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Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and South Coast tribe members split over high school mascot debate

Dartmouth High School PTO Facebook

Local tribe members are split over whether they support removing the Dartmouth High School "Indian" mascot.

Some members of local tribes say the mascot is outdated and offensive, while others say they are proud of the Dartmouth Indian.

The Dartmouth School Committee and its Equity and Diversity Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday night, where they invited tribal members in the region to present their thoughts on the proposal to retire the mascot, as many schools and pro-athletic teams have done around the country.

Among the speakers was Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe member Sean Carney, who supported keeping the logo. He's had family that have gone through the Dartmouth school system; he said he spoke for several members of the Dartmouth tribal community who support the school logo.

"In the case of the Dartmouth Indian, you have a tastefully done, historic representation of what the eastern, woodland tribes looked like," Carney said. "I haven't heard anyone yet pinpoint something about that logo that is offensive, defamatory or derogatory."

Dartmouth Public Schools

Other members of the Aquinnah Tribe disagreed, including Brad Lopes. He says he attended a high school in Maine where the mascot was also an Indian, and also historically accurate. But he said that he was often ridiculed in school. And he also witnessed opposing teams do harm to their school mascot.

"I remember seeing a native person hanging and being lit on fire," Lopes said. "That has a powerful impact on you. Because that is you. You see part of yourself in that process."

Megan Page, a councilor with the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe, said that Natives are tired of stereotypical images and being paraded around like "mythical creatures." She said these mascots can lead to a loss of self-esteem for Native students, and that the logos fail to capture the real history of Native Americans.

Most of the speakers encouraged the schools to incorporate more education on local tribes into their curriculum.

The Dartmouth School Committee will hold meetings on March 21 and 22 to vote on whether to endorse dropping the mascot, and to hear from anyone else in the public wishing to comment.