Celebrating American Indian Heritage | Kansas City Chiefs - Chiefs.com

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"Really going back seven years ago when we started the dialogue with our American Indian working group here in Kansas City, it was a real learning experience for the organization…I think the important thing on the entire subject has been how important education has been. It's something that's important to the American Indians, both from a cultural heritage standpoint and just preserving their traditions, but it's also a way of educating our fans that these things are offensive to them. We've now expanded our relationship beyond just the group in the Midwest that we've been working with."

- Clark Hunt, Chairman and CEO

As an organization, we have been engaged in ongoing conversations with a group comprised of individuals with diverse American Indian backgrounds and experiences over the past six years. Our goal has always been to gain a better understanding of issues for ourselves, while identifying ways to create an awareness and understanding of American Indian cultures and celebrating the rich tradition of multiple tribes with a historic connection to our region.

Joint Education Efforts

Joint Education Efforts

An integral element of this ongoing collaboration has been joint education efforts. This began with an education for the organization, and grew into education opportunities for our fans, both of which have been steered by members of the American Indian Community Working Group since the relationship began.

The ongoing educational efforts are centered around the annual American Indian Heritage Month Game, which takes place during a game at Arrowhead each November. First designated as National American Indian Heritage Month in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush after years of American Indian Week proclamations from 1986-1989, the month of November serves as an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate the numerous contributions of Native people. It also serves as a time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and, in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

In 2014, the Chiefs, along with the American Indian Community Working Group, announced plans for, and held, the inaugural American Indian Heritage Month Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Each gameday, with the help of the Working Group, members of the American Indian community are identified and asked to represent their tribes in various gameday production elements, which are then supported with video and PA scripting for fans in the stadium.

These celebrations have included a Blessing of the Four Directions in pregame, performed by different spiritual leaders, many times with multiple tribal leaders displaying their tribal sovereign nation flags, to bring a sense of preparation and good spirit to the day's celebrations. The Blessing of the Drum has been performed annually at the game, typically performed in honor or recognition of someone, such as former Mayor H. Roe Bartle, and Chiefs longsnapper James Winchester, who is Choctaw. Multiple American Indian color guards and national anthem singers have participated in pregame ceremonies as well.

Outside of the stadium in the Ford Fan Experience, an informational table is set up to engage Chiefs fans, as well as fans of visiting teams, about American Indian culture and history. Staffed by members of the Working Group or a volunteer educators, the table is stocked with American Indian Heritage Month collateral pieces (pamphlet/brochure) for fans to take with them explaining who the American Indian Community Working Group is, the goals of the ongoing dialogue with the team, as well as key educational elements, such as links to outside resources, and information about the symbolism and spiritual treasures of American Indian culture, including headdresses, war bonnets and face paint.

American Indian Community Working Group

American Indian Community Working Group

The American Indian Community Working Group serves as a collective liaison with the Native community and as an advisor to the Kansas City Chiefs to promote an awareness and understanding of Native cultures and tribes in the region.

American Indian Ancestry Resources

The National Archives

The National Archives

Among the billions of historical records housed at the National Archives throughout the country, researchers can find information relating to American Indians from as early as 1774 through the mid 1990s.

Midwest Genealogy Center at Mid-Continent Public Library

Midwest Genealogy Center at Mid-Continent Public Library

The Dawes Rolls

The Dawes Rolls

Use the Dawes Rolls to trace your ancestry to one of the Five Tribes.

Understanding Symbolic & Spiritual Treasures of American Indian Culture

Understanding Symbolic & Spiritual Treasures of American Indian Culture

The Headdress and War Bonnet

  • Headdresses have deep spiritual and cultural meaning for American Indians.
  • The feathered war bonnet is the headdress that many people typically associate with American Indians, and is the one that popular culture most generally uses to portray American Indians.
  • Worn mostly by Northern and Southern Plains tribes, American Indian people create the regal crown by hand from the feathers of eagles, considered the sky's greatest bird and believed to have the power to protect the wearer from harm.
  • The headdress is a symbol of leadership, and each feather is earned and shows a position of leadership.
  • Not everyone in American Indian cultures has the right to wear headdresses. They are reserved for special cultural or spiritual occasions.
  • Balance between the promotion of stereotypes and actual knowledge and respect for how American Indians use the headdress as a cultural treasure is always the goal.

Face Paint

  • Like the feather of a headdress, face paint has purpose and often contains great spiritual significance depending on tribal protocol and individual interpretation.
  • Face paint, like feathers, is earned through actions and deeds that bring honor to both tribes and nations.

To many American Indians, the idea of individuals outside of the American Indian community who have not earned the right or permission to wear a Headdress, War Bonnet or face paint would be analogous to casually wearing a military uniform and displaying medals when one has never served as an active member of the military.

A Statement from the Kansas City Chiefs

A Statement from the Kansas City Chiefs

Read a statement regarding measures and policies put in place centered around the headdress and face paint

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The Chiefs have previously hosted several clinics geared for Native youth in Lawrence, Kansas. Those include both Play60 and Punt, Pass, & Kick themed competitions led by players and other members of the Chiefs Community Caring Team.

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The Chiefs have regularly invited Native youth to tour Arrowhead Stadium and try their hand at living a healthy lifestyle via Play60 instruction from various members of the Chiefs Community Caring Team.

iowanebraskatribe

Members of the Chiefs Community Caring Team as also hosted clinics for youth at the Iowa and Nebraska Tribe of Kansas YMCA at its location. These instructional stations gave the participants a small, intimate introduction to the game of football. The clinics have been administered by members of the Kansas City Ambassadors and the Red Coaters.

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The Chiefs have traditionally included young American Indian athletes from Kickapoo Tribe Youth Football as part of the overall group as it's hosts at the annual Play Football game. In fact, the group has even had the opportunity to meet with Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt, during this experience at Arrowhead Stadium.

Past Participants of American Indian Heritage Month

Past Participants of American Indian Heritage Month

Since AIHM began 2014, 31 tribes have been active participants in this annual celebration of Native culture at Arrowhead:

  • Absentee Shawnee Tribe
  • Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes
  • Chickasaw Nation
  • Choctaw Nation
  • Citizen Potawatomi Nation
  • Delaware Tribe
  • Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
  • Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Kaw Nation
  • Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas
  • Kiowa Tribe
  • Lakota
  • Modoc Tribe
  • Muscogee (Creek) Nation
  • Navajo Nation
  • Northern Arapaho Tribe
  • Numa Tribe
  • Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin
  • Otoe-Missouria Tribe
  • Ottawa Tribe
  • Peoria Tribe
  • Pima Tribe
  • Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
  • Quapaw Tribe
  • Sac and Fox Nation
  • Seneca-Cayuga Tribe
  • Shawnee Tribe
  • Spirit Lake Tribe
  • Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
  • Wichita Tribe
  • Wyandotte Nation

American Indian Tribes Throughout Chiefs Kingdom

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Chiefs Community Caring Team