Residents vote to keep ‘Indian,’ add new faces to top boards

Apr 5, 2022

Dartmouth’s voters have made their opinion clear to school officials: They want the high school’s controversial Indian name and logo to remain.

According to the unofficial results, 4,048 residents voted on the April 5 election’s non-binding referendum to keep the symbol. 969 voted to remove it. 

Ultimately, the School Committee has final say over the logo’s fate.

“Today, the people of Dartmouth made history turning out in historic numbers,” the pro-logo group, Defend Dartmouth, wrote in a press release.

The group urged school officials to comply with the results of the referendum by keeping the name and logo, or else face possible recall efforts.

“If the School Committee fails to act, we will,” the group wrote.

The election was also a big night for new faces on the town’s boards and committees.

Former Potter School Principal Heidi Brooks defeated two-term incumbent John Haran 2,721 to 2,286 to become the first female Select Board member since 2018.

“The girls are coming to the table,” Brooks said with a smile.

With the win, the newly-elected Select Board member said she wants to move past divisive issues like the Indian and focus on the Bliss Corner cleanup and tackling the town’s ongoing water quality problems.

“There’s lots of other questions going on and people are feeling like they aren’t having a voice,” she said. “There’s a way that we can do this together and build back Dartmouth pride.”

For the Planning Board, challenger Dr. Nicholas Psichopaidas overwhelmingly defeated incumbent Steve Taylor 2,313 to 1,847.

In the case of the School Committee, incumbents Chris Oliver and John Nunes retained their seats, earning 2,942 and 3,203 votes respectively.

“I’m very happy — and of course congratulations to my colleague, Mr. Nunes, for beating me,” said Oliver. “I look forward to continuing my work with my fellow committee members and addressing the needs of students coming out of the pandemic.”

Challenger Lynne Turner, a former elementary school teacher, received 2,104 votes.

“It feels good,” said Nunes, as the final results came in showing him leading the three School Committee candidates. “I’m grateful to the voters for having trust and confidence in me — even after 31 years.”

Both Nunes and Oliver said they see the results of “Question 1” — on the whether to keep the Dartmouth High Indian logo — as a mandate to the School Committee to settle the issue “once and for all” by reaffirming the icon. 

“Clearly the message has been sent,” said Oliver, adding that the committee would now need to “come together” on the issue. 

Nunes went even further, stating his intention to call a vote at the next meeting to “put this to bed and move on to more important issues.”

The School Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for April 25. 

In the final contested race, Lisa Tufano will finish out the term of the late Suzanne McDonald on the Board of Library Trustees. 

Tufano beat out challenger James Griffith by just 135 votes in what was the closest race of the election.

The seat will be up again next year.

All other races were uncontested.

Parks and Recreation Board members James Vieira and Joseph Vieira were both re-elected to their seats, as were current Select Board Chair Shawn McDonald and Assessor Kevin Santos. 

Melissa Haskell was re-elected as Town Moderator with 3,578 votes.

Michelle Keith was also voted in to replace Lynne Brodeur on the Board of Health. Brodeur opted not to run for re-election this year.

Referendum causes high turnout

This year saw some of the highest voter turnout totals in years for a town election. 5,246 of Dartmouth’s 22,998 registered voters made it to the polls, representing 22.81% of all registered voters.

“It makes me so happy to see people come out,” Town Clerk Sarah Arruda said. “These elections impact people directly.”

Just ahead of the election, the clerk noted that her office had received around 200 absentee ballots to process — more than 66% higher than in the 2021 election, Arruda said.

Precinct 2, located at the Smith Mills Congregational Church, also saw a large turnout. By noon, the site had 175 ballots cast — well over the 109 the precinct saw in the entirety of last year’s election.

At Crapo Field, Precinct 7 poll worker Darleen Berg noted that the Dartmouth Youth Activities Association’s field house saw “a steady stream of voters” throughout the day, with 500 ballots cast by 4:30 p.m.

By the time polls closed, the location had tallied 748 votes, compared to 227 last year.

“I’m absolutely thrilled about this turnout,” Berg said. “It’s not often you have this many people come through.”

The town clerk attributed the bump to the referendum on the ballot.

“People are very passionate about it,” Arruda said.

Precinct 1 voter Victoria Dias was among the 19% of voters who wanted the school district to get rid of the logo.

“If we really love and respect the Native community, like we say we do, we should give them that love and respect,” she said.

Precinct 7 voter Rosemaria Carlozzi, a Spanish and Portuguese teacher in Swansea, said she wanted to keep the Indian. 

While the South Dartmouth resident understood the arguments for removal, she said she felt preserving the logo can serve as a good way to begin a dialogue on Native American history in the town’s classrooms.

Currently, indigenous history is taught primarily in the third grade. Talks are ongoing between school and tribal officials on how any future curriculum should look.

“It’s an opportunity,” Carlozzi said. “There’s so much about Native American history we don’t know.”