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Chiefs to honor American Indian Heritage Month

The Chiefs and American Indian Community Working Group, in association with the American Indian Center of the Great Plains, are celebrating November as American Indian Heritage Month.

The Chiefs, like other professional sports franchises and colleges with mascots deriving from Native American heritage, have been under pressure by some organizations to change their nickname, but the club is working with American Indian groups to honor their traditions.

This week’s celebration began on Tuesday and will culminate with the team’s American Indian Heritage Month game on Sunday when the Chiefs face the New York Jets at noon at Arrowhead Stadium.

“We are pleased to announce our alignment with the American Indian Community Working Group and details for American Indian Heritage Month this week,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said. “This represents the culmination of a number of positive discussions that focused on educating our fans and creating awareness of American Indian history and heritage within the Chiefs Kingdom.”

The organization’s celebration of American Indian Heritage Month began Tuesday in Lawrence when linebacker Derrick Johnson, quarterback Tyler Bray and running back Charcandrick West joined the Haskell Indian Health Center Diabetes Prevention Program for a Play 60 activity at Sports Pavilion Lawrence at Rock Chalk Park. The group led approximately 50 American Indian youths from the community in hand-eye coordination, agility and speed drills, and also shared the importance of overall health and nutrition.

On Friday, the Chiefs Ambassadors, cheerleaders and Red Coaters will lead a literacy outreach effort at the Kickapoo Nation School in Powhattan, Kan. Team representatives will discuss the importance of high-quality literary skills. At the conclusion of the event, each child will be able to select an age-appropriate book from a tabletop book fair.

“The partnership with the Chiefs has been an important opportunity to establish a dialogue that creates an awareness and understanding of who native people are today,” said Gena Timberman, member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and American Indian Community Working Group Liaison to the Chiefs. “This is an ongoing journey, and we believe we are moving in a positive direction.”

On Sunday, American Indian Heritage Month will be celebrated in a number of ways at Arrowhead Stadium. Outside the stadium at Gate G, the American Indian Community Working Group will have a table in the Ford Fan Experience for cultural awareness.

Inside the stadium, there will be a number of blessings and special celebrations to honor American Indian heritage:

▪ Blessing of the Four Directions

▪ Drum Blessing Ceremony

▪ Honor Song in recognition of former Kansas City Mayor H. Roe “Chief” Bartle, for whom the Chiefs are named

▪ The national anthem performed by Tabitha Fair, an Oklahoma native of Chickasaw descent and the Chickasaw Nation Youth Choir.

▪ Drum Mallet Delivery, in which a drum mallet will be delivered to Chiefs Hall of Fame inductee, running back Priest Holmes.

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @randycovitz.

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