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Kansas City Chiefs ban headdresses and face paint appropriating American Indian culture

The defending Super Bowl champs are also reviewing the use of the celebratory “Arrowhead Chop" in an effort to better understand and celebrate Indigenous culture.
Image: AFC Championship - Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs fan yells during the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on Jan. 19, 2020.Joe Robbins / Getty Images file

The Kansas City Chiefs officially banned fans wearing headdresses in an announcement that outlines moves the NFL team is taking to better celebrate and understand American Indian cultures.

The Chiefs, which discouraged fans from wearing such headpieces prior to this ban, will also prohibit face painting that appropriates American Indian cultures and are reviewing the use of the celebratory “Arrowhead Chop,” the team said Thursday.

These changes come as a result of conversations the defending Super Bowl champs have had with Indigenous leaders for the last six years.

“As an organization, our goal was to gain a better understanding of the issues facing American Indian communities in our region and explore opportunities to both raise awareness of American Indian cultures and celebrate the rich traditions of tribes with a historic connection to the Kansas City area,” the team’s statement said.

Depending on NFL and health department guidelines on the coronavirus pandemic, the team said it will continue to invite tribes to participate in its American Indian Heritage Month Game. The Chiefs will also continue their traditional ceremonies of the Blessing of the Four Directions and the Blessing of the Drum.

The team was also exploring the creation of a “formalized education program” on American Indian issues.

“We are grateful to the members of the working group for their counsel and collaboration, and we look forward to continuing our partnership,” the statement said.

Image: Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Charger
A Kansas City Chiefs fan yells during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center in Carson, California on Sept. 24, 2017.Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images file

In July, the Washington, D.C., NFL team announced it would rebrand and abandon its previous name, long-condemned as an anti-Indigenous slur.

Although the word "chief" does not originate with references to American Indians, the Kansas City franchise has long associated itself with Indigenous imagery, including the name of its stadium, Arrowhead.

The Kansas region was home to several Indigeous tribes until a federal order in 1825 that forced the Kansa and Osage tribes to give up their land along the Missouri River and move to reservations, according to the Kansas City Visitor’s Guide.

Former President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act five years later, offering native tribes unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for their lands within existing settled lands. The Cherokee, who resisted the relocation, were forced to march West by the federal government, according to the Library of Congress.

An estimated 4,000 Cherokees died on the forced march, now known as the Trail of Tears.