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Canton to retire Native American imagery but remain the Warriors

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

By John Fitts

Staff Writer

While most of the cartoonish depictions, such as the 1988 Yearbook image seen below, are a thing of the past, the Board of Education has formally voted to retire all Native American imagery.

Updated Story, posted Nov. 17

CANTON – While remaining Native American imagery will be retired and students will learn much more about local indigenous populations, Canton High School will remain the Warriors and go through a re-branding process.

Following a months-long review process from a subcommittee and hearing additional public testimony, The Canton Board of Education voted Tuesday, Nov. 9 on issues surrounding the Canton Warriors

Variations of this image were common in the 1988 Canton High School yearbook. Images were revamped in the 2000s and most have been quietly phased out in the last 10 years or so, Recently, the Board of Education voted to retire all remaining Native American imagery.

Mascot and Native American Imagery. In use since at least the 1950s, and updated in the 2000s, the district has over the past several years, moved away from most imagery, but a few examples remain.

The vote came on the heels of recommendations from the Canton High School Mascot Review Committee, which after meeting for approximately six months, recommended retiring the remaining imagery while implementing new curriculum and forming a partnership with a native American organization.

The committee, however, did not reach consensus on the Warrior name. While some 70 percent of students who opted to take a recent survey disagreed with changing the name, the committee remained divided on the issue.

Proponents of the Warriors name noted an emotional connection to the term, emphasized its broad use and society and contended the school could rebrand and move away from Native American stereotypes, emphasizing positive aspects of a warrior.

Those in favor of a new mascot contended that the Warriors name was not neutral due to its origins, the past use of cartoonish imagery and some alleged recent behavior that continued to perpetuate stereotypes.

Some committee members said they felt there were valid points in both camps and struggled with the issue.

Public comment was also divided and some writing to the committee and commenting on social media also voiced support for keeping Native Imagery.

Several on social media have asserted that cartoonish images used in Canton have never been offensive. Others, including some Native Americans have said they feel honored by mascots but several prominent national groups have worked to get rid of them.

“Widely consumed images of Native American stereotypes in commercial and educational environments slander, defame, and vilify Native peoples, Native cultures, and tribal nations, and continue a legacy of racist and prejudiced attitudes,” the National Congress of American Indians, wrote in one document. “In particular, the ‘savage’ and ‘clownish’ caricatures used by sports teams with “Indian” mascots contribute to the “savage” image of Native peoples and the myth that Native peoples are an ethnic group ‘frozen in history.’ All of which continue to plague this country’s relationships with Native peoples and perpetuate racial and political inequity.”

At an Oct 27 meting chair Julie Board chair Julie Auseré said in her conversations with a representative from the group, she asked about how it is viewed when a school scrubs imagery but keeps a name such as Warriors.

“When I asked about that his response to me was the organization will always advocate for a clean break but they still view retiring the imagery as a partial success,” she said.

She added that it was noted that Warriors and Raiders are the most common instances where schools make a split decision.

“He did say that the success of the rebrand is dependent on fan behavior and education,” she said, adding that the chances of success are often a topic boards discuss.

In Connecticut, The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) also opposes most uses of imagery but notes a path for some exceptions, which generally involves “the written consent of the federal or state-recognized tribe whose name is being used.”

When it comes to names like Warriors or Braves, MPTN advocates Tribal recognition or a strong historical connection to one.

A MPTN spokeswoman added that with a term like Warriors, the tribe’s position would also depend on its use.

“For example, if a sport team uses ‘Warriors’ as their mascot and the mascot image is of a Native American, we would not be in support of it unless that sports team has written permission to continue using it from the nearest tribal government,” she said.

Native American voices, past and present, also factored into public comment as numerous residents sent the committee and the Board of Education links to support their position. Those often included interviews with Native American figures both in support and in opposition to imagery or monikers.

In addition to having already heard from the mascot committee, students and the public, the Board of Education heard from more than 25 people who wrote specifically for the Nov. 9 meeting, and/or spoke that evening.

Some of those people had previously commented on the issue and others who were weighing in anew.

