By Bob Katzen
The Education Committee’s hearing also included legislation that bans the use of any Native American mascot by a public school including names like Redskins, Savages, Indians, Chiefs, Chieftains and Braves. Currently more than 30 schools in the Bay State use Native American mascots. The measure would allow schools to continue to use uniforms or other materials bearing the banned name, logo or mascot, if they were purchased before the date of the ban, and if the school does not buy anything new with the banned logo.
Supporters say the use of these symbols is demeaning to Native Americans and stereotypes them as savages. They said this decision should not be left up to local communities and noted a statewide ban will ensure that no schools use these offensive symbols.
“The ban on Native American mascots … represents a prime opportunity for us to celebrate our collective heritage in ways that bring us together and bring healing,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Boston) “It’s an opportunity for Massachusetts to lead once again on the cutting edge of living out our shared value of justice for all.”
Some opponents say the mascots honor Native Americans by emphasizing positive traits like a fighting spirit, bravery, pride and dedication. Others say this is a decision that should be made by individual cities and towns.
“The citizens, both native and non-native in my district, had a debate when this piece of legislation was proposed years ago and overwhelmingly supported saving the mascot from elimination, [and] instead teaching the history of the Wamesit [Native American Tribe] people,” said Rep. Dave Roberston (D-Tewksbury) an opponent of the ban. “The Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association spoke positively on the matter, and as representative I carry their concerns with me to Beacon Hill every day. I hope the towns and cities with such mascots work with their local tribes to celebrate and educate us on those who lived here before in a shared manner.