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.)