Amelia Miner wrote in favor of a new direction, stating, in part, “I would ask the committee to consider that a new, historically appropriate mascot that is not connected to negative Native American imagery is the best way to move forward. When discussing the meaning of the warrior mascot or name, there will always be a historical connection to offensive imagery for the Indigenous population, some who will attend our schools. If we truly have a warrior spirit, as many are suggesting, I would think that our connection to school spirit and who we are as a community goes far deeper than a name. School spirit and a feeling of community comes from the feelings we have in connection with others we live with, work with and go to school with. We don't cease to be fighters and warriors and have school spirit because of a name change, and if we do, it seems we have a deeper issue happening in our schools.”

Like many who wrote the Board of Education, Nicholas Cataldo praised the idea of Native American curriculum but said the Warrior name would retain a “source of pride within our community”, stating, in part, “I am not in support of abandoning the Warrior name in order to be at the forefront of woke America's never-ending quest for political correctness. With the removal of all Native American imagery, the Warrior name has no Native American context that some find upsetting. Changing the Warrior name is simply a solution to a problem that does not exist. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the essential meaning of a warrior to be "a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill," Canton should be proud to bear the Warrior name. Our students should be praised for their courage and skill in competition with other schools. A recent student survey expressed overall support of retaining the Warrior name. For a town and school board that strive to support its students both socially and emotionally, it would surely be emotionally upsetting to the majority of students to have the Warrior name that they wish to retain stripped away from them. In an unfortunate day and age of strong political divisiveness, I am asking that the Board of Education find the middle ground in this matter.”

Another who wrote – and spoke at the meeting - was Terri Delahanty, a former Canton resident and a member of a 2005-06 committee that looked into the district mascot.

“I lived in Canton and worked in the Canton schools for many years and all three of my sons graduated from Canton High,” she said. “The whole issue of the Warrior mascot was important to us as a Native American family.” Delahanty reviewed some of what happened in the mid 2000s, noting how an artist was retained to change the school’s Native headdress from one that represented indigenous tribes from the Midwest to one that represented “Northeast Woodland Tribes.” She also described changes in athletic uniforms and an effort to display both images, provide education around them and adopt new curriculum for the schools.

“Sadly, this did not happen,” she said. “Once again it shows that colonialism is still here and that people try to do feel good things rather than really honoring the first people of this land with education at all levels. just getting rid of the word warrior speaks to this directly.”

Delahanty, who also spoke of ridicule and racist acts toward her youngest son during her time in town, urged the board to keep the Warrior.

“We would be proud for Canton to continue using the word Warrior as a stepping stone for true education and even more fulfilled if it was coupled with curricular connections as promised years ago,” she said. “Please don’t erase our representation! You have an opportunity to bring understanding to future generations and keep your word.”

Imagery retired

When it came time to vote, the board voted to retire all Native American imagery, phasing it out completely by June of 2023. A second motion by the board also prohibits the future sale or production of all Native American symbols on uniforms, equipment, signage and other materials, uniforms or fan attire at Canton Middle and High Schools.

Board member Ryan O’Donnell voted against the second motion, saying he favored removing anything offensive but wanted to keep the door open to tributes, alluding to an option the board would later consider.

“Terri Delahanty spoke very eloquently and movingly about the pride that she had in Native American representation within a historical basis .. and what that meant to her and I think that was along the lines with how they made decision with the Chicago Blackhawks – that historical allusions and representations that are respectful are actually a good thing, and I’m discouraged by the fact that we’re allowing our students to be educated about native Americans but on the same hand turning around and telling them but you may not pick one, you may not pick Native American. We’re going to educate you about how fantastic their culture is and all the wonderful things it has to offer but you can’t use them as your mascot … I voted no, not because I want to have offensive Native American imagery in our schools buy because I think I want to leave the door open for our students to be educated to have a choice to decide ‘yes we want to’ or ‘no we don’t’ but at no point am I encouraging or condoning anything offensive.”

Education

Additionally, the board voted to implement new Native American curriculum and establish a partnership with a “Native American Cultural Resource Center.” While additional curriculum will soon be a directive from the state, the review committee and educators agreed the district should make a strong statement on the subject.

Rebrand the Warrior

When it came to the Warrior name, the Board of Education considered several options. One would have kept the rebranded Warrior as a possibility would have also allowed other suggestions to come forward before a final vote by students.

During the Nov. 9 meeting as well as a previous one, some board members had advocated a more comprehensive student process that involved education around the issue, as well as further input from the public and students.

