School committee voted to remove Turners Falls High School ‘Indians’ mascot

Superintendent Sullivan: "Indians are not like cowboys or Vikings"

TURNERS FALLS, Mass. (WWLP) – The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee voted Tuesday night to change the Turners Falls High School mascot, after months of debate.

The committee’s vote was 6-3 in favor of removing the high school’s Indian mascot.

According to The Recorder, Superintendent Michael Sullivan said during Tuesday’s meeting that the school board heard from local Native Americans who did not support the logo and did not feel honored by it.

“Indians are not like cowboys or vikings,” Sullivan said. “They are cultures of real people, our neighbors, and it is inappropriate to treat them or any racial, ethnic, religious, or gender groups in ways that perpetuate and legitimize stereotypes.”

The issue divided the school and community for months. A series of public hearings were held with perspectives from local historians, achaelogists, UMass professors, and local Native Americans.

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The committee took the vote after Superintendent Michael Sullivan provided the following statement:

In terms of sharing my perspective on the ‘TFHS Indians,’ I would start by saying there is no doubt that the ‘Indian’ is a symbol of tradition and pride to many, if not most, of the adult members of the district’s communities and we now know that most of our students feel similarly.

We also know that those who support the ‘Indian’ have no ill intent towards Native Americans. But, because they bear no ill will, many supporters of the nickname and logo, particularly students, continue to ask ‘where is the harm in it?’

As the district’s educational leader, I believe we need to help our students understand that there is harm in the status quo. On average, each year, three of our students are Native American and these students deserve and are afforded the same civil rights protections enjoyed by all students.

Our review process has shown that there is widespread interest in having students learn more about local history and Native American cultures. This is commendable and will be acted upon. But this will not be enough.

Indians are not like cowboys or Vikings. They are cultures of real people, our neighbors, and it is inappropriate to treat them or any racial, ethnic, religious or gender group in ways that perpetuate and legitimize stereotypes.

In my opinion, there is no way to retain the name ‘Indians’ that would not continue to present a civil rights problem, a pedagogical mixed message and a misalignment with our mission and core values.