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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Native American Mascots and Logos by CFT: Part 2

American Psychological Association (APA)
“The stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, or religious group by other groups and social institutions—especially public educational institutions and educators—had the potential to teach children and youth that stereotyping of ethnic minority groups is acceptable (US Commission on Civil Rights, 2001).”

“It is especially difficult when American Indian peoples are trying to present their tribal identity as accurately as possible, to have the dominant culture employ symbols, mascots, images and personalities that depict American Indians in an inaccurate and offensive manner (Staurowsky, 1999; Pewewardy, 1991).”

Statistics Across the Country
Toby Vanlandingham - Decolonizing is returning to your roots, pre-contact. To revitalize our cultures, languages, and to cast away most of the ideals that were forced on us during colonization. Basically.  Andre just doesn't like native people, unless we are cartoons or characters on the side of the helmet. He cannot separate fact from fantasy and he feels that we need a savior to keep us from harming ourselves

Donna Fann-Boyle - Whether it's a mascot, logo, nickname, imagery or symbol they are using native people like many teams use animals or things. They then compare native people to those things/animals reducing native people to something they can possess. Then they get to speak for and do as they please with their possession.

Lowell Sun - Christianization
"To call any of these people the "native local tribe" -- or to cite peaceful relations with people who were already subjugated through warfare, disease, and Christianization -- is a bit of a stretch.  It's unlikely that the pro-Redmen faction that insists on honoring Wamesit history has little appreciation for the actual history. The Wamesits weren't a tribe; they were at best a suppressed subset of the "area's native people"; they didn't wear headdresses; they were peaceful in defeat or when their extermination was otherwise a foregone conclusion. So do we "honor the peaceful Wamesits" with Redmen? ... or only the success of our white ancestors in controlling them? 

Lowell Sun – Might Take 40 Years
Having monitored hundreds of such debates in colleges as part of research for my book Naming Rites, I can appreciate that no meeting to keep the mascot can have any bearing going forward; nothing to stop someone voicing the same complaint in June after this issues has been "settled." The only way any school or team has "put this issue behind us" is by changing the name. It took 40 years of protest to get rid of the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux. Finally, administrators tired of the ordeal and changed to Fighting Hawks in November.

Andover High School – Blue Devil changed in 1963 and then again in 1996
In 1963 the Blue Devil mascot was changed to the Golden Warrior.  In 1995 the "golden warrior" name remained but the mascot was changed from an Indian to an eagle. Tom Meyers, head of the Andover Education Association, campaigned to change the mascot because the Indian symbol was "hurtful" to Native Americans. The eagle was voted the new mascot on Feb. 1996. A new logo was designed by Bill Wolfendale, a graphic artist. The eagle appears above and in front of the lettering Andover. The school colors remain blue and gold. 

Your Tewksbury Today – Improved Order of Redmen
Not only is the term “Redmen” not offensive, it is a term that traces its origins back to the Sons of Liberty.  The Improved Order of Red Men is the oldest fraternal organization in the United States that has preserved the customs of Native Americans while promoting patriotism and love of country.  During the Revolutionary War, the organization worked underground to undermine British rule and bring freedom to the early Colonies.  On their website, The Improved Order of Red Men state that the organization is “devoted to inspiring a greater love for the United States of America and the principles of American Liberty.”  How can naming our team after a group that fought for American Independence be offensive? Should we also change the name of the New England Patriots? I would implore those who have jumped so steadfastly on the “change the name” bandwagon to first learn their history before destroying a tradition so many here in town love. 

The Redmen mascot has given our sports teams and our town an identity for nearly a century.  It shows our appreciation for the integral role the Redmen played in our Founding, and just as the Redmen fought hard to establish a new nation, the people of hard working people of Tewksbury make our town great each and every day.  As we continue down our warpath against those who seek to change our long-standing traditions, I urge you to join me in saying, “Hail to the Redmen!”

