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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Say, "No" to Mascots

No matter what "percentage" of indigenous ancestry, if you haven't grown up with the negative repercussions for practicing your culture or realized there are/were laws against practicing language, traditions, celebrations, songs, and dances; or felt resistance for speaking the truth about history, resistance, and contributions; or been harassed or discriminated against because of appearing Native American possibly resulting in low tracking in school, loss of work, reliance on government housing or food; then you really don't know what's it like for many of us who are indigenous people in this country.

I don't want to hear about how "mascots don't affect you."
Claudia Fox Tree (6/3/17 Facebook Post)


To: Committee on Education (for Hearing at the MA State House on June 6, 2017)
Re: S.291 End Race-Based Mascots in Massachusetts Schools
I am a mother of five, a public speaker and presenter, an educator of both children and adults, on the board of Native American organizations, and a woman of Arawak descent.
If you have never heard about the Arawak, you are not alone.  If you have heard of Christopher Columbus, but not the Arawak, my point has already been made.
Author, Chimamanda Adiche, says, “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”  For far too long, the dominant culture has been telling our First Nations stories from its own perspective in the way IT wants to view US, just like the Columbus legend which views us as generic "Indians," and not as the specific and varied tribes and nations we actually are.  We have been denied a voice in our own narrative.  The problem with "mascots" is that it often includes songs, gestures, costuming, and the like - an entire culture of racism based on a single image that is supposed to represent us.

Self-creation of one's identity is commonly experienced in the United States and other Western societies during the period of adolescence. Though the foundation of identity is laid in the experiences of childhood, younger children lack the physical and cognitive development needed to reflect on the self in this abstract way and ask questions, such as: Who am I now? Who was I before? Who will I become? One problem with stereotypes is that more people see stereotypes instead of actual, real, authentic images. Stereotypes misrepresent Native American history and cultures.

One single image can be assigned to all indigenous people with little regard to individual differences. Images like these affect all children. They model what Native Americans are supposed to look like, act like, and do based on a European ideology. Songs, dances, art, and stories that are “taught” are not our true songs, dances, art, and stories. Stereotypes, by their negative nature, do not focus on contributions, role-models, or resistance. 
Matika Wilbur researched the 5,868 blockbuster films between 1990 and 2000. 12 included Native Americans, all showed us as spiritual or in tune with nature, 10 showed us as impoverished or beaten by down by society, and 10 depicted us continually in conflict with whites.

John Sanchez from Pennsylvania State University did an extensive study between 1990 and 1999 of the “big three” television networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC.  During that time frame, the 3 networks produced 175,889 news reports. Of those, a combined total of 98 reports were about Native Americans or Native American issues. The majority of these stories framed by stereotypical 18th century imagery, such as Native Americans in buckskin clothing riding horses and wearing traditional headdresses.  The least common type of story was those representing 21st century Native Americans in a positive light. Most Americans believe that Native Americans are either assimilated, or extinct – that we don’t exist anymore.

Sarah Shear (and others) at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona analyzed the U.S. and state history standards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Based on results, Shear says, students are graduating from high school without even basic knowledge of contemporary Native American challenges or culture.  Across all the states, 87% of references to Natives portray them prior to 1900, with no clear vision of what happened after that. In half of the states, no individual Native Americans or specific nations are named. The most commonly named people are Sacagawea, Squanto, Sequoyah, and Sitting Bull. Only 62 Nations are named in standards (there are 562).  One nation, the Iroquois, is mentioned in six states and only 4 states (AZ, WA, OK, and KS) include boarding schools.  Washington is the only state to use the word “genocide” in relation to Native People (in the standards for 5th grade U.S. history). Nebraska textbooks portray Natives as lazy, drunk or criminal. 90% of all manuscripts written about Native people are authored by non-Native writers. There is nothing about treaties, land rights, or water rights, nor the fact that tribes are still fighting to be recognized and determine sovereignty.  All 50 states lack any content about current Native events or challenges.

If we were represented in all subjects at all grade levels K-12, had a mega movie industry portraying our various histories and cultures, and had best-selling books, then MAYBE a stereotype wouldn't be a "big deal," next to a continuum of accurate, self-representation.  But we do not have those things in our own country, or anywhere else in the world, so a stereotype carries much, much more weight for us, our developing indigenous children, and all children who are subjected to the misinformation created by stereotypes.

