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Soleil and tribal owners add Native American imagery to swimsuits

While many teams have abandoned the use of Native American names and symbols, the Connecticut Sun has added them to their jerseys to honor the legacy of the team’s tribal owners.

The WNBA on Thursday unveiled three new looks for each of its 12 teams as part of the league’s 25th anniversary celebration. The jerseys are designed to reflect the stories of the “female archetypes” in each of the team communities.

The Suns belong to the Mohegan tribe and play their games at the Mohegan Sun Arena, which is part of a casino complex on tribal lands.

Chief Many Hearts Lynn Malerba said it was important to the Mohegans that they be the ones who determine the images associated with the tribe and the team.

“The jerseys are important because there has been so much cultural appropriation and also just a lack of understanding of what it really means to be from this country,” she said. “We have this story. This is our story and we are the only ones who can tell it.

The team’s three looks will each include references to the tribe, including a Mohegan symbol first painted on bark and traditional baskets hundreds of years ago. The 13 points of the mark have several meanings for the tribe, including the 13 moons of the year and the 13 sections of the turtle shell on which, according to tribal belief, Mother Earth was created, said the chief.

A swimsuit will honor Gladys Tantaquidgeon, a former healer of the tribe, who died in 2005 at the age of 106. She was an anthropologist, author, tribal council member, and tribal elder.

“The women of our tribe have always played a very essential leadership role,” said Beth “Morning Deer” Regan, vice president and judge of the Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders. “So we view our women’s basketball team as leaders of social justice, as do our most admired former tribal leaders.”

The jersey will be blue, the color of the badges worn by Tantaquidgeon, and its neckline will include images of canoes the tribe once used. The jersey will have the word Mohegan for the sun, Keesusk, on the front.

Nike came up with the idea for the collection and worked with the Connecticut Sun front office and tribal officials on the details.

“It was a real collaborative effort with the Tribal Council, our Elders, the Chief and our Healer, who all had a voice on this,” Regan said.


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