State bill may impact T-Hawks

by beth on March 13, 2017

Post image for State bill may impact T-Hawks

Algonquin’s winter season is over and spring has yet to kickoff. But I still have some school sports news to share.

About 20 years after Algonquin settled the issue of their Tomahawks logo and team name, it may be on the chopping block again. But this time, it’s not under as specific an attack.

If eliminated, it would be the result of a state bill to eliminate Native American logos and mascots including “Redmen”, “Redskins”, and “Savages”.

The bill is proposed by several residents in Tewksbury (home of the “Redmen”) to prohibit public school use of:

a name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name.

When I attended Algonquin, back in 1989, the logo and team name came under attack.* Regional School Committee Chair Joan Frank told Wicked Local that issues were ultimately resolved almost 20 years ago when the school worked with Native American groups.

The final recommendation was to keep the symbol:

“They didn’t find the tomahawk offensive in the way we use it,” Frank said of the groups involved. The most common logo used on the school’s sports uniforms and apparel depicts two tomahawks crossed over each other.

Senator L’Italien who filed the bill explained that the issue isn’t one that she is personally pushing: 

“I filed the bill as a ‘by request’ bill, meaning that the lead sponsor is not me, but actually one of the constituents who cares about this issue,” L’Italien said in a statement. “This is an opportunity that all of my constituents have, and I’m happy to make sure this group — and those who would oppose the bill — have an opportunity to debate this idea in a public hearing at the State House.”

The bill as filed in January reads:

SECTION 1. Chapter 71 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 97 the following new section:-

Section 98. Prohibition on the use of Native American mascots to by public schools in the Commonwealth.

(a) As used in this section, “Native American mascot” means

a. A name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name

b. The use of the team name “Redskins, “Savages,” “Indians,” “Indianettes,” “Chiefs,” “Chieftains,” “Braves,” or “Redmen.”

(b) As used in this section, “public school” means a school or program operated by a school district, and education service district, or a public charter school.

(c) The use of any Native American mascot by a public school in the Commonwealth is prohibited.

It is currently with the Education Committee for review.

*Full disclosure: As a member of the school newspaper editorial board (originally The Smoke Signal but changed by us to The Harbinger), I was one of the students who publicly called to change the name in ’89. (That was back when caricatures of goofy looking Native Americans decorated the walls of the school store.) 

1 Kate March 13, 2017 at 7:17 PM

Good for you, Beth. I’m personally not a fan of the nickname. Maybe they could shorten it to hawks

2 louise barron March 13, 2017 at 8:30 PM

Why is using a tomahawk as a symbol demeaning to the native Americans. It has never been used in a derisive way. Photos down through the years show Indians holding tomahawks. It is an important symbol. We have all gotten very touchy and overly sensitive.

3 D. McGee March 14, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Says the non-Native American.

4 Kate March 14, 2017 at 12:14 PM

Louise; have you ever gone to an Algonquin game where kids are kitted out in warpaint and feathers? I would agree that if they are Native Americans, that’s probably fine. I would like to learn more about the symbolism of which you speak

5 Jonas March 14, 2017 at 10:08 AM

Time and Time again this “debate” rages and it is mostly without cause. The Native American Tribes routinely say they have little to no problem with these names.

If Tewksbury wants to change it, have at it. I don’t recall a mass outcry that appealed to the rest of the state when Natick changed theirs.

It is one of the best nicknames in the entire state and will be for years to come.

Tomahawk Pride!

6 Kate March 14, 2017 at 12:11 PM

Jonas; did you happen to listen to the ESPN hosts in the video you linked? They disagreed, and actually used the word “slur” to refer to the Redskins name, which does not support your argument. Interesting note: only 504 people were included in this poll. Try this story too –

7 mike fuce March 15, 2017 at 9:14 AM

Are you serious Kate, listen to ESPN, that’s why sports people stopped listening and watching, they have politicized the one place we had to go and relax and enjoy those who are greater than ourselves. No one is listening to ESPN radio in the Boston market any longer.

8 Kate March 15, 2017 at 11:11 AM

Mike; Jonas was the one who posted the link, not me

9 Jonas March 15, 2017 at 1:53 PM

Kate: The “Hosts” have their own show on ESPN and want to drive whatever agenda they see fit to boost ratings. Don’t let the data get in the way of your argument. You are in the vocal minority.

10 Mike Fuce March 14, 2017 at 1:52 PM

You are really need to get more to do in your lives like for instance go watch Hacksaw Ridge. You can cite any study you want, depending on whether you vote for the liberal left or the conservative right, you can find whatever flavor of report or study you’re looking for. I know personally after many years working with,, listening to and standing side-by-side in prayer with American Indians, they have no problem with anything including Redskins. I don’t think they’re quite so sensitive as the self induced guilt ridden white folk . Leave the tradition of thawk alone and go find something worthwhile to do.

11 Kate March 14, 2017 at 3:25 PM

Mike, what you’re giving us is what’s known as “anecdotal evidence.” Thanks for your input.

12 SpottyHedge March 16, 2017 at 11:15 AM

Now you’re speaking for an entire race? Try again:

13 Kate March 16, 2017 at 9:10 PM

Thanks so much for this resource. It’s incredibly thought-provoking (a little upsetting to me, actually), so I hope folks will read it. Perhaps an understanding of the history surrounding this issue will change minds.

14 Dean Dairy March 14, 2017 at 5:52 PM

From: “Why do 40 Mass. high schools still have Native American mascots?” (May 2015)

Watertown High School student Arshdeep Singh said he understands why people find the mascot offensive, but that no one is trying to mock American Indians… Last week, the class officers posted four logo [replacement] finalists—a horse, a rat, a skull and a bear—for the students to vote on. Each of the student designers anonymously explained why their logo would be the best. They didn’t use their names to avoid making the mascot contest a student popularity contest.

The designers of the rat, bear and horse explained how their animals represented the word “Raider.’’

The unnamed creator of the skull took a different approach. “I didn’t want to offend anyone,’’ the student said. “So I made my design race neutral.’’

Well, hold-on there: not according to Mass US Senator Elizabeth Warren.

15 Frank Crowell March 14, 2017 at 8:13 PM

Let’s review: a tool/weapon used by Native Americans now used as a logo of our high school sports teams is being debated because it might upset a minority in our state and we voted down by 60/40 margin adding charter schools that would have helped minorities in towns with poor schools.


16 Kate March 14, 2017 at 8:38 PM

Good one, Frank. I personally would love to see more charters, and I was among the 40% who voted for expansion – two of my three children attended charters in Framingham and Marlborough.

17 louise barron March 15, 2017 at 8:43 AM

Frank You hit the nail on the head. We do need to concentrate on grander issues, that affect US all.

18 SpottyHedge March 16, 2017 at 11:13 AM

Just because an issue doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean it’s not important. That’s a pretty selfish and narrow mindset. But if you feel that way, feel free. You’re the one choosing to spend your time commenting about things you think are insignificant.

19 SB Resident March 15, 2017 at 10:22 AM

Laws like these banning any mention of native americans especially when in a positive and non-offensive light, only help to erase the memory of our past. Should we change the schools name too, how about the name massachusetts which come from the algonquin language? Sports teams named after native’s are a way paying homage. Who’d want to name themselves after something they don’t respect?

20 Allan Bezanson March 15, 2017 at 4:59 PM

Wow! I’m thankful I went to Northboro High School and my resume was not tarnished with the name “Algonquin”.

21 Mike Fuce March 15, 2017 at 1:35 PM

My apologies

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