I need to take a moment to discuss the Native American boarding schools that were established in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to educate Native American children and youths according to European-American standards. Children were immersed in Euro-American culture through appearance changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and traditional names were replaced by new Euro-American names to both "civilize" and "Christianize."  The experience of the schools was often harsh, especially for the younger children who were separated from their families. In numerous ways, indigenous people were encouraged or forced to abandon their identities and cultures. Investigations of the later 20th century have revealed many documented cases of sexual, physical, and mental abuse occurring at such schools. 

Why do I point out boarding schools? Because the, "Kill the Indian and save the man" mentality is the historical treatment we have received.  Boarding schools illustrate the problem with mascots and other forms of cultural appropriation.  Why has it been okay to mock, mimic, and pretend to be "Indian," but it is not okay to actually BE “Indian”?
This is a Civil Rights issue, not an individual school system or town issue.  This models what we want ALL children to know and be aware of, not just indigenous children.  When you keep seeing “Native Americans” behaving a certain way, even when it is inaccurate, you begin to BELIEVE that is the way ALL Native Americans behave.  Mascots, and associated antics, are not who we are, not part of our story, and not the way we want to be seen, treated, or represented.  It's a form of harassment, bullying, and all the worst things schools have to offer and are "supposedly" fighting against.  Schools did not want to “integrate” either.  Legislation and the National Guard had to be used to help schools do the right thing.  I hope the Massachusetts legislation is able to see the future more clearly than Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas and the William Frantz Elementary School in Tylertown, Mississippi

Respectfully Submitted,
Claudia Fox Tree

Sunday, April 30, 2017

We Are Still Alive - A Traditional People in a Contemporary Society


Thank you for inviting me.  I know… I don’t think you’ve probably ever had an Arawak speaker here and probably haven’t ever heard of Arawak speaker.  We, the indigenous people of the Americas, are refugees. We exist despite an unacknowledged, attempted genocide. Most people associate refugees with being forced to leave one’s country, but a refugee, by definition, has lost their land and way of life, often through war or genocide. There is a long history of genocidal programs initiated by the early colonial settlers and, later, by the United States government.

In 1755, the lieutenant governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, issued a proclamation that called for British subjects “to embrace all opportunities of pursuing, [capturing], killing, and destroying all and every Indian.” A bounty was paid by the colonial government for every Penobscot captured and brought to Boston.

- For every Male above the age of 12 years, 50 pounds. For their Scalp, 40 pounds
- For every Female under the age of 12 years, 25 pounds. For every Scalp, 20 pounds. 

Within a year of the proclamation, the Massachusetts assembly voted to raise the ceiling on the bounty to an unprecedented 300 pounds. This Bounty Proclamation was signed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Phips just a short walk from here in the Old State House on State Street.

At the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, John Chivington said, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians... Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”

We were marched, relocated, and put in reserves like animals, ending up no longer being on the land which provided all our needs… where our stories and songs came from… where our ancestors’ bones lay in the ground.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, boarding schools were established. Our children were immersed in European-American culture. They were given haircuts, forbidden to speak their indigenous languages, and their traditional names were replaced by European-American names to both “civilize” and “Christianize.” 20th century investigations have revealed many documented cases of sexual, physical, and mental abuse in these boarding schools.

In 1892, the U.S. Army officer Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School, said, “…all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.” On reservations, children were taken from our homes and forcibly sent to boarding schools until 1978, systematically destroying Native American cultural continuity.

Today in 2017, we are still fighting for sovereignty and treaty rights; hunting and fishing access; clean water and healthcare; and political and legal justice. On some reservations, Native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average. Hollywood films, sports mascots, and many other racist images continue to dehumanize us.

On some reservations, families live on roughly seven gallons of water per day per person, since uranium mining has poisoned the wells and radioactive waste leaves no clean water. 40% of the 173,000 Diné living on the reservation do not have running water.  Today, in the United States.

As First Nations People, we have been made invisible, starting with the first maps that were created showing empty land where none of our languages or nations were identified. Towns were incorporated without any thought to the indigenous inhabits. Each “first” became a colonizer’s first – the first house, the first successful harvest, the first thanksgiving, the first marriage, the first baby – while our “firsts” were ignored and erased.

