The Joint Education Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature is scheduled to hear a bill on Tuesday morning that could strip Dartmouth High School and other schools in the Commonwealth of their team names and mascots. The legislation would prohibit any public school in Massachusetts from using a Native American mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name.  This includes names, symbols or images that refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom or tradition.

This legislation was filed on behalf of a resident of Tewksbury, where the high school's mascot is the Redmen.  As of February of this year an estimated 40 Massachusetts public schools had Native American themed nicknames, mascots, or logos, including the Dartmouth Indians locally.  Other schools in the region include Middleborough High, Seekonk High, King Phillip Regional and Bristol Aggie.

There has been an active effort to force the Washington Redskins of the NFL to change the team name.  But, a national poll of Native Americans by the Washington Post indicates little support for the idea.  9 out of 10 respondents said the are not offended by the name and 7 out of 10 say they do not believe the term to be disrespectful to Native Americans.  8 in 10 say they would not be offended if a non-native were to call them a Redskin.

What is equally alarming is that New Bedford City Councilor Naomi Carney, an Aquinnah Wampanoag tells me the sponsors of the Massachusetts legislation never even consulted with the Aquinnah or the Mashpee Wampanoag before filing the bill.  Carney says it has been her experience that Native Americans are not offended by the team names and logos and she finds it troubling that non-natives are acting in such a fashion on behalf of Native Americans.

Once again it seems as though well intended, politically correct minority factions are acting in what they perceive is in the best interest of others.  They assume that if they are offended everyone else must be as well.  What is sad here is that in their misguided efforts to protect Native Americans from what they believe to be harmful speech, they are also looking to cleanse them of their history as well.

Me thinks lawmakers have more important fish to fry than this piece of minutia, well intended or otherwise.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


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