Dartmouth residents will be voting in a non-binding referendum on the high school’s controversial Indian logo this spring, after the Select Board approved the measure at a meeting on Monday.
The issue of whether to keep the school’s current logo, which features an eastern woodland Indian, will be put to voters on this year’s April 5 town election ballot.
However, the ballot question won’t be binding — meaning it’s more of a way to check what townspeople think, Select Board Chair Shawn McDonald explained.
“Basically, the question is very simple,” said McDonald. “Do you support keeping the Dartmouth Indian logo?”
“I think this is just another way for the diversity committee and also the school department to see, get at least a flavor — a tenor of the community as to what is the appetite of this,” he added.
The question is also set to come up in a public hearing held by the school district’s subcommittee on diversity and equality on March 8.
The Dartmouth High School Indian Logo Controversy
Dartmouth High students are known as the Indians.
The name — and symbol depicting a Wampanoag warrior’s face — have caused some controversy in recent years, particularly after bills banning the use of Native imagery as school mascots were put forward in the state legislature.
Proponents of the bills argue that the use of American Indian imagery can damage the mental health of Native community members.
Others note that this particular logo has been sanctioned — and was even designed — by local Wampanoag tribal members as a way to honor the town’s original inhabitants.
The bills are currently wending their way through Beacon Hill.
In 2020, the Dartmouth School Committee formed the Equality and Diversity Subcommittee to examine the logo and other issues with equity and diversity in the town’s schools.
Who has spoken out on the Dartmouth Indian issue?
Some prominent community members have supported the Indian logo, including Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, Tribal Chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah, herself a former Dartmouth High student.
“We believe that the initial reference to the ‘Dartmouth Indians’ was meant to be emblematic of our athletic abilities and excellence,” Andrews-Maltais wrote in a July 12, 2021 letter to the Dartmouth Select Board and School Committee.
Andrews-Maltais wrote that she and other tribal members will not support offensive imagery or “mockery” of tribal culture.
But, she noted, “we do not wish to be erased from today’s contemporary life, society or social existence.”
READ THE LETTER: Wampanoag Tribe – Consultation on Name and Imagery
“I think asking people what they think is always a good idea,” commented Select Board member Frank Gracie III at Monday’s meeting. “And this is also a great way to do it. So I totally support this.”
“Let’s find out,” agreed board member Stanley Mickelson.
The board ultimately voted unanimously to ask the town clerk to include the question on the April 5 town election ballot.
Watch the meeting:
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