Gill Montague School Committee Faces Questions After Mascot Vote

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Members of the Gill-Montague School Committee faced more questions and complaints about the mascot vote from parents and students this week. The board had agreed to take a two meeting break from the issue after the committee voted to change the mascot from the Indians, but the public can bring any issue to the public comment portion of school board meetings.

So, several parents raised concerns about how the vote was taken, because the School Committee had voted to suspend its planned process to vote on the mascot issue. Marisa Dalmaso-Rode, a parent who is part of a group that operates a Facebook page about saving the mascot, said there are still a lot of unanswered questions from the School Committee surrounding the choice to not bring in a pro-Indian mascot Native American group to speak to students. She said the committee should release more information about the vote or the town will not be able to heal.

Read the full article by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

Gill Riverside Historic District Awaits State Decision

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After about two years of work by local residents and the Gill Historical Commission, the fate of a possible National Historic District in the Riverside area of town is in the hands of the state. The commission, with support from town government and area residents, recently submitted its nomination to the state Historical Commission. If the state panel approves, the nomination advances to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for final approval.

Town officials held a public hearing about a historic district in conjunction with the state Historical Society on Tuesday night at the Riverside Municipal Building.

The district encompass much of the Riverside neighborhood, with Riverview Drive, Oak Street, Walnut Street, Myrtle Street, Pine Street and Grove Street included within the boundaries as well as some properties on the other side of French King Highway.

See the full article by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

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This area at the southern edge of Sokwakik is highly significant for Native heritage and among other things is a subject of the ongoing Falls Fight Battlefield Study Grant. This incredibly productive fishing location drew indigenous people from many different communities for thousands of years. Here and nearby, they would harvest and process the anadromous fish that paused to surmount the falls of Peskeompskut, traded and celebrated, met and married, and shared the Kwanitekw’s gifts in peace. This place still has great power and strong spirit, despite the ravages of industrial exploitation and the ongoing genocidal mindset of settler colonialism. Any action to recognize and support this reality is a welcome beginning.

Gill-Montague Board Votes 6-3 to Remove Turners Falls Indian Mascot

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The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee has voted to change the Turners Falls High School mascot from the “Indians” in a 6-3 vote on Tuesday night.

About 70 were in the crowd of the auditorium as the five-month debate came to an unanticipated close when the School Committee voted to change after an hour of discussion on the issue.

The School Committee was partially through a process to review the mascot that they discontinued last meeting. Those who advocated for the vote said it was because the process had become overwhelmingly divisive in the towns and schools.

Read the full report by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder!

Video coverage of the School Committee meeting from Montague Community Television:

More coverage (some duplicate wire services):

http://www.westernmassnews.com/story/34506389/turners-falls-vote-to-change-high-schools-indian-mascot

School committee voted to remove Turners Falls High School ‘Indians’ mascot

http://www.dailyprogress.com/massachusetts-school-board-dumps-native-american-mascot/article_675ca1ec-b904-5666-acf9-da02b690c20e.html

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/02/turners_falls_high_school_to_s.html

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/local_coverage/2017/02/massachusetts_school_board_dumps_native_american_mascot

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2017/02/15/massachusetts-school-board-dumps-native-american-mascot

 

Mascot Pro-change Residents Hold Press Conference

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Members of a group calling for a change in the Turners Falls High School mascot held a press conference on Monday afternoon announcing their opposition to the nonbinding referendum approved by the Montague Selectboard last week. About 15 people gathered to share the statement. Ferd Wulkan, Edite Cunha and Elyssa Serrilli read the statement.

“We call on the voters of Montague to join us in supporting the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee, as they have dedicated much time and energy in their thorough and thoughtful process on this issue,” the statement said. “This work has been done in a planned and announced process by a democratically elected body. We think that body should be allowed to complete its work and render a timely decision.”

Read the full story by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder

 

More on MA Senate Bill to Ban Native American Mascots

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Yesterday, Miranda Davis at the Greenfield Recorder picked up the story of Massachusetts bill SD.1119, An Act to Prohibit the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth. The introduction of this bill directly impacts the local debate in Turners Falls about the effects of continued use of the “Indians” mascot/logo.

Excerpt: The bill, introduced Thursday, was filed “by request” by Sen. Barbara L’Italian, a Democrat representing the 2nd Essex and Middlesex district. According to L’Italian’s spokeswoman Emma Friend, the bill was requested by a resident of Tewksbury, where the high school’s mascot is the Redmen. If passed, the bill would affect the ongoing debate in Montague over whether Turners Falls High School should keep its current mascot, the Indians.

Another story on the same topic was published by NECN, an NBC affiliate out of Boston, MA.

Excerpt:  The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness said change is long overdue. “Mascots keep us trapped in a false narrative and don’t show context or how we have evolved over 500 years,” said Claudia Fox Tree. “The problem is that we aren’t able to share our own story in our own voices.”

CBS local affiliate WBZ Channel 4 in Boston also carried the announcement. From that report:

A Tewksbury resident wants state lawmakers to ban the use of Native American symbols and logos at public schools. After losing a battle to change Tewksbury High School’s mascot from the Redmen, Linda Thomas is now hoping legislators will vote to get rid of Native American logos at all public schools for good. Last year, the Tewksbury School Committee voted 4-1 to keep their mascot, which some say pays tribute to the town’s Native American heritage. “This is really not a town issue, this is a state issue,” Thomas said.

Referendum Tension Dominates Final Turners Mascot Forum

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Discussion at Thursday’s educational mascot forum became heated as School Committee members responded to concerns and accusations that they had already decided how to vote concerning the mascot issue. Members of the public were also upset that the board is not holding a referendum.

The event was the final scheduled educational forum on the mascot issue, and covered the perspective of alumni who want to keep the mascot speaking. Ronald LaRoche who graduated in 1947 and Jeff Singleton, who is not an alumni of the school, both spoke.

LaRoche discussed the tradition of the school and the mascot while Singleton said he didn’t like the rhetoric of the side who does not want to keep the mascot, noting specifically that he felt the comparisons to other race-based issues, like the Holocaust or slavery in America, are not appropriate for the debate.

Read the full report by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

Turners Falls Indians: Chopping the Chop Understood by Most

Op-Ed in the Greenfield Recorder Dec. 16, 2016. Full column here.

Trying to sort out the issues, let alone the feelings, associated with Gill-Montague Regional School District’s “Indians” mascot can be challenging.But the picture should be clearer with respect to the “Tomahawk Chop” — a way cheerleaders and pep band charged up the football team’s fans, until the School Committee banned the practice in 2009, that is.

The School Committee at that time concluded correctly that the gesture, however innocently employed, was offensive to Native Americans. The committee chose to ban the practice, specifically citing the band and cheerleaders in the minutes of the meeting, although the discussion preceding the vote implied the ban would apply to all school-sponsored groups.

That was well and good, and concern over the chop faded. But, unfortunately, school officials never codified the school board vote into a written policy that was spelled out in the student handbook or athletic codes. So, many in the community became confused and upset when their football team was criticized for using the chop at the Thanksgiving Day game — for violating a policy that was actually hard to find.

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The last few words of the column could be taken as an insightful Freudian slip: “…although we think that should remain a settled issue.”