Dartmouth High School under pressure to change Native American mascot
DARTMOUTH, Mass (WLNE) – The Dartmouth School district is considering a change in mascot.
Right now, they're the Dartmouth Indians, and have been since the 1960s.
But now, the district is looking at possibly changing the mascot after recent criticism.
"Indians are human beings. I don't think human beings should be used as mascots," said former UMASS Dartmouth history professor Jim Hijiya.
He said a race should not be a mascot.
“You don’t have the fighting Caucasians as a football team,” said Hijiya.
Hijiya is one of several residents asking the school committee to change mascots.
Not everyone supports a change.
"I don't see anything wrong with it," said school committee member John Nunes.
Nunes has been on the school committee for 30 years and is a former Dartmouth High School student.
"I bleed green," said Nunes. He thinks the mascot is tradition and in no way derogatory.
"I love the Indian. We're not being disrespectful to it," said Nunes.
Dartmouth High School's athletic handbook explains the origin of the mascot:
"In recognition of the Native American Heritage of the Southcoast of Massachusetts and out of respect for the Apponagansett-Wampanoag people-the original settlers of this area, the Dartmouth School Committee has adopted the Dartmouth Indians logo as the symbol of the Dartmouth High School sports teams.
This symbol shall be used to signify PRIDE, DIGNITY and RESPECT, characteristics of the Apponagansett-Wampanoag people.
It is also recognized that at all times this logo shall be used in a respectful, non-derogatory manner. This recognition shall include prohibitions on Native American headdresses/costumes, “tomahawk chop” rallying gestures and/or any other activities or characterizations that would portray the Dartmouth Indians in a stereo-typical, negative manner.
Furthermore, the Dartmouth Schools in preserving the integrity and respect for the Dartmouth Indians logo, shall be responsible for educating Dartmouth students on the history and important role that the Apponagansett-Wampanoag part of the Eastern Woodland Native Americans played in the history of Dartmouth." --Dartmouth High School Athletics Handbook
Hijiya said he understands change can be hard to handle.
“Sometimes what you’ve always done is not quite right,” Hijiya said.
The school committee is open to discussing a change. The committee plans on addressing the topic at its October 7th meeting. Nunes said at that time they will look at setting up a subcommittee that can address residents' concerns.
Legislation that would prohibit the use of Native Americans as mascots in public schools was introduced by Massachusetts lawmakers earlier this year.