Op-Ed: Talks on Turners Falls Mascot Need Next Step

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We salute school leaders for providing different perspectives on the continued use of the Indians mascot at Turners Falls High School and giving the public opportunities to comment on the issue. But now, the Gill-Montague Regional School District is at juncture.

The committee needs to move into the decision phase of an exhaustive exploration. The committee has two paths: either a straight board vote on keeping the Indians name or putting the question to a district-wide referendum with a pledge to use that outcome to guide the decision.

We don’t, however, think there is a need to seek out a speaker who represents a Native American perspective supporting the use of Indians or other imagery or mascots.

Read the full Greenfield Recorder op-ed for January 17, 2017.

 

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Video: Final Alumni-centric Turners Falls Mascot Forum

Video from Montague Community Television of the final (for now) community forum to share insights concerning the debate about the athletic mascot/logo at Turners Falls High School in the Gill-Montague (MA) Regional School District.

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.

Native American Viewpoint is Topic of Third Turners Falls Mascot Forum

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For those following of the ongoing discussion about the Turners Falls High School mascot, there will be a third educational forum on Monday that will cover the local Native American perspective. Chief Cheryll Toney Holley of the Hassanamesit Nipmuc Nation and Dr. Lisa Brooks, Amherst College professor and an Abenaki, are the scheduled presenters.

The two will be discussing the local Native American perspective in relation to the school’s ongoing debate whether to keep the mascot, which is currently the “Indians.” Two previous presentations included a historical perspective and a social justice, multicultural one.

The event will be held in the Turners Falls High School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, and the presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The fourth and final event is set for Jan. 5 and will be about the Turners Falls High School alumni perspective. Speakers have yet to be announced by the district.

Link to original story in Greenfield Recorder.

Teaching Moment for Turners Falls Community

An editorial in the 12.08.2016 Greenfield Recorder, following the Thanksgiving game incidents. Full op-ed here.

As the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee continues to work toward a decision on whether to continue using Indians as its team nickname, a teaching moment has emerged from the recent Thanksgiving Day football game.

Since the fall, the School Committee has been taking steps to guide its decision— from airing public sentiment at hearings to gathering relevant historical and cultural information from local experts.

While this process is an important one, it has also provided a public stage for conflict between those who see the Indians nickname evoking respect and school pride and others who say it is hurtful and insensitive to Native Americans. Into this heated but generally civil debate, a headdress and the “Tomahawk Chop” made an appearance during the game between Turners Falls and longtime rival, Greenfield.

Valdiviezo Addresses Social Justice at Second TF Educational Forum

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Laura Valdiviezo, an associate professor from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst College of Education, answered questions and spoke to the possible processes the school district might enact when deciding whether to keep or change the Turners Falls High School mascot, currently the Indians.

She spoke about the multicultural and social justice perspectives as it pertains to the current mascot debate. Valdiviezo presented several studies that showed negative effects of Native American mascots and logos on Native American students and discussed national organizations that have called for the end of use of Native American imagery with sports teams.

Valdiviezo said that either way, change should happen. Either the mascot itself will change or the school should take steps to incorporate local Native Americans into decisions about the mascot and how the school represents the “Indians.” She recommended collaboration and conversations with local Native Americans.

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

Gill-Montague School District Denounces Football Game Incidents

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School Superintendent Michael Sullivan has denounced the display of the “Tomahawk Chop” and a Native American headdress at the Thanksgiving football game and at pep rally the night before. The actions distracted from a “great game” at a time the community is debating the appropriateness of the team’s Indians mascot, Sullivan said in a statement to the Gill-Montague School Committee and the media Monday.

The district isn’t taking any disciplinary action against the team or staff members, according to Sullivan. He said the timing of the action shows that those who did it meant to send a message on the current debate about the school’s use of the mascot.

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