Lowell Sun – University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
The University of North Dakota just recently changed their name from Fighting Sioux to Fighting Hawks after a long battle, which the Sioux tribe fought to keep. The University of Lowell Chiefs are now the River Hawks. The NCAA has even tried to change the Florida State Seminoles, Central Michigan Chippewas, and Utah Utes, deeming them hostile and offensive.  Some are saying that schools with Native American names are being disrespectful and insensitive. This is more than ridiculous as these names are named after tribes. It has gone so far that you cannot even have a school name of Warriors, as even that is deemed inappropriate.  When soldiers come home from serving his country, they sometimes receive a medal, noted for bravery and they're hopefully regarded as heroes; they are warriors fighting for America. However, that same term, warrior, when applied to Native Americans, is now deemed offensive and derogatory?

In doing so you are removing yet another reminder of their existence. We have far greater concerns than to be worried about than schools with Indian names and symbols. It's a sad day, not just for Tewksbury, but for America when we start erasing and failing to acknowledge our past.  This is but one small way of showing them some respect and honoring their heritage. Libby, 32, a Lowell resident of Micmac descent said: "As long as they continue to do it tastefully and respectfully, which they have, more power to them. The more that (Native American culture) stays in the public eye, the least likely people will forget we were here in the first place. Forgetting would be the worst thing."  Libby said his views are shared by most of approximately 250 members of the Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association.  Please stand strong and support the Redmen. Don't succumb to political correctness that has gone far too over the top, and show us that Redmen pride still continues and Tewksbury will be the Redmen forever.  

Tewksbury Town Crier – Empathetic Society vs. Tradition Near and Dear
“Regardless of what the 'right' decision is or what the ultimate decision will be, its should be noted that our kids are watching how we act toward the opposing view points, what we say and what we say behind closed doors, they are reading what we post, and they are taking it all in and using it as a way to make sense of their own world. They are using this issue to determine what kind of adult they will be. I know this much, I care more about creating an empathetic society than I do about any tradition I hold near and dear to my heart.”

Your Tewksbury Today – Healthy Educational Environment
Letter from former cheerleader, Maria Simon:  I am here tonight because I believe it is time for Tewksbury to promote a healthy educational environment for everyone. This can only happen in schools devoid of the bias that comes from stereotypic images and actions of any group. I encourage and invite you to show the generations to come that this is a place where diversity is embraced and where everyone is included. Isn’t that something of which we could all be proud? 

Boston Magazine – Adidas, GLICA, and MCNAA
“What Adidas offers to the schools they contact is a total joke and an insult. They aren’t wanting to help support natives they want to contribute to the eradication and destruction of native culture.” — Steve Peters  Both sides claim members of Native American heritage. Lowell resident and Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association chief Tom “Eagle Rising” Libby told the Globe the name bothers him “just a little bit,” but that keeping it would “not necessarily be a bad thing.” Scott Ringwood, another commenter in DeSisto’s group, said he has Native American blood “running through [his] veins,” and doesn’t find the name offensive. Sponsored Content Suggested: BSA People’s Choice Award  Activist Claudia Fox Tree of the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, meanwhile, told The Sun that not only are Native American mascots racist, but the term “redmen” is especially offensive, as it harkens back to the practice of scalping.

UMass Amherst – Changes Over Time
Why the Minutemen? Prior to the late 1960s and early 1970s Massachusetts athletic teams were known as the Redmen, and before that squads were named the Aggies. In the spring of 1972, a group of American Indians from New York wrote a letter to the school's administration asking them if they were aware of "defamatory" connotations of the word Redmen and if they would curtail the use of the word. One portion of the letter referred to "undesirable racial connotations of the Redmen nickname.” The administration replied to this letter by asking all campus personnel and media to refrain from the use of the word Redmen as much as possible. The Student Senate resolved that the nickname connoted a stereotype of violence and savagery and created a "false picture of American history. “The Minuteman When choosing the new name, the Student Senate, through a poll of the student body, came up with several options, the result of which was the Minutemen. This designation is a fitting and proper name for the athletic teams of the University of Massachusetts. The nickname, which began being used by the University with the 1972-73 academic year, has a historical and patriotic relationship with Massachusetts. It is a name that is uniquely linked with the Commonwealth. As women's athletic programs evolved on campus in the 1970s, those teams became known as the Minutewomen.  Massachusetts Minutemen is a word combination with eye and ear appeal. The combination lodges quickly in the mind and falls easily from the lips. Thus the name: The Massachusetts Minutemen.

