Letter writers decline invite to upcoming mascot meeting

Aug 17, 2021

The authors of a letter supporting the controversial Dartmouth High Indian logo have declined an invitation to speak at an Aug. 18 meeting on the topic, calling for federally recognized tribes to be heard first and citing “prior professional and family commitments.’’ 

Clyde Andrews, Chris Pereira and Jacob Ventura had been invited by Dr. Shannon Jenkins, chair of the Equality and Diversity Subcommittee, to make a presentation at the Aug. 18 meeting in support of retaining the Dartmouth High School Indian mascot.

In their Aug. 11 email response to the invitation, Andrews, Pereira and Ventura wrote that “the  subcommittee process will be much more productive if the tribe is engaged with the town prior to us providing public testimony.’’

They wrote that they were “open to attending a future fall meeting to provide oral testimony (in-person or via Zoom) or, conversely, open to providing written testimony.’’ 

The invitation to speak at the Aug. 18 meeting was sparked by a letter the three men sent to the subcommittee calling for the Indian mascot to be maintained. The subcommittee has been charged by the School Committee with looking at whether the Indian mascot should be dropped or maintained. 

At about the same time as that communication was received, the subcommittee was also sent a letter from Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah, expressing support for the mascot.

She expressed disappointment that her tribal government had not been “formally engaged’’ or consulted “regarding this important issue.’’

Her letter stated that “we are not ‘mascots’ and we do not appreciate or condone the offensive or stereotypical imagery, terminologies, actions and/or sounds that have contributed to the mockery, disrespect or diminishment of our Tribal beliefs, traditions and/or culture.’’

But, she continued, “we do not wish to be erased from today’s contemporary life, society or societal existence, or to be relegated into history, as if we have vanished.’’ 

Her tribe, she noted, was the first federally recognized tribe in Massachusetts and is one of only three historic and formally recognized state tribes in the state. 

“The tribe has stated that before any decision is made regarding this issue...there is an obligation of the Town and the School Board to engage in a meaningful discussion and consultation with our Tribal Government over this issue and how to proceed,’’ she wrote.

A public forum had been scheduled for Aug. 18 to allow community members to present their opinions on the mascot in person. But a vote by the School Committee to keep its meetings closed to in-person attendance because of Covid concerns prompted Jenkins to suggest postponing the forum.

A meeting is still scheduled for Aug. 18 but it will be held remotely, with no in-person participation. 

Jenkins did not respond to a request for comment.