Additionally, some members of the public suggested that with the recent elections and the large turnover on the board, the decision should perhaps be delayed.

Auseré, who did not seek re-election, was one of several who spoke in favor of the idea of the process that involved students, with community input and guidance from administrators.

“I would argue that option 1 would create a process that would allow for transition from this board to the new voting board, which would allow for the rebranded warrior as well as other mascot options to be entered into the process, allows for the community to give input in terms of mascots that could be proposed to the student body to then vote on and then ultimately it’s the students’ mascot and it allows the students voice to be heard in the process,” she said.

Auseré, O’Donnell, Jack Powell, and Lou Daniels voted for the option, but it was defeated with no votes from Erika Hayes, Maria Bradley, Ana Cavanaugh, Kim Sullivan and Joe Scheideler.

Ultimately the board voted to go with a different option - to rebrand.

Board member Erika Hayes, who also sat on the mascot review committee, is one who spoke in favor of that option and disagreed with those who suggested the board leave the process for further review whether by the for the next iteration of the board that will include several new members or the students. Hayes said the process has been running for six months and included many options for input.

“We’ve had loads of public comment and multiple opportunities for people to respond,” she said. “There was a clear preference from the students. We’re not giving them enough credit if we don’t believe that. They’re the critical thinkers we’ve educated them to be this is divisive issue that could be discussed and debated for another year and still have no resolution and remain split. …..

I’m in favor of option 2. I think this has been in the Board of Education hands for long enough and it’s time for us to move on and do other important work and it’s time to turn it over to the administration and the students and move on. I think that we’re at the point where the administration can take over and if they choose to have the Warrior with the block C for the foreseeable future so be it and let the students initiate when and how they would like to proceed if they would like to change the mascot.”

The motion specifically states, “That the Canton Board of Education rebrand the Canton Warrior and have the Canton administration, with input from the students, facilitate the process of rebranding the Canton Warrior and present that rebranded Warrior and plan to the Board of Education by May 2022.”

That vote was successful with yes votes from Hayes, Bradley, Cavanaugh, Sullivan and Scheideler. Voting no were Auseré, O’Donnell, Powell, and Daniels.



Original post

CANTON – While remaining Native American imagery will be retired and students will learn much more about local indigenous populations, Canton High School will remain the Warriors and go through a re-branding process.

Following a months-long review process from a subcommittee and hearing additional public testimony, The Canton Board of Education voted Tuesday evening on issues surrounding the Canton Warriors Mascot and Native American Imagery. In use since at least the 1950s, the district has over the past several years, moved away from most imagery, but a few examples remain.

Following the recommendations of a Canton High School Mascot Review Committee, the board voted to retire all Native American imagery, phasing it out completely by June of 2023. A second motion by the board also prohibits the future sale or production of all Native American symbols on uniforms, equipment, signage and other materials, uniforms or fan attire at Canton Middle and High Schools.

Additionally, the board voted to implement new Native American curriculum and establish a partnership with a “Native American Cultural Resource Center.” While additional curriculum will soon be required in the state, the review committee and educators agreed the district should make a strong statement on the subject.

The issue of whether to keep the Warriors name or come up with an entirely new moniker and mascot, however, was a little more complicated. While students taking a survey heavily favored keeping the name, both the review committee and the public remained divided on the issue. Proponents of the Warriors name noted an emotional connection to the term, emphasized its broad use and society and contended the school could rebrand and move away from Native American stereotypes. (A few also retained that some Native American images were a great tribute).

Those in favor of a new mascot contended that the Warriors name was not neutral due to its origins, the past use of cartoonish imagery and stereotypes and some alleged recent behavior that continued to perpetuate stereotypes.

Due to the lack of consensus the Board of Education considered several options. One, defeated 5-4, would have initiated a process to confirm the mascot. While that would have kept the rebranded Warrior as a possibility it would have also allowed other suggestions to come forward before a final vote by students.

Ultimately the board voted to go with a different option - to rebrand. The motion specifically states, “That the Canton Board of Education rebrand the Canton Warrior and have the Canton administration, with input from the students, facilitate the process of rebranding the Canton Warrior and present that rebranded Warrior and plan to the Board of Education by May 2022.”