Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Levi Walker Jr, the only Native American to have portrayed controversial Atlanta Braves mascot "Chief Noc-A-Homa," died at 80, his family announced.
An unidentified family member relayed the news of Walker's death on Chief Noc-a-Homa's official Facebook page on Friday.
"The man, the legend and great warrior of my life has crossed over to paradise with full restored health. He is dancing in the sky and free of pain," the post reads. "Love you forever my Dad. You will always be my hero."
Walker, a member of the Odawa tribe, worked as a plumber and insurance salesman before approaching the Atlanta Braves and taking on the role in the late 60s.
The Chief Noc-a-Homa character, whom Walker portrayed until 1985, was denounced by some as one of a number of racist and insensitive Major League Baseball mascots.
The character is associated with the Braves' "Tomahawk Chop," a fan tradition that caused controversy as recently as 2021 when Native American leaders called the chant "dehumanizing."
In an interview with WANF-TV in Atlanta, Walker had a more positive take on the character and said "the fans saw me as a superstar, they saw me like Batman, they saw me like Superman.
"I just thought if they're gonna portray an Indian, they ought to have an Indian," Walker said.
He said he was aware of the controversy and that some members of the Odawa nation did not approve of the character but that in his estimation most did.
"The Braves, yes, I see it honoring [Native Americans]... the [Washington] Redskins, I find offensive," Walker said.
Notable Deaths of 2023