TURNERS FALLS, Mass. (WWLP) – Residents are taking sides on whether to change the Turners Falls High School logo and mascot, the “Indians.” More than 100 people attempted to persuade each other at the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee’s last public forum about the issue, Tuesday night.
Amalia Fourhawks of Turners Falls asked, “Are we going to teach them that racism is wrong, or are we going to teach them that racism is acceptable?” Racism, the school claims doesn’t exist, with signs that state nearly every student believes it’s wrong to make fun of someone’s race.
Tammy Young of Turners Falls said, “I don’t understand why they’re offended by it. People from Turners are just town people and good people. We’re not out to hurt anybody.”
However, Native Americans see the “Indians” logo and nickname as an insult to their heritage, connecting the mascot to the 1676 Battle of Turners Falls. That’s where English settlers killed hundreds of Native American villagers.
“The school may be well intentioned, thinking that this is an honor. This is not an honor. It’s trivializing our people,” said Fourhawks.
Native American-related mascots have been controversial nationwide, with the NCAA prohibiting college teams with Native-themed mascots from competition (though some exceptions have been made). Controversy continues in the NFL over the name of the Washington Redskins. Opponents of Native American team names say that they are disrespectful to indigenous peoples, while supporters have cited school pride and tradition.
More than 500 people have signed a petition to get rid of the “Indians” mascot. The school board plans to host more forums, getting input from historical experts. They hope to make a decision by the spring.
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