Mohawk in discussions to change mascot

  • The Mohawk Trail Regional School Warriors mascot image on a wall in the school’s gym. Contributed Photo

  • The Mohawk Trail Regional School Warriors mascot image on a wall in the school’s gym. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2019 11:19:30 PM

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail Regional School leaders are discussing changing the high school’s Native American mascot, while retaining its Warriors athletic teams nickname.

The Local Education Council and Co-Principal Marisa Mendonsa have talked about the issue for about a year, Mendonsa said. Next, Mendonsa and the council will assess the community’s thoughts by surveying residents and convening a public meeting, to take place at the end of this school year. Public input will inform Mohawk’s decision, which will be made next school year, Mendonsa said.

The school’s name derives from the name of the state highway that runs through western Franklin County, which in turn commemorates the Indian tribes who traveled through the region to and from fishing sites along the Connecticut River.

The mascot is an image of a Native American in a full, feathered headdress.

Students were first asked to consider the meaning of a Native American mascot in 2016, when a social studies class held an all-school debate on the subject, Mendonsa said. At a December Local Education Council meeting, a couple of student council members discussed the issue, expressing support for changing the mascot but keeping the team nickname. The Local Education Council is currently working on a plan to get feedback from the community.

“We’ve begun to engage the school community to really have a sense of where folks are at,” Mendonsa said. “We will continue to do more work and research and continue looking at both sides.”

The Warriors name may be retained as it doesn’t necessarily apply to Native Americans, Mendonsa said. The Native American mascot influences how the Warriors name is perceived, she added.

“The imagery is the main concern. We don’t want to depict the race of a group of people as a mascot,” Mendonsa said. “The term ‘warriors’ can take on different meanings, and ways to look at it.”

Replacing the Mohawk mascot would be an expensive task, Mendonsa said. The mascot appears in several places around the school, including on the gym wall and on scoreboards. However, Mohawk has already scaled back mascot-use by removing the image from uniforms.

Mohawk’s decision to reconsider its mascot was motivated by the country’s shifting views, as well as Turners Falls High School’s recent decision to remove the “Indian” as its mascot, Mendonsa said. Turners teams are now referred to as the Thunder.

Several years ago, Frontier Regional School underwent the same soul-searching and debate, but ultimately change its mascot from Redskins to Red Hawks.

State Sen. Joanne Comerford, D-Northampton, submitted a bill last month to ban state public schools from using Native American mascots. If successful, the bill is likely to impact Mohawk’s mascot. Comerford and Mohawk Trail Regional School have not discussed the bill, Mendonsa said.

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