Dartmouth School Committee Votes to Keep Indian Name and Logo
The Dartmouth Indian lives on.
In a 3-1 vote with one member abstaining, the Dartmouth School Committee voted to keep the Native American logo and “Indians” name in place for Dartmouth Public Schools.
John Nunes, Christopher Oliver and Kathleen Amaral each voted to keep the logo, while Dr. Shannon Jenkins voted against it. Mary Waite abstained from voting, citing a need to first see the proposed educational component that would be included with keeping the Indian name and logo.
On April 5, town voters overwhelmingly supported keeping the logo in a non-binding ballot question in the annual town election, by an 81-19 margin. It had been a contentious issue in the town for quite some time, with a group calling itself Defend Dartmouth organizing in recent months to push to keep the Indian.
Dartmouth alumni who are members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head had also been pushing for the town to keep the Indian, while other tribes outside the town wanted to see it removed.
“We have been at this for the better part of three or four years, give or take, and a number of times before that in my tenure here,” said Nunes, who was voted in as committee chair earlier in the meeting.
Committee member Christopher Oliver said he recognized that there was passion on both sides of the issue and that Dartmouth has a “great opportunity” to “do something special” that “could potentially be a model” for other schools using Native imagery.
“One of the things I don’t want to do, I don’t want to reaffirm the Indian icon and just be done with it,” he said. “The voters have clearly spoken but the one common thing between the voters and between the public forum and between the tribes, that we all agree on, is there has to be more done with the curriculum. There has to be more done with the schools and with the town in general.”
Oliver made the motion that “Dartmouth Public Schools continue to use and honor the iconic Dartmouth Indian, as drawn by Clyde Andrews, a Dartmouth alumni and member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe, in addition to tasking the school administration with engaging the tribe and creating a formal partnership with them.”
The motion was seconded by Nunes.
Dr. Shannon Jenkins, the former committee chair and the leading voice on the side of removing the logo, used examples such as World War II internment camps and segregation as other times when what the majority wanted may not have been the right course of action.
“History has shown us repeatedly that approval by the majority does not mean that something is right,” Jenkins said. “Just because something is popular or supported does not make it right. So the question for me, is there evidence that this is morally harmful? And I think the answer is yes.”
Her comments were interrupted by an outburst from the audience, and Nunes called for order and said any further disruptions would cause him to suspend the meeting and send everyone home.
Committee member Kathleen Amaral continued use of the logo should require certain parameters. She said a community member informed her that there are Indian logos on the golf balls used by the high school golf team.
“We can’t have that, that’s not right,” she said. “That’s a non-negotiable.”
Amaral also spoke in favor of giving students an option whether or not to wear the logo.
“I’d like to see us allow for student choice as to whether they want to have the logo on their uniform or warm-up gear,” she said. “I would also like us to consider no logo on away uniforms.”
The committee also discussed various ways the school could honor Native Americans, such as plaques in the school buildings, and talked about the possible creation of a standing committee, albeit an informal one, to continue to examine the Native logo and its use.
Jenkins also made a motion that the school committee request the Dartmouth Select Board “engage in the evaluation of town policies and the use of the logo and education within the community,” and that they do that “beyond the purview of the school committee.” Oliver seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
The Dartmouth School Committee and Dartmouth Select Board have a planned joint meeting on May 9, and the matter will be brought up then, the committee decided.