UMass Lowell – Changes Over Time
The Millmen, Globetrotters, Indians and Tex the Terrier have each had their era as campus mascots for the University’s predecessor school, usually retired at a time of change for the institutions. When Lowell State College and Lowell Technological Institute merged to become the University of Lowell in 1975, the Chiefs took the stage for nearly 20 years. The Chiefs represented strength, honor and leadership to many, but the school didn’t want to contribute to misunderstandings of Native American culture. The Chiefs also offered limited possibilities for mascot fun while avoiding derogatory use of the name and symbol.Sojour-1993-CharlieChief-optConversations about changing the campus nickname started several years before the school became part of the UMass system in 1991. A committee of faculty, staff, students and community members was formed in 1993 to assess the use of the Chiefs logo and the future of mascots on campus. For a time, the hockey mascot was a skating hockey puck, a fun sight but not known for intimidating opponents. After several meetings with community members and discussions with experts, the committee voted 14-1 to recommend retiring the Chiefs logo in favor of a new nickname and mascot. Former Chancellor William Hogan accepted the recommendation in January of 1994, paving the way for a new era on campus.  THE RIVER HAWKS ARE BORN

Boston Globe – Teaching “Stereotypes are Okay” is a Dangerous Lesson
It’s 2016. Isn’t it time we move beyond using mascot names that many feel are disparaging and offensive? The Oxford English Dictionary says that as a term for Native Americans, Redmen “is now generally considered offensive.” As a Tewksbury resident and parent of children in the public. In 2001, the US Commission on Civil Rights called for “an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools,” saying they are “disrespectful and offensive to American Indians and others.” When public schools engage in the practice, the commission said, it teaches students that “stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, a dangerous lesson in a diverse society.”

American Civil Liberties Union (UCLU)
"Redskin" is a vile name. It's a name that people who hate American Indians often call them. Every dictionary defines "Redskins" as being offensive, derogatory and a racial epithet. Even with the best intentions, naming a sports team the New York Kikes, the Seattle Slant Eyes, the Atlanta Niggers, or the Washington Redskins will likely offend the very group you want to honor. And they're the ones who should know if the name is an honor or not. The ACLU is a champion of free speech. The issue here isn't whether Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins has a right to call his team anything he wants. He does. The issue is whether he should perpetuate racism. It's not illegal for Snyder to use a racist name for his football team. But why do it when it offends so many people? His stadium used to be called "Redskins Stadium," until FedEx paid him $250 million to change the name to FedEx Field.

Rapid City Journal – High School Association Urges Dropping Team Nicknames
South Dakota National High School Activities Association urges dropping of teams' nicknames, mascots that portray Native American stereotypes

Salem News – It’s Not About First Amendment Rights and Political Correctness, It’s About Respect
“I think it needs to be explored further,” Interim (Amesbury, MA) Superintendent of Schools Gary Reese said. “That is why I brought it up in the entry plan. It’s not something that I was necessarily saying, ‘We need to change the name today.’ But we certainly need to evaluate how we are being respectful or disrespectful to individuals.”

“My main concern lies in our desensitization towards that culture which is a culture that we kind of came in and did what philosophers and psychologists call cultural genocide,” Sousa said. “It does characterize a very vibrant culture with one notion, just like in the 1950s and ‘60s there were mascots called Little Black Sambo. But during the civil rights movement, that was quickly dismantled because of how it discriminated and characterized African Americans in our country.”

“I’m all for First Amendment rights and freedom of speech,” Sousa said. “It’s not about political correctness. This has been contested by lawyers and law groups and advocacy groups as violating anti-discrimination law, therefore it is only reasonable that our community follow federal procedure and at least discuss it and debate about it.”

