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Dartmouth 'Indian' mascot stays, but schools could re-examine how Native American image is used

Dart425 Jenkins.JPG
Jennette Barnes
An image taken from the video coverage of The Dartmouth School Committee meeting on Monday.

Dartmouth High School is keeping its Native American logo and team name, the “Indians,” but a school official says the district should consider some changes to how the image is used.

The logo depicts a Native American man’s head in profile. After years of community debate about Native American mascots — and supporters taking the position that Dartmouth’s logo is not a mascot at all — the Dartmouth School Committee voted Monday to affirm that the schools will continue to use it.

School Committee member Kathleen Amaral, who cast her vote to keep the symbol, said she wants Dartmouth to examine how the schools are using it.

“We can’t have Indian heads on golf balls, and hitting them across a green, OK?” she said. “That’s a non-negotiable.”

She said students should have a choice about whether to wear the logo on their athletic uniforms, possibly by adding an iron-on patch, and she said Dartmouth High School should consider not wearing the logo at away games.

The vote to keep the “Dartmouth Indian” was 3 in favor, 1 opposed, and 1 abstention.

The motion included a request that the district create a formal educational partnership with the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe.

Committee member Christopher Oliver, who voted to keep the symbol, asked for more Native American content in the curriculum.

“Without doing that … we're no better than any other city or town that just says, ‘You know what, we're just going to keep this, just because that's just the way it is,’” he said. “We've got to do more.”

Opponents say Native American school mascots promote stereotypes that are harmful to youth.

Members of local tribes testified against the “Indian” at a previous hearing, but some members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe spoke in favor of it. They said Clyde Andrews, a member of the tribe, designed the logo.

School Committee member Mary Waite, who abstained from Monday’s vote, said she supports the logo only if Dartmouth makes a more specific commitment to better education on Native American issues.

Member Shannon Jenkins, who chaired the School Committee until the annual reorganization this week, voted against keeping the logo. She said some things — like civil rights issues — should not be decided by popular opinion. She cited public approval of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and other historical examples.

“History has shown us repeatedly that approval by the majority does not mean that something is right,” she said.

In a separate vote, the School Committee unanimously supported a motion to ask the Dartmouth Select Board to review use of the logo in other contexts outside the purview of the schools.

The School Committee decision followed a town-wide ballot April 5, in which voters overwhelmingly supported the logo on a nonbinding referendum.