ATLANTA (CBS46) -- The Atlanta Braves World Championship win last week brought many of us together like never before. But with victory comes controversy since some find the team’s name and tomahawk chop offensive.
Nestled in the small village of Indian Springs, an hour south of Atlanta, many natives took part in an annual powwow on a cool November day.
The main attraction belonged to an Atlanta legend, 79-year-old Levi Walker Jr.; better known as Chief Noc-A-Homa.
“The fans saw me as a superstar. They saw me like Batman, they saw me like Superman,” Walker said.
The Chief got his start as the Braves mascot in 1969 after he approached the team dressed in his regalia.
“I just thought if they’re going to have and portray an Indian, they ought to have an Indian. I’m registered with the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa,” Walker said.
Before each game he would do a dance on the pitcher’s mound and then sprint off the field to his teepee in the stands entertaining countless fans of all ages, including myself. He even witnessed Hank Aaron’s record breaking 715th homerun. It was a 16-year run as mascot which ended in 1985.
“It started out as $10 a game which was not enough to support my family, but over the years I eventually got up to $60 a game,” Walker said.
Now 36-years after leaving the team, CBS46 caught up with Chief Noc-A-Homa to talk about all things Braves baseball.
“A lot of fans do the tomahawk to chop which comes from the Seminoles. The chant from the Seminoles is complimentary towards the Braves and the fans have some way of voicing their opinion towards the organization,” Walker said.
But news headlines paint a very different picture. The tomahawk chop came under scrutiny during the Braves World Series run this year. The National Congress of American Indians stated they have made it clear that native people are not mascots and that rituals like the tomahawk chop dehumanize them and have no place in society.
“There are some people in my tribe that did not like the idea of mascots, but the greater percentage 80% of the tribe always had respect for the organization,” Walker said.
The Cleveland Indians announced a few months ago they will change their name to the Guardians to better honor natives and foster unity. As for the Atlanta Braves, they said they see no reason to make a change.
“The Braves, yes, I see it honoring. The Cleveland Indians I see it honoring. The Redskins I find offensive,” Walker said.
These days you can find the chief at powwows making arrow heads and tomahawks for his fans. And all these years later, he’s still beloved by many.
“I’ve been blessed by the fans to be the mascot for the Atlanta Braves,” Walker said.
Chief Noc-A-Homa will make his next public appearance on April 18 & 19, 2022 at the Holiday Inn in Helen for a United Way golf fundraiser.