“It can be challenging to have this debate,” Merrimack College athletic director Jeremy Gibson said. “Because all sides of it feel strongly about their opinion. On one side of it, there are those who believe that mascots that depict Native American imagery in different ways are insensitive and offensive and they perpetuate stereotypes. For those people who express that belief that is very real. So, for anyone to say to them that it is not offensive, well you can’t do that. It’s subjective. It is their opinion that it is offensive so it is offensive to them. For the situation like Amesbury, my argument would be that the things they are trying to portray in their imagery are less about the images themselves. They are about the history of their programs and the pride that goes behind all of their accomplishments and the people who have established everything that exists there.”

Redmen vs. Red Men
Improved Order of Red Men would be two words, not one.

Lowell Sun
Retaining the mascot, however, continues to disrespect the wishes of multiple Native American organizations that have called for a systematic national change. The National Congress of American Indians has stated "Indian mascots and stereotypes present a misleading image of Indian people and feed the historic myths that have been used to whitewash a history of oppression." Non-Natives claiming that Redmen honors people who have declared it misleading and a sign of oppression is disrespectful. Having grown up in a community neighboring tribal lands I am truly surprised to how tightly some people are clinging to Redmen, a race-derived moniker. The time has come to retire the mascot; ethics need to supersede nostalgia.

Wampanoag National Day of Mourning
Munro added that she expects speakers to discuss efforts to get sports teams to change offensive mascots and names, express solidarity with the "Black Lives Matter" movement, and highlight the disproportionate number of Native Americans who are killed by police.  "There's nothing wrong with having a meal with friends and family, and I would say especially for many of us where our families have survived genocide, it's so important for us to be able to sit down with each other and be grateful that we have food and to enjoy spending time with each other," said Mahtowin Munro, a co-leader of United American Indians of New England, the group that organizes the event, who has attended every year since the 1980s.  "The real underlying issue is the mythology; there's a view that we're this big melting pot country, or there's a view that the Natives and the Pilgrims lived happily ever after and the Native people just evaporated into the woods or something to make way for the Pilgrims and all of the other aspects of the European invasion," she continued. "All around the country, schools continue to dress up their children in little Pilgrim and Indian costumes and the Indians welcome the Pilgrims and they all sit down together and everybody says 'Isn't that cute, that's so nice.' That's not at all what happened."

Racism and Mascots at Scappoose High           
Furthermore, as I am a member of Plains tribes, I can tell you that the nations who lived here never wore headdresses or loincloths like this beloved mascot would lead you to believe. Anyone from this area knows the weather just won't permit it. The traditional garb or regalia of the people of this region looked nothing like this. The people here would all know that if the education system had actually educated them on the lands history.

I am a member of the northern Arapaho and Kickapoo plains tribes. And, I can tell you that every eagle feather is sacred, every one had to be earned not in war, but from being generous gentle and of service to people. To adorn a headdress is a tremendous honor. And to see my peers running around in feathers greatly hurt my self esteem as a young adult, and made me feel isolated. My peers mirrored the attitudes of the staff, scoffing at me. Telling me to get over it, and I should be honored.

I can tell you, I am 26 years old, and to this day I cry over my four-year experience at Scappoose High School. Today I cringe at the thought of the racism I had to endure there, not only from my peers but from the adults. I still wonder what it would've been like to just be one of the kids, but I was robbed of that, by the perpetuation that we are a myth, a slogan, an idea, and less than human...A MASCOT.

"'We look forward to the team’s selection of a new mascot and name that unites instead of divides the American people and proudly represents, in our nation’s capital, the respect we as American people strive to show to all American people of all ethnic backgrounds,' reads a statement from Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a Native American advocacy group…

'People are becoming more conscious about this issue and are making their own changes,' Pata told Fusion. Many of the old racist mascots that were adopted in the 20s-50s, represent a different era in U.S. history — a time of systematic efforts to 'terminate tribes' and force indigenous people to assimilate, Pata says. 'Now we’re living in a different environment of social consciousness.'"

