Online forum will be set to discuss Indian mascot

Aug 18, 2021

The public will be invited to provide input on whether to retain or eliminate the Dartmouth High School Indian mascot via an upcoming online event, members of the Equality and Diversity Subcommittee agreed at their meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18.

“This committee needs to keep moving this forward,” committee member Elizabeth Murphy said. “I have big reservations about waiting’’ until an in-person meeting can be scheduled. 

With Covid cases rising, “It doesn’t look like it’s going to be trending that way any time soon.’’

The subcommittee has not scheduled a date yet for this event. 

Plans had originally called for the Aug. 18 meeting to include in-person public comment, in part in response to concerns from some in the community that public voices had not been heard on the mascot issue.

But the in-person portion of the meeting was cancelled when the School Committee, which the subcommittee reports to, called off all public attendance at meetings due to Covid concerns. 

Questions were raised about the logistics of hosting a public forum online, but Murphy and fellow committee member Lili Chamberlain said they would work to make it happen.

Committee Chair Dr. Shannon Jenkins said the next steps in the process would also include hearing from local tribal leaders. She said that various tribes have different outlooks on the topic.

She also wants to reach out to Clyde Andrews, Chris Pereira and Jacob Ventura to find a date when they could address the subcommittee. The three men wrote a letter to the subcommittee raising concerns about losing the mascot

They had been invited to the Aug. 18 meeting, but declined to attend, citing conflicting personal commitments and the desire for tribal members to be heard first.

The subcommittee also discussed ways the school community could further educate the public about the Indian history of the area, beyond the mascot issue.

One common ground of all comments they have heard, Murphy said, was the fear that the indigenous culture would be erased. Assuring that does not happen is crucial, she said, regardless of a decision on the mascot. 

“We all agree we want to honor our native history, our native culture,” Jenkins said. 

“How can we work to bring more of the Wampanoag culture and history into our community?” Murphy asked. “We can be thinking about these ideas and these potential collaborations now rather than we’re [just] voting yay or nay on keeping the current mascot.”

One possibility, she said, was creating educational information that could be posted in high-visibility areas such as Memorial Stadium or school hallways near where people gather for events. 

“It’s not just, let’s host an informational meeting and see who shows up,” she said. 

The issue, she said, is to show that “we as a school department and as a community of Dartmouth care about educating and informing’’ the public about “the history of these lands and the culture that was indigenous’’ to the area. 

Other issues involving equity and diversity are also important, Jenkins agreed, and will also be addressed by the subcommittee. 

The task of the subcommittee goes beyond one issue, she said. “We’re more than the ‘mascot committee,’” she said. “We’re not going to go away after the mascot vote.”