Home of the Thunder: Turners Falls High School chooses new mascot

  • The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee voted unanimously Friday to adopt “Thunder” as the school’s mascot and sports nickname, replacing “Indians.” RECORDER STAFF/DAVID MCLELLAN

  • The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee voted unanimously Friday to adopt “Thunder” as the school’s mascot and sports nickname, replacing “Indians.” RECORDER STAFF/DAVID MCLELLAN

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/18/2018 6:33:57 PM

MONTAGUE — After months of debate and controversy, Turners Falls High School has chosen a new mascot.

The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee voted unanimously Friday to adopt “Thunder” as the school’s mascot and sports nickname, replacing “Indians,” which received nostalgic support from some of the school’s alumni and students.

However, in 2016 talks surrounding the logo and mascot began, ultimately deeming “Indians” as culturally insensitive.

Thomasina Hall, a member of the task force behind selecting a new mascot, submitted the results of a vote for the new mascot — students, parents, residents and alumni were allowed to vote. 

“Thunder” garnered 491 votes, beating “Raptors” with 268 votes and “Chargers” with 225.

“I’d say it’s (the vote) 99 percent accurate,” Hall said. 

According to Hall, data shows the students ultimately chose to accept “Thunder” as the mascot and nickname. Elementary school students expected to attend the high school in the future were also allowed to vote. 

“Ultimately it is their logo,” School Committee member Christina Postera said of the students.

Speaking of alumni fond of the name “Indians,” Postera added, “Even if their high school years are over, they can be an Indian forever, but now we move on.”

The change comes at the end of a long — and heated — saga, which included roughly 120 students walking out of the school in protest of the school committee’s decision to drop “Indians” in February of 2017.

Others supported changing the name, which they claimed was offensive.

Hall said the task force is comfortable with the decision to choose “Thunder” because of student support and task force diligence in monitoring voting — one retired teacher voted 12 or 18 times in the online poll, Hall said, but was caught.

Voters were not given the option of choosing to keep the “Indians” name. 

“Some of (the task force) received a lot of grief for their participation,” Hall said. “They held their heads high.”

The School Committee thanked the task force Friday and seemed pleased with the result and opportunity to move on. They applauded after casting their votes.

“There were bumps in the road in doing it, and I think we all appreciate that,” said School Committee Chairwoman Valeria Smith.

“I’m very happy with it,” said School Committee member Heather Katsoulis.

Despite the public debate surrounding the mascot-change in the past year, only one person showed up Friday to share their discontent with the process.

“There’s no accountability,” said alumnus Everett Smith, whose daughter goes to Sheffield Elementary School in the school district.

He said there was no way for the public to see how many votes were cast — and for which nicknames — until Hall presented the results Friday. Everett Smith also said there was no way to know if nonresidents had voted, despite the task force’s claims at diligence. 

He added that student support really lies with the “Indians” mascot — referencing the walk-out — and the name would have stayed the same if students were allowed to choose.

However, Everett Smith said, in the end, he’s willing to support the “Thunder” name, although he does not think it will change much.

“I’m ready to go help them put the whole thing up, because Thunder, what’s wrong with that? The kids will still go out there and put on all of their Indians stuff on and they’ll go do a thunder dance,” he said. “It’s the same thing.”

The School Committee will now receive artwork submitted by the task force to choose a new emblem for the school.

Reach David McLellan at: dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261




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