Improving lives of Native Americans has nothing to do with mascots 
Sadly, the nicknames are the only reasons we see anything written or talked about in the news pertaining to native people. The use of these names indeed aid in the preservation of a culture that has too quickly become forgotten. I often wonder if the fans of these teams are the only ones who even know Native Americans exist.
If people really want to make a difference in the lives of Native Americans, then it would be a much better use of energy in focusing attention to the actual struggles facing the Native American community.  If you still feel that stripping a high school, college or pro sports team of their Native American nickname and emblem will make a difference in the inequalities that exist within the Native American community, then I guess you never really cared about them to begin with, or simply still misguided.

Time to Rethink
Most people opposed to Native American imagery in sports feel that the imagery is inherently offensive. In some cases, they're right: The term "Redskins" is an ethnic slur, and it's hard to view Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians' logo character) as anything other than a racist caricature.

Most people opposed to Native American imagery in sports feel that the imagery is inherently offensive. In some cases, they're right: The term "Redskins" is an ethnic slur, and it's hard to view Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians' logo character) as anything other than a racist caric.  Once you get past those two examples, however, I see this as more of an intellectual property issue. Basically, for those of us who aren't Native American (which basically means the vast majority of the people who reading this), I don't think we have the right to use images of headdresses, tomahawks, tribe names, and so on. It's not a question of whether such symbols are offensive, or whether they perpetuate outdated stereotypes; it's that they don't belong to us. If a non-Jewish group used a menorah or a Star of David in its marketing, wouldn't that raise a few eyebrows? Ditto for a non-military group using a Purple Heart. And if those examples don't pass the smell test, neither does a sports team using Native American iconography.

Unless a local tribe gives permission, that is. Florida State, for example, has worked out an arrangement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, so the school's use of Seminole imagery is fully sanctioned. Same thing goes for the Utah Utes. And at Eastern Michigan, the marching band just brought back the school's Huron mascot, which had been retired back in 1991. According to that article, the mascot's revival had the support of Wyandotte Nation (formerly the Hurons). That works for me.

It's around this point that someone usually says, "I don't see anyone complaining about the Vikings or the Fighting Irish. It's the same thing!" But it's not. Minnesota was settled by Scandinavian immigrants. So when Minnesotans named their football team the Vikings, they were celebrating themselves. Similarly, Notre Dame is a Catholic university. So when they called their teams the Fighting Irish, they were celebrating themselves. If a Native American school wanted to call its teams the Indians, that would be analogous to the Vikings and Irish. But not when non-Natives do so.

How to Change Racist Sports Team Names
Campeau began his "change the name" campaign back in 2011, amid growing backlash against indigenous sports team names and mascots that began in the 1960s but gained momentum after the Washington Redskins went to the Super Bowl in 1988 and 1992.  The number of native nicknames in school, youth and pro leagues peaked at well over 3,000 across North America. In 2005, the NCAA deemed 18 school names and mascots "hostile or abusive," but only banned the names in postseason games. And while Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has remained fiercely opposed ("NEVER—you can use caps.") the team lost their trademark last year due to the "disparaging" name.

Fear lies at the heart of opposition to 'political correctness' Rebecca Carroll Rebecca Carroll
The people who cling to the idea that “political correctness” is a bad thing are afraid: afraid of how they’ll be perceived by those less reverent to outdated hierarchies, afraid of the power that true equality can give the historically disenfranchised, afraid of having been wrong. But if we know nothing else about America, we know that we can make space for everyone; we know that equality of opportunity was never meant to be an empty phrase.

The well of opportunity will not run dry if we learn what “PGP” means (preferred gender pronoun) and start using them; the economy won’t collapse if we get rid of a racist NFL team name and logo, take down the Confederate flag; people will still fall in love and get married and have kids if we stop using the word “tomboy” or referring to sexually active adult women as “sluts”. We are more interesting and nuanced as a culture and a society when we both recognize and value our variances and seek to include rather than exclude.