How does cultural genocide translate into today’s experience? I did not grow up speaking my indigenous language or hearing Native Nations’ music on the radio. I did not see people like me reflected in the literature I read, the television I watched and movies I saw, or even on the walls of my classroom. I did not learn the contributions of Indigenous People to this country, and certainly not the actual history of the United States. I did not have First Nations role-models who resisted and stood up for our culture, only those who helped the white Europeans, like Squanto, Sacagawea, and Pocahontas. There’s nowhere in the world where out story, my story, should even be required to be told, except here.

I’ve raised my children in a world that has not recognized our holidays and observances… In a world with stereotypes that have become the only way we are known and recognized… With peers who have harassed them about their long hair… When my son was in high school, a few boys danced around him singing, “woo woo woo.” They weren’t mimicking something they had seen at a pow wow, they were acting out all they knew from when they were much younger and saw movies, like Peter Pan. The racist images of Hollywood and athletic teams have been their loudest teachers.

Other people tell our story or stereotypes about it. We have no control over our own narrative in our own country. I am not currently fighting for food, or water, or heat, or housing, or healthcare, so I must use the privilege and platforms, the ones that I do have, to temporarily, even if temporary, to stand beside my indigenous sisters and brothers and be an ally to support their access, and all people’s, to these fundamental rights in a country as wealthy as ours.

We are refugees from our original lands. We cannot stay silent about genocide here or anywhere, anymore. Please consider joining an indigenous organization, like the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, to learn more about us. We’re still alive - traditional people in a contemporary society.

Friday, February 17, 2017

True Story of Pocahontas

https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/history/genealogy/true-story-pocahontas-historical-myths-versus-sad-reality/
Pocahontas’ Mother, Also Named Pocahontas, Died While Giving Birth to Her  This is in many historical accounts, though not always. It is important to note that Pocahontas was born to her mother, named Pocahontas and her father Wahunsenaca, (sometimes spelled Wahunsenakah), who later became the paramount chief. Her name at birth was Matoaka, which means “flower between two streams,” and according to Mattaponi history was likely given to her because she was born between the two rivers of Mattaponi and Pamunkey (York).

According to Mattaponi oral history, little Matoaka was possibly about 10 years old when John Smith and English colonists arrived in Tsenacomoca in the spring of 1607. John Smith was about 27 years old. They were never married nor involved.

When she was a child, John Smith and English colonists stayed near the Powhatan on the nearby Jamestown Island, but later began to explore outlying areas. Smith was feared by many Native people because he was known to enter villages and put guns to heads of chiefs demanding food and supplies.  In the winter of 1607, the colonists and Smith met with Powhatan warriors and Smith was captured by the chief’s younger brother.

Years later, Smith alleged that Pocahontas saved his life in the four-day process of becoming a werowance. But according to Mattaponi oral and contemporary written accounts, there would be no reason to kill a man designated to receive an honor by the chief.  Additionally, children were not allowed to attend any sort of religious ritual similar to the werowance ceremony.  She could not have thrown herself in front of John Smith to beg for his life for two reasons: Smith was being honored, and she would not have been allowed to be there.

It is likely Pocahontas served as a symbol of peace by simply being present as a child among her people to show no ill intentions when her people met with the Jamestown settlers.

In the midst of the horrible and atrocious acts committed by the colonists, Matoaka was coming of age. During a ceremony, Matoaka was to choose a new name, and she selected Pocahontas, after her mother. During a courtship dance, it is likely she danced with Kocoum, the younger brother of Potowomac Chief Japazaw.  She married the young warrior at about 14 and soon became pregnant.  It was at this time rumors began to surface that colonists planned to kidnap the beloved chief’s daughter Pocahontas. Pocahontas Was Kidnapped, Her Husband Was Murdered and She Was Forced to Give Up Her First Child

Pocahontas Was Raped While in Captivity and Became Pregnant With Her Second Child  According to Dr. Linwood Custalow, a historian of the Mattaponi Tribe and the custodian of the sacred oral history of Pocahontas, soon after being kidnapped, she was suffering from depression and was growing more fearful and withdrawn. Her extreme anxiety was so severe her English captors allowed Pocahontas’ eldest sister Mattachanna and her husband Uttamattamakin to come to her aid.

