State recognized tribe speaks out against Indian logo

Feb 21, 2022

A state-recognized tribe is calling on Dartmouth to remove the high school’s mascot name and symbol, as debate over Native American iconography intensifies.

Megan Running Deer Page, a council member of the Pocasset Wampanoag tribe, said the majority of members in her tribe are “opposed to Dartmouth High’s use of ‘the Indian’” and would like to see its removal.

“The use of Native American mascots is outdated, stereotypical and offensive,” she said. “It is time for Dartmouth to get with the times.”

At its peak, Page said, her tribe’s land stretched from Swansea to Dartmouth. The tribe currently inhabits a tract of land on the Watuppa Pond in Fall River.

The Pocasset tribe is not alone in their disapproval of the Dartmouth High logo.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is currently backing a bill in the State Senate to ban the use of Native American symbols and mascots in public schools.

If passed, the bill would create an exemption if federally recognized tribes within the boundaries of the state wanted to give “explicit consent for a school to use their particular tribal name.”

The Pocasset tribe does not have federal recognition, but is recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, officials from the federally recognized Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah are in favor of keeping the Indian name and have voiced opposition to the state bill.

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, a Dartmouth High graduate and current chair of the tribe, said that an outright ban would remove indigenous people from contemporary consciousness, erase the tribe’s current existence, “and ultimately relegates us into a marginalized existence in history, eliminating us as part of today’s culture and society.”

The current iteration of the eastern woodlands Indian logo was designed by Dartmouth High alumni and member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah Clyde Andrews in the 1970s.

Andrews-Maltais said she doesn’t see the logo as a caricature. 

Instead, the Dartmouth High logo is a symbol of strength and pride that “was meant to be emblematic of our athletic abilities and excellence, an iconic level of athletic dominance and achievement.”

As controversy over the Dartmouth High Indian logo continuesvoters will get to have their say in a non-binding referendum in the upcoming town election on April 5.

The referendum is ultimately a measure of public opinion, as the vote is non-binding. The School Committee has the final say on the logo’s fate.

Should the public vote in favor of the referendum, town officials hope to find ways to better recognize the history and achievements of Native Americans and share that information with the community. 

Talks are currently ongoing between school and tribal representatives on how that can be done.

In preparation for the School Committee’s vote, Dartmouth’s Equality and Diversity Subcommittee will host a series of public forums next month.

The first forum is set for March 8.