It’s 2015. Why do 40 Mass. high schools still have Native American mascots?
In 1968, the National Congress of American Indians began its campaign to stop stereotypes in sports and other media.   According to a national database of sports teams’ mascots, there are more than 2,100 sports teams nationwide with American Indian logos. Crying out war chants during sporting events might seem like harmless fun in the name of school spirit, but John Peters, an American Indian and executive director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs, said these acts make American Indian students feel awkward at best.  “It’s hard to be proud of your heritage when your peers are doing war whoops,” Peters said. “And you can start a campaign against them, but many students are embarrassed to take on that battle.”

Boston resident Pete Sanfaçon manages the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition, which advocates for the elimination of racial stereotypes in logos. Its website keeps track of every high school in New England with one of these logos. The site currently says there are 91 high schools with these symbols in the six New England states, but found the number is closer to 80.

When We Talk About Cultural Appropriation, We’re Missing The Point
I say this because we’ve structured discussions around cultural appropriation in a way that actually upholds the White Supremacy that makes such appropriation possible.

Cultural appropriation is the misuse of a group’s art and culture by someone with the power to redefine that art and, in the process, divorce it from the people who originally created it. To use the ever-tired example of hip-hop here, a shitty black rapper is just a shitty rapper who fades away into obscurity, leaving behind nothing more than a trail of never-played mixtapes dispersed outside of nightclubs. A shitty white rapper wins Grammys and is held up as an example of what good rap is.

What elevates the shitty white artist above both the shitty artist of color and the talented artist of color is not the artist’s act of making art itself; it’s the system of privilege and oppression that values the work of a shitty white artist over talented artists of color.

Like so many other systemic problems—police brutality, say, or a lack of diversity in film and television—cultural appropriation is a symptom, not the cause, of an oppressive and exploitative world order. And yes, these symptoms do reinforce the systems that created it (police brutality will reinforce the supremacy of Whiteness through fear and violence, therefore helping to enable more police brutality), but ridding society of any of these individual factors does not touch the systems of oppression that created it.

When well-meaning white people say, “Help me define cultural appropriation so I know what to do and not to do,” what they are actually saying, even if they aren’t aware, is, “Help me understand how to continue in this system of privilege and oppression without feeling bad.” And in our discussions, we provide these ground rules—we provide this path to continue along in a world that continues to privilege Whiteness at the expense of People of Color. Those who refuse to care about their acts of cultural appropriation and those who care only about not stealing the work of those less privileged are actually still part of the same system—the former are just bigger assholes about it.

A world in which white people no longer make films whitewashing the history of people of color will still be a world run by white people. But a world in which white people can no longer successfully make a film whitewashing the history of people of color is a world changed.

Now, it is Tewksbury’s chance to do the right thing and stand on the right side of history.

This is why educational institutions that send their children out into the world are doing them a great disservice; they are not taught cultural diversity. What mascotting teaches children is that the exploitation of one race is OK if it is for the sake of sports. There is no respectful way to support your mascot when it stereotypes more than 5 million people.

Although the town of Tewksbury may not have any Native American students within their enrollment, the neighboring towns may have. This is not only an issue within one school, but every school Tewksbury comes into contact with during their sporting events. This high school has a responsibility to the entire community to make sure their halls are free of stereotypes. In my experience, opposition of Native mascots brings out deeply hidden racist skeletons – ones that lay dormant for years and generations until they are exposed.

Following the blatant online sexual harassment, I spoke with Remy. “Last night, during the Tewksbury mascot debate,” she said, “I was told several times my opinion did not matter because I’m not local. This is a huge misconception. Not only does it affect me, but it affects an entire continent of Native American people. These stereotypes do a disservice to Natives by promoting a false image of our culture. It’s misguided to think Natives need a mascot to honor them, especially when we keep saying its offensive.”

It is 2016, and we need to hold our educational institutions to a higher standard. No Native person, much less a youth who attends school with students like these, should encounter the wrath of this type of opposition, especially with our suicide rate as high as it is today. Because of this, we are strengthened in our resolve to eradicate these types of stereotypes in a learning institution.

A major concept in the Native community is that Native women were placed on this earth to protect all our children. We will do what it takes to protect our own from this kind of degradation and harm. Shame on you Tewksbury. As easy as it is to stereotype 566 Federally recognized tribes, we can easily say the same for your residents. Doesn’t feel very nice now does it?

