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

jasmine-goodspeed-turners-falls-mascot-vote

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

 

The Fictions of History: A Message from Trace Lara Hentz

trace lara hentz author

Reprinted with permission from the author

My message to the Turners Falls School Board Committee:

Dear School Board:
I have just a few things about the Turners Falls mascot issue and local history.
This issue is not a surprise. The community near Great Falls doesn’t know the history. Who exactly wrote the account of what happened in Turners Falls? Let’s be clear. It was not the Pocumtuck or Wampanoag or any of the other tribes who lost their lives on that fateful day.
Time after time, war after war, history is told (or not told) by the victor, the winner of the conflict.
When I interviewed leaders of the Eastern Pequot years back, I wanted Connecticut to know its own history, largely unwritten, hidden. Marcia Flowers said “we’ve been cleaning people’s houses for the past 300+ years.”
Indian people knew it was best to be invisible. Many still feel this way: invisible.
Pequot scalps? The bounty was $100 in colonial times. $100 is like a million dollars today, right?
Why don’t we all know this?
We’re not supposed to know.
This issue over mascots makes it clear. We argue over history. If it creates conflict, this is exactly how the oppressor and oppression works.
We in North America are literally educated to be ignorant of the true history. It’s a blood-soaked path in the pioneer valley and westward. Fictions were crafted by the nation builders who used war/massacre/colonization on the First Nations Indian People yet these facts were diminished or erased. Hiding truth and history only perpetuates continued racism and intolerance.

Your Indian mascot doesn’t honor anyone but reveals our ignorance.

Trace Lara Hentz, Greenfield, MA, former editor of the Pequot Times

Lew Collins: Failure to Prove Native Americans Oppose Mascots

lew-collins-tf-greenfield-recorder

Lew Collins added his voice to the Greenfield Recorder editorial debate, citing the Washington Post’s poll in May, 2016, which asserted that a majority of Native Americans did not find the use of Native mascots offensive. Excerpt below:

Mr. David Bulley, in the My Turn section, suggests that our Indian name and logo we use at Turners Falls High School “harms Native Americans” and that “Millions of natives as well as the American Psychological Association say there is no honor here.”

While these and other claims he makes are bold — they’re dangerously misleading. Mr. Bulley had his turn in the paper. Now it is “My Turn” to voice the supporters’ side.

Read the full Op-Ed in the Greenfield Recorder.

Mr. Collins slips into the pervasive mindset that “Indians” are, for all intents and purposes of those in the dominant culture, nearly identical and can be lumped into the same basket.  A graphic example is his lead-in paragraph:

But, may I suggest that we embark on this debate in true Indian fashion by closely following the deliberative “council fire” standards as outlined in the “Great Law of Peace”: “Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement in their minds and all their words and actions shall be marked by calm deliberation.”

His “True Indian fashion” extracts wisdom from the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, brought by Wendat prophet Deganawida, and invokes its rejoinder for peace and consensus – an admirable aspiration. May we all follow this exhortation! But, this citation is a perfect example of implicit stereotyping, part of the mindset underlying the appropriation of an indigenous mascot by a group separated from the subject (and history, and culture, and value system) of their usurpation. The indigenous communities of this region were, and are, Algonquian relations and allies (the Pocumtuck, the Nonotuck, the Nipmuc, the Sokwakiak, the Narragansett, the Wampanoag, and others), and not at all Iroquoian – as a matter of fact they were often at great odds.

This aspect of implicit bias (see this article, also from the Washington Post, just 3 weeks ago) is further bolstered by Mr. Collin’s defense of local enlightenment – and thus entitlement to the use of the Indians emblem –  when he states “Right off the bat we know this is not the case in our community — it’s quite the opposite as many have spoken in great lengths about the Indian history that we are aware of in our town.”  There has been a lot of speaking but there has been very little awareness of the true stories. The amount of conflation, obfuscation, misinformation, and generalization is staggering. Add to that the statements to the contrary being issued by the Tribes still here in the immediate area, the descendants of those who survived the Peskeompskut Massacre, and the argument does not come close to holding water.

 

Sokoki Sojourn and the Turners Falls Indians Debate

connecticut-river-sokwakik-map-brooks

The mid-Connecticut River valley, showing the traditional homelands of the Sokwakiak Abenaki (the Sokoki), known as Sokwakik (labelled in the center), south below Koasek to Peskeompskut (today’s Turners Falls). Map from Lisa Brooks’ The Common Pot: the Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast (2008).

Why would Sokoki Sojourn concern itself with the current discussion around the implications of maintaining or changing the Turners Falls Indians athletic mascot? As the social, cultural, ethical, and historical implications will be examined thoroughly in the ongoing media coverage (archived here), I would simply like to make the connection, geographically and personally, with several simple observations.

To the immediate north of what is now called Turners Falls, named after British colonial Captain William Turner, but known beforehand as Peskeompskut, lies the homeland of the Western Abenaki. Gill, Northfield, Bernardston, Vernon, Hinsdale, Brattleboro, and many other nearby towns, heading northward, lie upon this ancestral landscape and, due to their continuing presence, within the selfhood of the indigenous people.  The people of this land were and are called the Sokwakiak (today’s Sokoki), meaning “the people who were set apart or who separated.” The linguistic and historical connection  can be seen and heard clearly in the early European settler’s name for Northfield: Squakheag. This is an Anglicized derivation from the Abenaki name for the region, Sokwakik.

The people of this land were most certainly present at Capt. Turner’s dawn raid upon the sleeping fishing village on May 19, 1676. They were the de facto hosts at this peacefully neutral encampment, receiving their Algonquian cousins and political allies in Metacom’s Uprising (King Philip’s War): the Wampanoag, the Narragansett, the Nipmuck, the Pocumtuck, and no doubt members of other similarly disenfranchised Tribes. Hundreds died that day – primarily children, women, and elders – and the lives of the communities were never the same again. Which, really, brings us up to today: this is why Sokoki Sojourn has taken up the mantle. The story continues and there can be no peace without justice, no honor without truth.

The Turners Falls Indians: Not Your Mascot

turners-falls-indians-graphic

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’.

1704 Raid Reenactment at Deerfield Museum

abenaki warrior deerfield

On Saturday, Feb. 27, and Sunday, Feb. 28, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association plans to host a commemoration of the 1704 raid on Deerfield. The battle that took place in the fields north of town will be re-enacted Saturday at 2 p.m., on Deerfield Academy’s athletic fields at the end of Albany Road. A master of ceremonies will provide commentary about the battle. Sunday is slated to feature additional entertainment, including a lecture by Amherst College historian Kevin Sweeney in an event sponsored by Historic Deerfield, Inc.

Full story in the Greenfield Recorder.

Great Beaver

k'tsi tmakw pocomtuck homeland kwanitekw pokw'mtekw

South from Greenfield’s Poet’s Seat, the Great Beaver, K’tsi Tmakw or K’tsi Amiskw, also known as Wequamps, rises in the Pocomtuck homelands at the southern border of the Sokoki. Just to the east, Peskeompskut – the Great Falls – rushes over the Split Rock in the coursing of Kwanitekw. Fertile fields were left in the bottom land of the giant’s vast, flooded impoundment – gift of Gluskabe (or Hobomok), who dealt the recalcitrant creature its death blow.