West Hartford is the latest community to consider whether the time has come to change the name of its high school sports teams, in order to drop longstanding names that may be insensitive to Native American culture. The town, which has two high schools – one nicknamed the Warriors, the other ncalled the Chieftans – will hold a public forum to discuss the mascots on Thursday, Feb. 12. Last month in North Haven, controversy erupted regarding the Indians name for its high school teams, with competing petitions urging a name change and retention of the name surfacing online. The change.org petition urging a change has 728 signatures to date, with the goal of “formally get the attention of the North Haven Board of Education, allow for some serious discussion on this issue.” The petition advocating continuing tradition and retention of “Indians” has amassed 2,067 signatures on-line.
The issue has come up sporadically around the state for more than a decade, and has intensified in West Hartford, North Haven and across the state as part of a wider national conversation about whether Native American symbols and mascots are inherently racist and therefore inappropriate.
West Hartford’s Hall High School has dropped the use of an American Indian head as its logo, though the warrior remains the school mascot, the Hartford Courant has reported. Conard's mascot is the chieftain, and although sports teams have gradually phased out use of the American Indian head logo, the image still exists elsewhere, such as the masthead of the student newspaper, "The PowWow." The student-led pep club at Hall is also named "The Reservation," and Conard's pep club is "The Tribe." The website we-ha.com has reported that Conard students, teachers, coaches, and alumni have elicited the opinion of the Mohegan tribal leadership regarding the West Hartford high school’s mascot and name, and the name was discussed by students last December as part of a Human Rights Day program.
Derby High Schools’ teams continue to be known as the “Red Raiders,” using an arrowhead logo, and Killingly High School's teams are known as the Redmen. In Torrington, the schools’ website refer to their teams as “Raiders” – not “Red Raiders.” Promoting their 2014 Thanksgiving Day football rivalry, the Torrington website said “Come out to see the Raiders take on the Watertown Indians in the 49th renewal of this holiday classic. The Raiders have held off the Indian attack the past two seasons…”
Norwich Technical High School, continues to use the nickname Warriors for its baseball, track, tennis, volleyball and most other school teams. In some instances, Norwich Tech has combined teams with other local high schools, resulting in students playing on the Crusaders (football) or Saints (wrestling).
Just six months ago, the New Haven Register reported that “at least 23 high school teams in the state have names associated with Native Americans that could be considered offensive.
Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford told WFSB-TV last spring that the school’s teams no longer officially use the name “Indians,” but as of this week, the schools website continued to feature its parent booster club as the “Tomahawk Club.” At Glastonbury High School, the athletics teams are called the “Tomahawks.”
The Guilford Public Schools Student-Athlete and Parent Handbook for 2013-2014 includes the following explanation at the front of the book: “Guilford High School is proud of its heritage and its friendly relations with the Native Americans that inhabited the land we now call Guilford. To demonstrate this pride, Guilford High School began to use Indian names and symbols for its yearbooks and athletic teams during the l940's. We believe it is our obligation as an educational institution to inform our public about the history of our community and the role the Native American played. The use of the Indian symbol is meant to serve as a reminder of our past and should be held in the highest regard at all times.”
The unofficial list of high school team nicknames that are receiving attention regarding their athletic team nicknames or mascots, in addition to those described above:
Canton High School (Warriors), Enfield High School (Raiders), Farmington High School (Indians), Guilford High School (Indians), H.C. Wilcox Technical (Meriden) High School (Indians),Killingly High School (Redmen), Manchester High School (Indians), Montville High School (Indians), and Newington High School (Indians). Also, the Nonnewaug (Woodbury) High School (Chiefs), North Haven Senior High School (Indians), RHAM Junior Senior High School (Sachems), Valley Regional (Deep River) High School (Warriors), Wamogo (Litchfield) Regional High School (Warriors), Watertown High School (Indians), Wilcox Technical (Meriden) High School (Indians), Wilton High School (Warriors), Windsor High School (Warriors), Windsor Locks High School (Raiders).