(WWLP) – A bill filed in the Massachusetts Legislature would prohibit the use of Native American-themed team names, mascots, and logos in public schools.
If passed, the bill, HD.646, would require the state board of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish regulations to ban Native-themed mascots and logos, and set a deadline for schools to comply.
In a news release sent to 22News, supporters of the legislation argued that Native-themed mascots re-enforce negative stereotypes about Indigenous people, and are particularly harmful to young people.
“It is nearly impossible for Indigenous students to thrive and feel confident in their skin when their heritage is mocked and continuously stereotyped by their school mascot,” said Shawna Newcomb, a Mashpee Wampanoag tribal member and public school teacher.
Further, supporters of the bill also argue Native-themed mascots eliminate the true identities of Native peoples. “Native sports mascots are part of the colonial project of erasing Native identities and silencing Native accounts of our own histories. These mascots suggest that colonization of Native peoples in this region was inevitable and necessary,” said Melissa Ferretti, Chair of the Herring Pond Wampanoag.
The issue of Native American-themed team names and mascots have been a contentious one across the country, including here in western Massachusetts. In recent years, Mohawk Trail Regional High School ceased the use of a Native American “chief” logo, while retaining their “Warriors” team nickname. Nearby Turners Falls High School got rid of their “Indians” team name and logo altogether, replacing it with their new “Thunder” team name and logo.
The bill as written would allow an exception for Native American tribes to use Native-themed names or logos for teams composed of their tribal members. It would also allow schools to continue using team names related to a specific tribe if that tribal nation gives explicit consent.