Lawmakers consider bill to ban Native American mascots in public schools

More than 30 schools across Massachusetts still have Native American logos or mascots

BOSTON (WWLP)—More than 30 schools across Massachusetts still have Native American logos or mascots. But they may disappear altogether if the state legally bans them from public schools statewide.

Ware Indians, the Commerce Red Raiders, these are just two of western Massachusetts’ controversial high school mascots that depict Native Americans. Some Native Americans told 22News these mascots are demeaning and misrepresent their culture.

“Some of them show different characteristics, like big noses or things like that,” said Mi’kmaq Native American Gloria Colon. “They’re not very characteristic of native people.”

They’re calling on state lawmakers to ban Native American mascots in public schools. If passed, the bill would prohibit team names such as indians, redskins and chiefs; names Jason Packineau of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes told 22News, he fears could negatively impact his three kids.

“The way that it then resonates with me then is that I don’t have a history. I don’t have an identity,” Packineau said. “As native people, we did not create these mascots.”

Last month, citing tradition, Montague residents voted to keep Turners Falls High Schools Indian mascot. But the vote was non-binding, and the school committee had already discontinued its use.

“For those schools, that’s a part of their history,” State Senator Anne Gobi, (D) Spencer, told 22News. “And so I can understand if a community, they want to make that decision but to have the state step in, I just don’t think that’s right.”

“I don’t think anybody should use anything as a mascot in a derogatory sense,” said Governor Charlie Baker, (R) Massachusetts.

Some Native Americans are also questioning the state’s depiction of their people on the Massachusetts flag and seal.