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Turners Indian advocate suggests keeping logo with modifications

  • Supporters of keeping the Turners Falls High School Indian mascot listen to comments of speakers at the open forum to allow both proponents and opponents to voice their arguments at the high school's auditorium Tuesday, October 25. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, August 08, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — At Tuesday night’s Gill-Montague School Committee meeting, Chris Pinardi unveiled a plan to involve Native American tribes and groups in a process that would allow the school to keep its previous mascot, the Indian, while adjusting the mascot to create an accurate and respectful representation.

Pinardi, who is a graduate of the school and has been running a group in support of retaining the former mascot, spoke at the beginning of the meeting and delivered a packet with letters from tribal leaders from Vermont and Lowell. He asked the district to consider keeping the name while adjusting the representation with assistance from the tribes.

Pinardi asked the board to listen with an open mind and consider suspending the current process to select a new mascot.

“I respectfully request that the logo process be tabled and this process be explored fully,” he said.

The committee discussed the issue later in the evening, making no clear decision on the issue, and opting to delay discussion of the mascot selection process because of how late it was in the night.

Montague Representative Mike Langknecht said while the board shouldn’t ignore the results of the nonbinding referendum that took place in May — when the town voted in favor of bringing back the Indian — he feels it didn’t provide enough information. He noted that the referendum offered no alternatives to the Indian.

“Popularity was not a question for the School Committee,” he said. “I think we all knew the mascot was very popular.”

Langknecht said the information provided by Pinardi was interesting and that he planned to read it but that the School Committee is still charged with the decision and it would be premature to make that decision totally on the referendum.

Marisa Dalmaso-Rode, the non-voting Erving Representative, said many in the community are still unsatisfied with the process and that the board needs to work to find a compromise.

“There was always a public outcry asking the process to be seen through as it was outlined last September,” she said.

She said if the board had continued with their original process, from before it was ended by the vote to remove the Indian, it may have gotten this information from Pinardi during the process.

“All of this could have been considered by this committee prior to making a decision,” she said.

Cassie Damkoehler, a Montague representative, said while she wants to understand all sides of the issue and appreciates what Pinardi brought to the committee on Tuesday, she isn’t sure of how to address those concerns without going back.

“Moving backwards is only going to hurt the kids in our district,” she said.

At the end of the debate, which happened just after 9 p.m., Pinardi held up his phone, on which he was timing the debate, and said it lasted just under 11 minutes. He then left the room.

The mascot was voted out by a 6-3 margin by the School Committee in February, after a months-long debate surrounding whether the mascot was considered appropriate.

“For the past 11 months to build a foundation that this district and the community can get behind and support wholeheartedly,” Pinardi said.

Pinardi said he reached out to other school districts who have dealt with the issue and Native American associations that support these efforts. In January he received a letter from the greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association offering educational support and permission for respectful use of the name “Indians.”

He said he also heard from the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribe in Vermont and it included an offer to sponsor the district’s use of the name Indian. Pinardi said the tribe has offered to help create a “regionally appropriate Native American logo” along with help with curriculum and local history.

Pinardi added that William Brotherton, who is a member of this tribe and a lawyer, has offered to help write an agreement between the district and the tribe. Brotherton lives in Texas and recently visited Turners Falls to speak to a group of those who support the former mascot.