The North Haven Board of Education has voted to retire its mascot, the Indians, making it the latest town reacting to years-long controversy and discussion about how such names can be considered offensive and harmful.
Board members said they received a landslide of communications on the topic from the public, with opinions both for and against the change. Those who were in favor of keeping the name said it was meant to honor Native Americans and the town's history.
Those opposed argued such depictions as mascots can be harmful and pointed out that all of Connecticut's tribes have asked that school districts retire these kinds of mascots.
The board voted to retire the name and imagery, and also to consider options to seek tribal consent for approval of any new mascot names, with the intent to settle on something that “honors and preserves North Haven’s traditions and histories.”
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North Haven was facing the prospect of losing out on annual grant funds from the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund, an account that's funded with the state's 25 percent share of slot machine revenues generated at the two casinos owned and operated by the federally recognized Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes. This change was part of a budget bill that passed that would require any schools using Native American names or imagery to get written consent from a state- or federally-recognized tribe in their region.
It's estimated that about a dozen schools in Connecticut still use Native American names or images. Some communities have already changed the names of their athletic teams in light of the racial reckoning that has been taking place in the U.S. For example, the Manchester Indians became the Red Hawks in 2019 following a months-long campaign by students who said the mascot was a stereotype they could not support.
In Killingly, the school board voted in 2019 to change the name Redmen to the Red Hawks as well, at the behest of students, faculty and local tribal representatives. But the move was reversed months later after a slate of Republican candidates, who ran on the issue of restoring the name to honor a long-standing tradition, won a supermajority. The decision received national media attention.