John Rolfe Married Pocahontas to Create a Native Alliance in Tobacco Production  Mattaponi history is clear that Pocahontas had a son out of wedlock, Thomas, prior to her marriage to John Rolfe. Prior to that marriage, the colonists pressed Pocahontas to become “civilized” and often told her that her father did not love her because he had not come to rescue her.  Pocahontas often tore off her English clothes, because they were uncomfortable. Eventually, Pocahontas was converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca.

Pocahontas was just under 21 at the time of her death. Instead of being taken home and laid to rest with her father, Rolfe and Argall took her to Gravesend, England, where she was buried at Saint George’s Church, March 21, 1617. Though Virginia tribes have requested that her remains returned for repatriation, officials in England say the exact whereabouts of her remains are not known.   

According to Deyo, Little Kocoum was the name that Dr. Linwood Custalow used for the purpose of his book to reference a small child whose name was not yet known.  In the sacred oral history of the Mattaponi, the child was raised by the Patawomeck Tribe. The name of that child was passed down in the Patawomeck oral history was discovered to be Ka-Okee, a daughter.  This lineage to Ka-Okee includes the world famous entertainer Wayne Newton, a member of the Virginia state-recognized Powhatan Patawomeck tribe.  Thomas Rolfe stayed in England and was educated there. He later returned to the Powhatan as an adult. He was married and had many descendants.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cultural Appropriations


It is the absence of a variety of images, stories, and truths juxtaposed next to simplified stereotypes that make the impact of those stereotypes so damaging for indigenous people.

This is our land, our heritage, our biology…  Our very cells were formed on this continent.  We need to be represented with a larger space in literature, media, politics, education, etc.  We want the same thing others already have - like TV shows that reflect our lives, songs on the radio written and sung by our people, textbooks that tell our history, holidays that celebrate our culture, laws that protect our rights, politicians that speak for our values.

1. Why do you think cultural appropriations happens so much in our society? Why is it a problem? What does this have to do with our history? 
People think because they are in control and have power and money that they can take/borrow anything they want from another culture, but that means that the actual culture loses a bit of themselves. Performing a Eucharist or opening Torah scrolls wouldn’t be done at a typical summer camp or in a classroom, but Native American clothing and practices are often kidnapped and used without respect, understanding, or knowledge. 

When I say, “Winnebago,” “Pontiac,” and “Sequoyah,” do you think of a recreational vehicle, car, and tree? Our culture that has been taken out of context and minimized, so that it no longer resembles a great nation, a famous leader, or the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet. Our medicines, herbs, and healing practices are as sacred as your “ceremonies.”

More people see stereotypes than real, authentic images. They misrepresent our history and cultures.   One single image can be assigned to all NA’s with little regard to individual differences. Images like these affect both First Nations People and all children.  They model what we are supposed to look like, act like, and do.  Stereotypes, by their negative nature, do not focus on contributions, role-models, or resistance.

2. What makes cultural appropriation of Native American culture different than that of other cultures?
Mascots dehumanize and objectify Native Americans reaffirming the belief that Native People no longer exist or that they exist only in the media or as caricatures. Stereotyping of this nature is harmful on many levels not only to Native people but also to those who allow the stereotype to shape their view.

A major problem with “mascots” is that they stereotype. While many things stereotype many groups, the fact that First Nations People have so little accurate representation in cinema, textbooks, history, novels, etc. in our own country makes it much more problematic. One single image is assigned to all Native Americans with little regard to our individual differences.  We are not seen as contemporary or professional. Stereotypes miss the positive images. If there was a range, maybe the public wouldn’t notice the negative image, but given that there is an absence of almost anything accurate about indigenous people, mascots are the wrong image to project. 

Stereotypes not only affect the First Nations People, they affect nonNative people, too, by giving inaccurate information. If the mascots were about communities who are gay, Jewish, or black, it would have already stopped. Each time mascots are used or our dress is taken out of context, we are reminded that we are not equal and we are not respected, at the same time that it teaches the nonNative group (those doing the stereotyping and appropriation) that they are superior.

3. What differentiates the art you make with what huge companies make?
Native art is protected by the Native American Arts and Crafts Act.  It is protected from cheap knock-offs because it is authentically indigenous.  We have the right to sell our own products and can’t even mass produce them within this law (it typically wouldn’t stay 100% Native)! We are not out in the world making millions of dollars, so our crafting is one of the ways we are able to retain our culture and make money.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Finding Your Native American Heritage

Many people in the US and Canada have at least one Indian ancestral line in their family.  Lots of people grew up hearing the family legend about a family member that was Native American.  Proving that legend to be true or false can be tough.  There is very little official records about early Native American. Starting your search on Native American Genealogy can be very challenging. 

