TURNERS FALLS — The Nolumbeka Project, the non-tribal organization for New England’s Native American tribes, is calling for the end of the Turners Falls High School’s current mascot, the “Indians.”
The statement, which says the organization collaborates with the Nipmuck Nation, the Narragansett, the Aquinnah Wampanoag, the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans and Elnu Abenaki, said all of the tribes do not condone the use of Native American symbols as team mascots or nicknames.
The statement comes as a response to public debate on whether the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee should change the high school’s mascot. The School Committee is set to debate the issue on Tuesday.
David Brule, the co-president of the Nolumbeka Project and a Turners Falls High School graduate, said that while many in the Turners Falls community believe the mascot honors the local Native American culture, it is not the place of those in the community who aren’t Native American to decide for those who are.
“Our position is that the tribes are the sole judges of what ‘honors’ them or what does not,” says a statement released by Brule. “We understand the non-tribal traditions and misplaced pride of sports teams using Indian symbols and mascots, but the time has come to let it go.”
Brule, who was a teacher at Amherst Regional High School until he retired, said that he hopes this is a learning experience for the entire town. He said there are still many people in the area who don’t understand the historical context and the full history of King Philip’s War.
Brule is also a coordinator for the Battlefield Grant Advisory Committee, which is spearheading a project to map the Battle of Turners Falls from all perspectives, through a grant from the National Park Service.
He said few people realize that in that war, 17th-century militia leader Capt. William Turner intentionally attacked a refuge area with mostly elders, women and children, instead of the Native American camps where the tribe’s men were. Brule said he hopes that the public becomes more educated about the local Native American history through this process. He said the battle has had a lasting impact on local Native American tribes.
Brule also said he would like one of the outcomes of the Battlefield Grant project to be a possible unit on local history for local schools.
The statement from the Nolumbeka Project comes on the heels of public outcry on both sides of the mascot issue. A group of citizens approached the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee last May calling for them to change the mascot.
Since that time, school officials introduced a proposal to create a review with public input to decide whether the school should keep the mascot.
Since the introduction of the proposal, community members have circulated online petitions either calling for the committee to get rid of the mascot, or to keep it. Committee Chairman Mike Langknecht has said he wants public input through the process.
The committee will meet tonight to discuss the proposal within its regularly scheduled meeting.
Miranda Davis covers Montague,
Gill and Erving. You can reach her at:
413-772-0261, ext. 280