard said.

Bartle was often called ‘Chief’ since he founded the tribe of Mic-O-Say and the nickname suited him well.

“He was 6’3” and 300 pounds most of his life, so he was a pretty big gentlemen. From all accounts, H. Roe Bartle had a great personality. He was just this larger than life character and I think that’s what swayed Lamar,” added Eckard.

When Lamar Hunt wanted to move his Dallas Texans football team to a new city, Mayor Bartle made a convincing pitch to bring the team to Kansas City.

But they couldn’t call them the Kansas City Texans, and they needed a new name.

“So he changed it to the Kansas City Chiefs as a way to honor H Roe Bartle as well as the native American culture and people that were here before us,” explained Eckard.

By today’s standards, the first logo for the team was very insensitive. And instead Lamar decided to use the logo we know and love today.

“I’m glad we’ve gone away from that and we just have the K and the C. I think that is a lot more respective toward Native American culture,” Eckard said.

So, as you can see, the Chiefs nickname has a complicated history with ties to Native American culture.

But as for whether we should change it –many don’t want to — but Eckard suggests Chiefs continue to have an open dialogue with local tribes to hear their thoughts – and make sure it isn’t offensive.

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