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No Problem With Indian Mascot, Middleborough Superintendent Says

July 7, 2019

The superintendent of schools in Middleborough is standing his ground when it comes to the schools’ Sachem mascot, saying there’s nothing disrespectful about it and that deciding how to represent schools should be a local matter.

Brian Lynch, who graduated from Middleborough High School in 1979 and now leads the public schools in the town, said a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature that would ban American Indian mascots, nicknames, and images is not appropriate.

The town’s public schools are known as the Sachems, from an Algonquin word that means “chief.”

“Middleboro has always treated the Sachem name with honor and respect,” Lynch told the New Bedford Standard-Times.

He also said the Sachem mascot “portrays core values that all students should emulate,” according to the New Bedford Standard-Times.

Pentucket Regional High School in West Newbury also uses Sachem as its mascot.

About three dozen Massachusetts public schools uses American Indian names or imagery to represent their sports teams, according to State House News Service.

The proposed legislation (Massachusetts House Bill 443 and Massachusetts Senate Bill 247) would prohibit public schools from using any “athletic team, 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 bill creates a carve-out for tribes in Massachusetts:

This section shall not prohibit a Native American tribe, as identified by the commission on indian affairs, located within the boundaries of the commonwealth, from choosing to use a Native-related name or logo for a sports team comprised of its tribal members, including a tribal school or intramural league, or from that tribal nation giving explicit consent for a school to use their particular tribal name.

Supporters of the ban say non-Indians using Indian mascots and nicknames for sports teams demean indigenous peoples. Opponents say they don’t.

The Joint Committee on Education of the Massachusetts Legislature held a hearing on the bills on June 25.

In June 2017 a similar bill had a powerful opponent:  Stan Rosenberg, who at the time was the president of the Massachusetts Senate. Rosenberg said choosing a mascot should be a local decision. The bill did not pass.

Rosenberg resigned from the Senate in May 2018 amid a scandal concerning his male civil-law spouse.

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