Turners Falls Mascot Task Force Still Welcoming Submissions

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More than 100 submissions have been received about a new mascot for Turners Falls High School as the Gill-Montague Regional School District moves toward a decision on a replacement for the Indian.

The task force gathering mascot suggestions is still accepting nominations, which so far have ranged from the old Indian logo to elementary school submissions like “coyotes” or “blueberries’’ — which drew a chuckle from school committee members who heard an update this week.

Many people in the community opposed dropping the Indian mascot after some Montague and Gill residents called for a change in late May 2016, arguing the mascot was racist. After a number of discussions and forums, the school board voted to remove the Indian in February 2017, and reaffirmed the decision following a nonbinding referendum in May 2017 that supported restoring the Indian.

Read the full update article by Christie Wisniewski at the Greenfield Recorder.

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Greenfield Recorder: Native American Heritage Day Observed

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Indigenous tribes called Franklin County home long before European colonizers landed in North America. Native American Heritage Day, observed since 2008 on the day after Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to recognize and discuss that history.

“We have this single day, Friday, Native American Heritage Day, which was designated by an act of Congress in 2008 — relatively recently,” said Rich Holschuh, who is from the Elnu Abenaki tribe. Abenaki homeland ran north to the St. Lawrence River in Canada, and south to Deerfield, with Turners Falls being “the nexus for all tribes in that area,” according to Holschuh. [note: I (Rich) am not a citizen of Elnu, but I do work extensively with them and others in the contemporary community.]

Holschuh also serves on the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.

The resolution for Native American Heritage Day, signed by President George W. Bush, acknowledges Native people “for their contributions to the United States as local and national leaders, artists, athletes, and scholars.” Local advocates focus on a darker side of American history.

“It is with great sadness that we look back, just on the last 340 years, since this peaceful area of shared resources was witness to a terrible massacre of refugees from the regional war that was going on over who would control the land,” said David Detmold, representing the Nolumbeka Project, a non-tribal organization advocating for New England’s Native American tribes.

Detmold referred to The Battle of Great Falls, a decisive fight of King Philip’s War that took place on the banks of the Connecticut River between present-day Gill and Montague. He noted the Nolumbeka Project is part of a group studying the battle through a National Parks Service grant.

Read the full article by Andy Castillo in The (Greenfield) Recorder here.

TF School Board Creates Task Force for Mascot Decision

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The decision on a new mascot for Turners Falls High School will be made with the help of a community task force created by the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee.

The School Committee discussed the mascot selection process for about an hour and a half during its Tuesday night meeting, where it landed on the creation of an advisory task force that would be a mix of students, high school staff and community members — without district administration or School Committee members.

The task force will include up to eight students, four staff members and six community members: three from Montague, two from Gill and one from Erving.

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

Turners Indian Advocate Suggests Keeping Logo with Modifications

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An unfortunate turn of events.

At Tuesday night’s Gill-Montague School Committee meeting, Chris Pinardi unveiled a plan to involve Native American tribes and groups in a process that would allow the school to keep its previous mascot, the Indian, while adjusting the mascot to create an accurate and respectful representation.

Pinardi, who is a graduate of the school and has been running a group in support of retaining the former mascot, spoke at the beginning of the meeting and delivered a packet with letters from tribal leaders from Vermont and Lowell. He asked the district to consider keeping the name while adjusting the representation with assistance from the tribes.

Pinardi asked the board to listen with an open mind and consider suspending the current process to select a new mascot.“I respectfully request that the logo process be tabled and this process be explored fully,” he said.

The committee discussed the issue later in the evening, making no clear decision on the issue, and opting to delay discussion of the mascot selection process because of how late it was in the night.

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

Festival Goers Celebrate Native American Culture

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As 64-year-old Lenny Novak of Wakefield, N.H. tended his booth at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival Saturday, he reconnected with old friends and shared stories with new acquaintances.

For Novak and his girlfriend Kelly Mowers, the festival is rather like an Old Home Day for Native Americans and for those who share an interest in their culture. “It’s like a family,” he said. “Everybody’s like-minded here. They appreciate the native ways.”

Novak, a member of the Abenaki tribe, and Mowers, of the Micmac tribe, were two of the vendors operating a booth along Unity Park’s waterfront Saturday, immersing passersby in Native American culture, art, music, food and history.

See the full article by Shelby Ashline in the Greenfield Recorder.

Photography by Matt Burkhartt (that’s my son Gavin with his buddy Alden!).

4th Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival on August 5

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The 4th  Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, a celebration of Native American Art, Music, and Culture,  takes place on Saturday, August  5, 2017,  from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Unity Park Waterfront in Turners Falls, MA.  The event is free, family friendly, fun, educational, accessible, and of interest to all ages.

Performances include live traditional, original, and fusion music, a story teller, and three drum groups. There will be outstanding  Native American artists, and games, activities and crafts for children. Also featured will be primitive skills demonstrations, a books and authors section, and condensed history lessons about Great Falls. The Mashantucket-Pequot archaeology team will be on site for the second time to analyze early contact period artifacts people bring to them. And Tim MacSweeney, keeper of the website Waking Up On Turtle Island, can help explain the significance of threatened sites considered sacred to the tribes such as in Shutesbury and Sandisfield. Food will be available, including Native American fare.

Performers will be Hawk Henries, Nipmuc flute player and flute maker;  the Kingfisher Singers and Dancers, Wampanoag from the  Mashpee, Aquinnah, and Herring Pond communities;  story teller Larry Spotted Crow Mann,  Nipmuc; the Medicine Mammals Singers;  and Lee Mixashawn Rozie,  who uses instrumental virtuosity and stories to illuminate the indigenous and African roots of “American” music.  Be energized by the presence of three drums: Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan-Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Singers, plus returning favorites, the Black Hawk Singers (Abenaki),  and the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition Singers.

Donations appreciated. Find more information and the schedule the week before the event at www.nolumbekaproject.org. and/or turnersfallsriverculture.org.

MA Bill Would Ban Native American School Mascots

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Massachusetts lawmakers are weighing whether to ban the use of Native American mascots in public schools — a proposal that drew strong opinions at a public hearing Tuesday. The push comes after the town of Tewksbury rebuffed efforts to change the name of its high school mascot, the Redmen — and even as the town of Montague continues to debate its school committee decision to remove its long-time Indians mascot.

Linda Thomas has children in the first and fourth grades in Tewksbury and said she doesn’t want to signal that “it’s OK to use these images and memes and logos.” “The name has become so integrated and repeated that the meaning is lost,” she said. “People using it don’t intend to cause harm, but the impact is harmful and Native Americans have been saying this now for decades.”

Thomas added it’s hard to imagine any other racial group being used as a mascot.

Read the full story in the Greenfield Recorder.