Opinion: Encouraging signs

May 25, 2022

To the editor:

Despite a referendum instead of thoughtful community discussions on the Indian mascot, I've been encouraged by recent statements coming from the Select Board, especially David Tatelbaum, which point to the Town taking up the issue more thoughtfully. For instance, it's a good sign that the Schools are planning to consult with the Mashpee on curriculum. This new focus on education also presents us with an opportunity to hold the respectful town discussion we never really had.

If the Dartmouth Schools and the Town together create a committee like the one Tatelbaum suggests, I hope it includes representatives from all the tribes and nations with contemporary and historical connections to Dartmouth, especially tribes from any community to which Dartmouth football plays an away game. Also, given that the word "Indian" encompasses native people from the Everglades to Alaska, widening the tribes consulted to Massachusetts and states adjacent the South Coast would be both a sign of respect and an opportunity to learn more.

There is also an issue of intellectual property, especially as it relates to the use of the Dartmouth Indian mascot/logo by private groups. While the image of a "generic Woodland Indian" drawn by an indigenous teenager 50 years ago bears a slight similarity to the current Dartmouth logo, Dartmouth College's is a dead ringer. Much has obviously been borrowed from the College. Like the mascot itself, the Dartmouth letter "D," the moniker "Big Green," and the fight song "Glory to Dartmouth" are all identical to the College's. I'm not sure how the Town can presently authorize or license clearly stolen intellectual property — that would be like me renting out your house.

The Dartmouth Schools, replying to an information request, maintain that there are no records authorizing the Schools to use images or logos of any sort. If that is in fact the case, then someone is going to have to contact Dartmouth College, as Selectman Shawn McDonald has suggested. But that could be tricky because Dartmouth College banned their Indian logo in 1974.

Would the College actually license something their own Native American students still regard as racist? It will be interesting to find out.

David Ehrens,