Legislator wants to right historical wrongs

  • Comerford STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/29/2019 4:14:11 PM

State Sen. Jo Comerford has filed a bill that would prohibit public schools from using names and logos associated with Native Americans, saying it is an attempt to “address historic wrongs and begin to make them right.” 

If passed, the bill would ban public schools from using an “athletic team name, logo, or mascot that refers to, represents, or is associated with Native Americans, including aspects of Native American cultures and specific Native American tribes.” The bill does not place restrictions on Native American tribes located in Massachusetts, though. 

Rep. Tami Gouveia, D-Acton, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that her former career as a social worker reinforced her view that students should have access to safe, comfortable learning environments.

“Mascots are racial stereotypes,” Gouveia said Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s appropriate in a learning environment to honor these kinds of tragedies.”

The bill contains several provisions, including public schools would be permitted to use a name, logo or mascot purchased before a date determined by the board, if the school designates a new team name, logo or mascot, and if it does not purchase additional materials with Native American affiliations.

Mohawk Trail High School, named after a Native American trade route, may be affected by this bill, for instance. Mohawk’s sports team is named “warriors” and its logo depicts a 
Native American.

Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, is an alumnus of Mohawk Trail High School. Hinds said he is “entirely open to making sure schools have representations that we are all proud of” in an interview Tuesday. 

Mohawk Co-Principal Marisa Mendosa said in a statement Tuesday that the school “is aware of ongoing conversations.” The school is “hearing from both perspectives, and will use that feedback to guide our conversations moving forward,” she wrote.

Discussion about Native American-affiliated mascots is not new to Franklin County. Turners Falls High School was embroiled in a controversial debate about its mascot, “Indians,” for some time. The school renamed its mascot “Thunder” in 2017.

A similar bill that would create a commission to examine the Massachusetts state seal and motto, was filed by Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, this month.

The seal depicts a Native American in the center, with an arm holding a sword above it. The motto translated in English is, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

The commission would make recommendations for a revised or new seal and motto. The executive director on Indian Affairs would serve as commission chair. The commission is required to submit a report with proposals, recommendations and drafts of legislation by Dec. 2, 2020.

You can reach Grace Bird at: 

gbird@recorder.com

413 772 0261 ext. 280


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