It is clear that the use of Native American mascots harms children. Mascots based on stereotypical ideas of Native peoples breed cultural insensitivity and misunderstanding about Native American people and our history as a nation. Stereotypical Native American mascots have been shown to interfere with a school’s efforts to provide accurate information related to the history, culture, and Tribal sovereignty of American Indian Nations. Yet, about 38 schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts still currently use Native American mascots. This month, new bills prohibiting the use of Native American Mascots have been presented in both the Massachusetts State House and Senate this legislative session. As proposed, the legislation includes the following mandate:
“The board of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate regulations to ensure that no public school uses an athletic team name, logo, or mascot which names, refers to, represents, or is associated with Native Americans, including aspects of Native American cultures and specific Native American tribes. The board shall establish a date by which any school in violation of said regulations shall choose a new team name, logo, or mascot.”
Sen. Joanne Comerford, Democrat for Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester is Senate sponsor. House sponsors are Rep. Tami Gouveia for 14th Middlesex District and Rep. Nika Elugardo for 15th Suffolk District. More information.
- SD.937 An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth has been introduced direct by Sen. Jo Comerford & Rep. Tami Gouveia, https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD937
- HD. 3645 An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth has been introduced direct by Rep. Nika Elugardo & Rep. Tami Gouveia (text is identical)
The deadline for House members to sign on as co-sponsors is February 1, 2019.
Please contact your state rep and state senator to ask that they cosponsor both bills.
You can find your state rep/senator here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator
The next step in the process is that these bills will be assigned to a committee, most likely the Joint Committee on Education, and a hearing scheduled.
Sample Email/Letter Template/Talking points:
Dear Senator/Dear Representative:
I am a resident of (town). I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor SD.937 and HD.3645 “An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth.” I am (a parent, teacher, therapist, of indigenous descent, etc.) and this issue concerns me because (specific reason/s).
Decades of social science research have shown that Native American mascots have serious social and emotional consequences for Native American youth, including low self-esteem, less future aspiration, and anxiety. For non-Native people, they promote a false understanding of Native Americans, normalize culturally insensitive behaviors, and make them more likely to internalize stereotypes of racial minorities. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the country’s largest Native American advocacy group, has been fighting to eliminate Native American mascots since the 1960s. Currently over 115 tribal, government, education, professional, civil rights, and religious organizations in the United States have recognized the negative health impacts of Native American mascots and called for their elimination. In Massachusetts, this includes the Chappaquiddick Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation, Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and Nipmuc Nation. Organizations in Massachusetts include Cultural Survival, Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs, Massachusetts Teachers Association, North American Indian Center of Boston, and United American Indians of New England. In addition to NCAI, national organizations include the National Education Association, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the American Psychological Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In a 2001 resolution, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated that “the use of stereotypical images of Native Americans by educational institutions has the potential to create a racially hostile educational environment that may be intimidating to Indian students.” Many school districts that have been confronted with this issue fear community backlash and so fail to take a stand. Civil rights issues must be addressed at the state level. SD.937 and HD.3645 will be a first step towards ending this harmful discrimination in our Massachusetts public schools.
I hope you will agree that Native American mascots have no place in our public schools. Thank you for your considering co-sponsoring this legislation.
For more information, please contact:
Image: Source: Allison Pohle, “It’s 2015. Why do 40 Mass. high schools still have Native American mascots?” Boston Globe. May 20, 2015.