The Kinston Indians of Kinston, North Carolina, played 25 seasons in the Carolina League. For all of their existence, the team served as the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The identity was born following the 1986 season, in which the non-affiliated Kinston Eagles struggled to find their footing in the Carolina League. Amid threats of relocation, Kinston secured a PDC with Cleveland and forged a lasting and fruitful relationship.
In 1987, their inaugural season, a young Joey Belle (later Albert) suited up for Kinston, and this began a line of key members of the 1990s powerhouse Cleveland teams passing through, including Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Charles Nagy. Other alumni from the nineties and aughts include Bartolo Colon, Richie Sexson, Sean Casey, Russell Branyan, Marco Scutaro, CC Sabathia, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Roberto Hernandez, Carlos Santana, Jhonny Peralta, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jesús Aguilar, and, at the dawn of the teens decade, Jason Kipnis.
The K-Tribe (as they were sometimes known) had a fairly conservative visual aesthetic that hewed close to that of their parent club. From 1987-1993, their uniforms were essentially carbon copies of Cleveland’s, including the infamous Chief Wahoo on the caps. They switched things up a bit in the mid-nineties, with red and white caps featuring the city name (in all caps nineties-era font) superimposed above Wahoo.
In 1997, they branched out a bit in their own, and introduced a new Native American character, presented as red-skinned and shirtless, pointing a bow and arrow and wearing warpaint and a full headdress. Though it may not be quite as offensive as Wahoo, the new Native was a caricature itself, and difficult to justify as it was introduced in an era when Wahoo and other Native imagery in sports had come under fire. The K for Kinston in the logo was made to look like buckskin, with stitches around the edge. Another logo, an I, was rendered similarly, and with a feather hanging from from the top.
After the 2010 season, the team updated their logos and uniforms, and significantly toned down (but did not remove) the Native imagery. Their new primary logo was their team name above a baseball bat with two feathers hanging from it, and their home cap logo was a letter K formed by an upright bat with feathers curved to form the letter. Another logo simply had a feather standing straight, presumably to form an I.
The money spent on the new branding would prove to be a colossal waste, however, as the Kinston Indians would only play one season with their new look. After 2011, the PDC with Cleveland was not renewed and a complicated series of events transpired. In the Double-A Southern League, the Carolina Mudcats franchise was moved to Pensacola, Florida, and became the Blue Wahoos. Concurrently, the Kinston Indians were moved to Zebulon, North Carolina, and became a new version of the Carolina Mudcats, albeit in a different league. Today, the Mudcats play in the Carolina League, and the Kinston Indians are a distant memory. When MiLB returned to Kinston in 2017, the new team was dubbed the Down East Wood Ducks.