You will need to build a family tree using a multitude of resources. Research the deaths, births, and marriages of your family.  Use these records to build links from yourself back to your ancestors. 

http://www.powwows.com/am-i-native-american-how-to-find-my-indian-ancestors/#ixzz4Xkv5yEal

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

New Legislation Proposed in Massachusetts


When I hear that a bill to prevent the use of First Nations (Native American) images, nicknames and logos depicting Native Americans from public schools is being introduced, I think, “It’s about time!” And even though it’s not enough, it’s a beginning.

Those images, and a few films by Hollywood and Disney, are sometimes the ONLY things Americans see and know about indigenous people. “Mascots” keep us “trapped” in a false narrative and don’t show context or how we have evolved over 500 years. The problem isn’t only whether they are accurate or caricatures and respectful or not. The problem is that we aren’t able to share our own story in our own voices. Another problem is that we are not represented at every grade level in every subject from literature to history in our own country. Our narrative is effectively cut off, in favor of someone else’s limited perspective on us.

In order to understand the issue, one has to understand how systemic oppression works. We’re not talking about “individual acts of meanness,” we’re talking about a “system” that is able to perpetuate misinformation, missing information, stereotypes, and prejudices. “Mascots” are part of this system. The “system” includes individuals, as they are part of culture and social structure, but also institutions. By “institutions,” I mean schools, legal systems, houses of worship, publishing houses, movie industry, banks, and such. By “system,” I mean they all work together systematically, that’s why we can all understand (and some would even laugh) at a stereotypes– because we KNOW them, they’ve been perpetuated by these institutions AND by those we know, love, and trust.

For Native Americans, this system has been in place for over 500 years on our own land. Every other person in this country has somewhere else where their “story” is being told, most times they are even able to control their own narrative in that country. First Nations People don’t have that. Someone else is always telling us how we should look, what we did in history, what we didn’t contribute to this country, and more. Where should our story be told accurately and often, if not in American schools and cinema?

Then there is the issue that 20% of us live on reservations, some of which have deplorable conditions, like a “developing nation” or what some might call a “third world country.” Many of us are mixed race, ethnicity, and/or nation. By using mascot images, we are forever kept in the past. Images that use a war bonnet are even more offensive. It is like buying medals on eBay and pretending to be a soldier - our warriors wore those on the plains and earned those feathers (like a medal)!

Everyone is affected by this “system” of oppression which we call racism. Some (indigenous nations) are oppressed, while those who are not Native American are “hurt.” Those who are hurt may not know that they are missing out on their own country’s history, but with education and awareness it can become clearer.

Yes, mascots, logos, chanting, appropriated music, images, and all other racist propaganda need to go from schools AND sports teams, but it’s not enough.  We need to include the voice of indigenous people throughout the public educational system, so that our history can have its rightful place as American history. 
CFT

Monday, January 23, 2017

Boston Women's March

Here's the missing introduction that is "clipped" off in this video:  "Claudia Fox Tree and Savannah Fox Tree - McGrath are First Nations persons of Arawak descent. Claudia Fox Tree is a professional educator and leads conversations on Native American identity, culture, and history. She is affiliated with the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) and the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP).  Her daughter, Savannah Fox Tree, will sing in Cherokee. Savannah is a student at Roger Williams University, majoring in architecture."

Thanks to my friend, Jan Shaw, who took the video of Savannah Fox Tree-McGrath and me with my camera from the side of the stage at today's Boston Women's March as we stood before over 150 THOUSAND people.  We were the first speakers after the 11am program began - America the Beautiful by the Boston Children’s Chorus, the Pledge of Allegiance by Commissioner Giselle Sterling, the emcee Mariama White-Hammond, and then us.  This is one of the most meaningful moments of our lives - representing our people, and all people, for equity and social justice!