Tulare community reacts to decision to drop Redskin mascot
The Tulare Joint Union High School District announced it will drop the name “Redskin” as the mascot for Tulare Union, ending nearly 100 years of use.  District Superintendent Sarah Koligian said the board will approve a new name by the end of June. The school will implement the name on or before Jan. 1.  “We wanted to clarify with the community that we are staying on track with the name change,” Koligian said.  The name change is a result of a new law that bans the use of the word 'Redskin’ for publicly-funded schools.

The challenge we have with not accepting anything other than "local" Native American views is that the true locals have been gone since the late 17th century. Even then, I wouldn't call the GLICAs letter to Superintendent O'Connor supportive exactly. Moreover, we live in the Internet age where words and images travel at the speed of light.

In addition to understanding the first people's view of the issue, I think it is important to understand the history of the area.

The primary aboriginal tribe of the Merrimack Valley were the Penacook. They were Algonquin speaking and semi-nomadic, moving seasonally according to food supply and shelter needs. That said, they didn't travel tremendously far and were also good farmers who had cleared swaths of land for agricultural purposes. Their main settlement was at Pawtucket (near the falls). It's not exactly fair to pick one exact location as they did move around some. Generally, though they settled around the area we know as the Pawtucket Falls today.

Between the early 1600s and about 1650, old-world (brought from Europe) disease hit hard. Small pox, influenza, diphtheria. Some estimate that this reduced local indigenous population by about 90 percent. Surveys indicate the population dwindled from around three thousand to two or three hundred during this time. Exact numbers are difficult to come by and others estimate around 500. In any case, illness hit hard and killed many.

Shrinking numbers made the Penacook more vulnerable to attack. The Micmac, Narraganset, and groups from the Eastern edge of the Iroquois Confederacy all harassed the Penacook. They built a fort at what is now known as Fort Hill for protection from these raids.

Some spread to Wamesit, which was a village granted to the Penacook by the Massachusetts General Assembly in the mid 1600s. The village was known as a "praying town" because the purpose of its establishment was for the conversion to Christianity. The colonists made promises of protection.

Wamesit was on the Merrimack between the Chelmsford and Billerica land grants and butted up against the settlement at Pawtucket. In other words, most of what we know as North Tewksbury and Belvedere in Lowell today. The people of Wamesit were Christians, but had little contact with missionaries / people from the church. The journey was too far and arduous back then. Instead, the praying town that got the most attention was Natick.

At the same time all of this was going on, the economic means and methods of survival were breaking down. The primary form of economic interaction with settlers was in the fur trade. As over hunting and settlement took their toll on the animal population, indigenous peoples turned to the sale of land. More settlement diminished agricultural land and led to more pressure from colonists to sell land. Land was sold on liberal credit terms and notes often went unpaid.

Many first peoples found all of this too much to take and rallied behind Metacomet (King Philip) to fight back. They raided colonial settlements and generally had some success until they were pushed back. Wamesit did not join in with Metacomet and attempted to remain friendly with the colonials. This was an unsuccessful strategy for Wamesit.

Disease continued to exact a large tool on the population. Colonists in Billerica and Chelmsford used the situation to conduct raids, killing many and capturing others and selling them into slavery. The village at Wamesit sought help from the General Assembly, but received no response or aid.

By 1680 there were very few left and, under Wannalancet, the Penacook at Pawtucket and Wamesit sold off their remaining land to Billerica and Chelmsford. The joined with the Abenaki and migrated North, eventually settling in southern Quebec.

Very few first peoples remained in the area after that. Though there are some historical notes on tribes migrating on and around the Merrimack during the 1800s. Some Native Americans ultimately worked in the mills in Lowell. Betsy Chamberlain is the most famous of these people.

Tewksbury was founded in 1734.

Tewksbury High School aged students attended Lowell High School from 1900 to 1934. The "new" high school opened in 1935 (what we now call Center School). Redmen was adopted as a mascot sometime in the 1960s. Teams from the 40s and 50s were simply known as the Red and Blue. In fact, the very first team's football uniforms were all blue and white, modeled after Penn State because a local lawyer said he would buy them if that's what they would look like.

