Town, school to form committee to support history and diversity of indigenous peoples

May 16, 2023

There will be a committee created by the Dartmouth Select Board and School Committee in response to controversy surrounding Dartmouth High School’s “Indian” logo and branding.

The goal of this committee will be to review and educate Dartmouth on “the culture, history and diversity of indigenous peoples, including the adversities suffered by indigenous peoples,” according to a memorandum created by town officials.

The memorandum states that the new committee will report to both the Select Board and the School Committee.

The memorandum was discussed at the May 15 School Committee meeting, where some members had concerns about the document.

School Committee member Shannon Jenkins was “not comfortable” with the document as it was written.

The document states that “the Committee shall provide ideas and assistance to the Public Schools of Dartmouth to develop appropriate commemorations of Indigenous Peoples and instruction in the schools on the culture, history, and diversity of indigenous peoples.”

“It says instruction in the schools — I am not comfortable with that language and I cannot vote for this with that language,” said Jenkins. “We can't have the Select Board telling our teachers, or feeling like they have the ability to give our teachers and our staff input about instruction, that's just not acceptable.”

Jenkins added that she did not have a problem with the other specific items included in the memorandum.

According to the document, the committee will have seven members. One member will be selected from the Select Board, School Committee and Historical Commission, and one member will be chosen to represent the School Department and the Town Administrator’s office. Additionally, the memorandum states that, “two community at large members shall be appointed by the Select Board for three-year terms”

School Committee member John Nunes pointed out that the memorandum also states that “the Select Board may appoint additional resident voting members to the Committee upon the request of the Committee.”

Nunes said this wording could result in a large and “unmanageable” committee, adding that there needs to be a maximum size for the committee.

“This puts basically all the power in the Select Board's hands,” added Jenkins, who’s point was supported by the rest of the Committee members.

The School Committee felt that there should be one member appointed by both their committee and the Select Board, to disperse the power, and additional members must be approved by both the Select Board and School Committee.