Click for VIDEO
Bo Matum (thank you) to the Wampanoag, Nipmuc, and Narragansett who originally inhabited this land we now know as Massachusetts.  “Welcome” to everyone else.
All summer and fall, I and others have been standing in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota.  Without water, we have no life. Today, I stand in solidarity with my sisters from Boston, and around the world in places, such as, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore, Nairobi, Athens, Cape Town, Rio De Janeiro, San Jose, and Vancouver.  With solidarity, we have hope.   
We are the few who have the privilege to be here because we can afford not to be working on a Saturday, we can walk out of our homes, we are healthy, and we have help for children who may have been left at home.  We stand beside those who fight for equal pay, disability awareness, healthcare, and childcare.

As an indigenous first nations person of Arawak descent, my ancestors greeted Christopher Columbus.  We have been fighting attempted genocide, intolerance, hate, lies about our people, lack of recognition for our achievements and contributions, racist mascot representations in media, schools, and sports, and acts of violence for over 500 years. We are the original “survivors.”  “Standing up” is in our blood!

Today, we are reminded that our struggle is not over, it is part of what makes us women, humans, and survivors.  We are stronger when we stand together as allies, activists, agitators, and accomplices. As our ally James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  Today is the next chance to face the challenge of keeping our hard-won rights and creating more equity for those who are still fighting!
In our indigenous communities, women are often the ones who keep the culture alive.  We pass on traditions to our daughters AND to our sons, as well as through our unique community ties.  We lead by example.  We “stand up” for the environment, humanity, and the other sentient beings with whom we share this Turtle Island. 
Two of my three daughters could not be here. My oldest, Cheyenne, has devoted her career to doing social justice work and activism.  She is completing a Master’s Degree in Social Work at Salem State University, though she is right now at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. 

My youngest, who is a twin, Indigo, is at Framingham State University where she does activism through student leadership on campus and in her artwork.  I, myself, am a product of the University of Massachusetts (Boston) and Fitchburg State College.  Massachusetts is fortunate to have a free K-12 public education system and fabulous state universities that need to remain open, accessible, and affordable to all!

I’m elated to have the other twin, my daughter, Savannah, standing by my side now.  She is going to sing a song that represents the ability to change, even in the darkest of times, Amazing Grace.  First in Cherokee, and then in English, at which point all are asked to join in and sing the first verse with her.

* Two words have been added, since speaking on 1/21/17.  They are "schools" and "affordable."

Melrose "Dreamcatcher" and Other "Mascot" Issues

Massachusetts Mascots
http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/02/these_massachusetts_schools_st.html


Melrose Dreamcatcher
http://melrose.wickedlocal.com/news/20160407/dreamcatcher-removed-from-melrose-high-logo

Claudia Fox Tree, a board member for the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, said that if Melrose does choose to keep its Red Raiders name, the city should do what it can to weed out culturally appropriative imagery entirely.

Legislation
https://sokokisojourn.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/more-on-ma-senate-bill-to-ban-native-american-mascots/ 
Yesterday, Miranda Davis at the Greenfield Recorder picked up the story of Massachusetts bill SD.1119, An Act to Prohibit the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth. The introduction of this bill directly impacts the local debate in Turners Falls about the effects of continued use of the “Indians” mascot/logo.

Excerpt: The bill, introduced Thursday, was filed “by request” by Sen. Barbara L’Italian, a Democrat representing the 2nd Essex and Middlesex district. According to L’Italian’s spokeswoman Emma Friend, the bill was requested by a resident of Tewksbury, where the high school’s mascot is the Redmen. If passed, the bill would affect the ongoing debate in Montague over whether Turners Falls High School should keep its current mascot, the Indians.
 
Another story on the same topic was published by NECN, an NBC affiliate out of Boston, MA.
Excerpt:  The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness said change is long overdue. “Mascots keep us trapped in a false narrative and don’t show context or how we have evolved over 500 years,” said Claudia Fox Tree. “The problem is that we aren’t able to share our own story in our own voices.”

CBS local affiliate WBZ Channel 4 in Boston also carried the announcement. From that report:
A Tewksbury resident wants state lawmakers to ban the use of Native American symbols and logos at public schools. After losing a battle to change Tewksbury High School’s mascot from the Redmen, Linda Thomas is now hoping legislators will vote to get rid of Native American logos at all public schools for good. Last year, the Tewksbury School Committee voted 4-1 to keep their mascot, which some say pays tribute to the town’s Native American heritage. “This is really not a town issue, this is a state issue,” Thomas said.