Interestingly, I read that it was quite en vogue to adopt "Indian" team names and mascots during the middle 20th century. People of the time saw it as a way of showing how American or patriotic they were. I'm not sure if that's how it happened, but it might help explain the lack of historical accuracy in the town's current team logo.

At the start of this school year, Conard students changed the name of "The Tribe" to "The Red C," which is school-sanctioned.  The anonymous parent said to ICTMN in an email, “After the Board called for the removal of NA imagery, these t-shirts were designed and distributed by a parent who is also alum. Apparently he added a piece in the headdress that fans didn't notice until the shirts were delivered. They were worn to games, mostly by parents, but never to school.”  According to the parent, school administrators frowned upon the incident and the middle finger has since been covered up on the shirts.  In March 2015, the board of education recommended to the schools that all Native American mascots and imagery be discontinued. While the team names remained the same, the 2015-16 school years started with new logos. 

I am a Tewksbury resident, a tax-payer, and the mother of two children in the Tewksbury Public School System. I have held off on weighing in here on the issue of our high school mascot because I wanted to hear the arguments for keeping it. I believe that it’s important to understand both sides of an issue. I have listened and read and done plenty of homework of my own.

I want to point out that I use the word “mascot” purposefully. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a mascot as “a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure especially to bring them good luck.” The Tewksbury Redmen use a Native American man in headdress as a symbolic figure and therefore, by definition, a mascot. And this is where things start to go awry. There is a lot of smoke screening going on to distract us from a very fundamental point. Native Americans have asked that we stop using their names and likeness as mascots and as logos in general. Most of the arguments we’re hearing ignore this basic premise for change.

Plenty of people claim the Tewksbury mascot is an honor. Clearly not all Native Americans feel honored. But this is muddied further by claims that “Red men” was originally not a negative term. I have also done research and agree that it was harmlessly coined as a way to differentiate between Native Americans and European explorers and settlers. That’s all well and good, but since then the meaning behind references to “red men” and “red skins” changed. Much like other originally harmless language (Negro, retarded) the words have become pejorative over time. No one would think today to name a sports team the “Negros.” Focusing only on the origin of a word, and not on the use in the interim is yet another smoke screen. Moreover, I want to address the much-touted “Improved Order of the Red Men.” This historically male, white-only fraternal order co-opted Native American culture, regalia, and language for their own use. It’s hard to claim honor when you won’t grant membership to the very group you’re “honoring.” When Native Americans tell you that the term is offensive (or at best neutral), it’s inappropriate to try to silence their voices by using a group of white men as proof that they are wrong.

Studies have shown that the use of Native American mascots and logos (including those not involving sports teams) has a negative impact on the self-esteem of young people who often feel that their heritage is being mocked. In addition, when non-Native Americans are exposed American Indian mascots, they are more likely apply negative stereotypes to other ethnic groups. This is not the message we should be sending our young people in a school system that is dedicated to providing “a safe and healthy school culture where the rights of all members are respected.”

I recently read an op-ed piece that claimed that Tewksbury is “diverse” and “multicultural.” I am assuming that this is not in relation to race as almost 93% of our residents identify as white only (compared to the US census at 73%). Still if we want to celebrate what diversity we do have, we might want to start by treating each other with basic respect. That means both in the conversations we have with each other over the mascot and in moving forward from the debate. Once again I state that Native Americans have asked for us to stop using their image and language in mascots and logos. You don’t find “Redmen” offensive? Great. You’re sad about the change of a tradition? I get that, too. And still, Native Americans have asked for us to stop using their image and language….

You can argue about the history of our town, play around with language, moan about political correctness, try to convince me that our kids will somehow lose out if we change the name, and I will continue to point out that (say it with me) Native Americans have asked for us to stop using their image and language in mascots and product logos. It is time that we show true pride and honor by listening to their plea, and moving forward with something all of our children and grandchildren can celebrate.