Petition for Change in the Turners Falls Indians Mascot Debate

 

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Image above from Turtleboysports blog, in a post decrying the movement for change. Click note: there are multiple sexually-objectifying ads on this blog.

As the discussion continues surrounding the possible review of the Turners Falls High School’s mascot — currently the Indians — community members have circulated online petitions as a way to garner support and gauge interest on both sides of the argument.

A second petition, this one in support of the Turners Falls High School changing its mascot, was started Sunday morning by those calling for the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee to change it because of concerns of racist imagery and stereotyping of Native Americans. Those in support of changing the name say arguments surrounding the tradition are not enough to keep the name.

Read the latest update in the Greenfield Recorder.

The Change.org petition supporting the change can be found here.

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Turners Falls Students Address the Indians Mascot

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In the midst of growing debate over whether to change the Turners Falls High School Indians mascot, many students leaving classes Friday for the weekend said they support keeping the mascot.

“I think people think that we’re dishonoring the Indians, but we’re really representing them in the most honorable way that we can,” said 18-year-old senior Michael Babcock, a member of the football team. “We’re proud to be the Indians.”

Read today’s story in the Greenfield Recorder.

This is a situation which is unfolding in an educational institution: one of the places where we, as a society, seek to instill in the next generation the values and understandings that will serve the community well. We often express the desire that things will be better for our children than it may have been for us – we aspire to progress and improvement. This is a teaching moment.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” 

Nothing more needs to be added to that observation.

The argument that something should be allowed to persist because it already exists has got nothing to do with values, morality, merit, or validity. It is an empty argument, and a classic example of fallacious reasoning, which is not reasoning at all. Defenses of this sort land squarely under the category of red herrings, including argumentum ad populum, various appeals to emotion, and especially appeal to tradition  (argumentum ad antiquitatem), among others. 

And one more thing, while we’re “honoring Indians”…  In order to honor another, one demonstrates respect in a manner that the subject party will appreciate, in a form that can be recognized as caring, within their understanding of the term. The best manner to “honor Indians” is to show respect to those Native Americans who are here now. A shared understanding among Native American peoples is that all generations are present now, in the circle of time. We are our ancestors and we are our grandchildren. We are all, actually, the same thing, in different forms. This is what honor looks like.

Background on Turners Falls Indians Mascot Review

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The decision to review whether to keep the Turners Falls High School “Indians” mascot arose from public comment at a spring Gill-Montague Regional School Committee meeting.

The issue was raised at the May 24 meeting by several community members who called for a name change. As a result, school officials this week put the issue on the table – in the form of a proposal that lays out how the committee would go about reviewing the appropriateness of the mascot name, if it chooses to.

A half-dozen Montague and Gill residents called for the committee to change the mascot name at the meeting, which was not reported on at the time, but recorded by Montague Community Television.

Sokoki Sojourn note: in actuality, this story WAS reported at the time, by the Montague Reporter. Review that coverage here.

Read the full article in the Greenfield Recorder here.

The Turners Falls Indians: Not Your Mascot

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Another showdown is brewing at Peskeompskut, at the southern edge of Sokwakik and just a few miles down the Kwanitekw. Below are links to the breaking story from area media this week:

http://www.recorder.com/Turners-Falls-Indian-Mascot-4718496

http://www.recorder.com/Mascot-review-sparks-petition-4745616

http://www.westernmassnews.com/story/33096260/turners-falls-considers-changing-mascot

The Gill-Montague Regional School District is considering a proposal for a review process of the Turners Falls High School Indians mascot. A draft of the review procedure was heard at the Committee’s Tuesday (Sept. 13, 2016) meeting; in reaction, a Change.org petition was begun the next day by those opposed to the considering the change.

Lew Collins, an alumni, is quoted as saying “…he views the mascot as a show of respect, not as something derogatory.”  “It really hurt that something like this could be taken away,” Collins said. “Everything we have, all of our traditions, could be pulled out from under us.”

This is practically a dictionary definition of entitlement… Whose traditions were (and are) summarily removed? It is a measure of the distance from the true nature of this situation that the usurpation becomes the defense. It is hardly even necessary to point out that the mascot graphic itself, rather than paying “homage to the Native American Men and Women who died as a result of the King Philip’s War,’ is a stereotypical portrayal of generic Plains culture regalia – the “ideal American Indian”. It bears no resemblance to the material culture of the indigenous peoples of the mid-Connecticut River valley: the Pocumtuk, the Nipmuk, the Nonotuck, and the Sokwakiak, and their allies present at the 1676 massacre, among them the Wampanoag and Narragansett. This is no tribute; it is a continuation of appropriation, exploitation, marginalization, and denial. Time for a reality check. The times they are a-changin’.

There Are No Unsacred Places

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This story and article reported by Howard Weiss-Tisman appeared yesterday on Vermont Public Radio: To Fill Void Left By Vermont Yankee, Vernon Looks For New Energy Projects.

Sokwakik, Squakheag, Great Bend, Cooper’s Point, Vernon Dam, Vermont Yankee…

Once again, I am struck with the antithetical values and legacies embodied in this place, so close to home. It’s almost hard to comprehend. It hurts.

Looking ahead, this toxicity will be with us for a long, long time, essentially forever: the land is basically condemned, which is a chilling sentence. Looking back just as far, essentially forever, most people have no idea what Vermont Yankee (and the Vernon hydro complex) is sitting upon… Once a favored and sacred fishing place, with small villages surrounded by corn fields, Native people have lived and died here for thousands of years. The people and the land were one, not separated. It is still a very special place, although sullied and scarred.

I think again of Wendell Berry’s words: “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

Abbe Museum Launches Wabanaki Cultural Database

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The Abbe Museum has begun making its non-archaeological items available online with the goal of uploading all such items to its searchable database over the course of the next 12 months.

“We have been looking forward to sharing our collections online for a long time,” said Julia Gray, director of collections and interpretation. “With only a small portion of our collections on exhibit at any time, this gives people a chance to see so much more and to learn about Wabanaki history and culture through art and objects from anywhere in the world. We are also excited to use this as a platform to welcome Wabanaki community input and perspectives on our collections.”

Full story at Mount Desert Islander.