Names that offend in the age of the Internet
www.thesunchronicle.com/opinion/columns/bristol-names-that-offend-in-the-age-of-the-internet/article_eeb134f6-6efa-585f-8eda-188d7010b077.html
The effort to enact a state law grew out of an unsuccessful campaign last year to change the Redman nickname used by Tewksbury Memorial High School. "If the Tewksbury School Committee refuses to consider the implications of a race-based mascot, then perhaps the Legislature will," bill supporter Laura Harrington told the Globe.  Three legislators representing the local towns affected by the bill say they are against forcing a change, staff writer Jim Hand reported in his Feb. 8 story.  State Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, who also represents Foxboro, said no one in Foxboro had said to him that the Warrior nickname was offensive, and in any case this was an issue that should be decided locally, not at the state level.  State Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, also said such decisions should be left to school committees. State Rep. Steven Hewitt, R-Seekonk, said the Warrior name is fine with him since his town is named after a Native American word for geese.  There has been at least one case in Massachusetts in which a Native American mascot name was dropped. That was the Natick Redmen, with the decision coming in 2008 after a community debate, the Globe said.

Should We Be Able to Reclaim a Racist Insult — as a Registered Trademark?
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/magazine/should-we-be-able-to-reclaim-a-racist-insult-as-a-registered-trademark.html?_r=0
Can a marginalized group can take a slur back. And this agency must do so by applying a provision of the law that has long outlived its context. The Lanham Act was passed in 1946, and its very language — “immoral,” “scandalous,” “disparage” — flags Section 2(a) as a product of another time. Since its passage, American law and society itself have undergone a revolution, from the 1971 case that declared a jacket reading “[Expletive] the Draft” was protected speech to 1992’s R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, in which Justice Antonin Scalia articulated the idea that prohibitions against racist hate speech were constitutionally impermissible “viewpoint discrimination.” You might be tempted to think that if the Lanham Act had been passed in 1996 rather than 1946, Section 2(a) would have long been toast.

Long before Tam had even dreamed up the name “the Slants,” Native American activists were gunning for the Washington Redskins’ trademarks. In 1992, they petitioned the patent office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Redskins’ marks under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act. Ever since then, they’ve been mired in an endless slog of litigation both inside and outside the agency. The board has canceled the Redskins’ trademarks twice now: once in 1999 and once more in 2014. This time, it seems it might stick: When the Redskins appealed out to a federal district court in 2014, they lost.

From this perspective, the government is impermissibly punishing Dykes on Bikes with an unending hell of paperwork and legal fees and putting them at a disadvantage in any potential dispute, all because they want to call themselves dykes. Framed this way, it does sound like a violation of free speech, and Section 2(a) sounds like a bad idea. But Dykes on Bikes and the Slants aren’t the only people caught in the cross hairs of Section 2(a) — they’re just the more sympathetic ones. Even as Tam’s case was trickling through the legal system, another Section 2(a) case was making very loud and ugly headlines.

Tam, who sees antiracism as a big part of what the Slants do, does not care for the Redskins or the team’s owner, Dan Snyder. “‘Redskin’ has a long history of oppression, the football team treats the people as mascots,” Tam wrote on his website in 2016. He concedes that there is “overlap” between his case and the Redskins’, but insists that they are not equivalent. For many people, there’s a fundamental difference between an Asian-American dance-rock band called “the Slants” and a football team owned by a white man, featuring no Native American players, called “the Redskins.”

Whatever the Supreme Court might think of this question, it doesn’t want to deal with the Redskins right now. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Slants, but has declined to hear the Redskins’ case. What that means for the Slants is anyone’s guess. But for all intents and purposes, it looks as if the Supreme Court, just like Tam, would rather have the two cases detached from each other.

The caption of the case they’re considering, “Lee v. Tam,” feels strangely apt for a case about reappropriating a slur against Asians. The naming conventions of the legal system mean that Simon Shiao Tam is being pitted against Michelle Lee, the first Asian-American director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This is, of course, a bit of a legal fiction: Lee will not be arguing the case at the Supreme Court, and she was, presumably, not in the room when the office’s examining attorney first rejected Tam’s application on the basis that it disparaged Asians. On Jan. 18, Tam’s lawyers will be facing down Lee’s lawyers before eight justices, none of whom are Asian, to decide the fate of the Slants and whether trademark law can accommodate “taking a word back.”