By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
For years, Medfield students and parents have been “Warriors,” and represented their town's teams with a Native American logo. While residents have worn the logo proudly, many are now calling for a change because of concerns with the racist connotation it brings with it. On Thursday, July 30, the Medfield School Committee hosted a forum to hear thoughts from the community on changing the Medfield Warrior mascot.
How the mascot came to be a Native American is somewhat of a mystery. According to Richard DeSorgher, the logo depicting a realistically-rendered Native American in headdress first appeared on school apparel and sports uniforms in 1959. This logo remained until 2002, when then-Superintendent Bob Maguire changed it to the more abstract one seen today.
Alumni, current students, teachers, residents, and Native American speakers submitted their thoughts and opinions prior to the meeting and noted whether they were willing to speak during the discussion. Though there were certainly individuals against changing the mascot, none spoke during the forum.
Rudy Cassidy, a teacher at Medfield High School, spoke about the discomfort both faculty and students feel in using this logo. “It really feels insensitive to both me and students that I have heard express the idea that the image makes them feel less associated with the school. I think the mascot is incorporating a history of violence that is not worth celebrating. It ultimately reinforces our differences rather than bringing us together,” explained Cassidy. “For everyone at MHS, the warrior head is an ever-present symbol, and to some, such as myself, it is distracting. The warrior head clearly has the race that the majority of Medfield does not match, and having this as our mascot reinforces race identities and a history of racial superiority. By using race as a symbol, we dehumanize a group of people and set an example to our students who will go on to be world leaders.”
Micah Borkan, a 2020 graduate and athlete of Medfield High School, began by reminding the forum that listeners and speakers all came as part of their love for the town, regardless of their opinion on the issue. Borkan cited how part of the problem with the mascot is how Medfield residents seem to collectively ignore the violent past settlers had with local Native Americans. “At a young age, Medfield students are brought to the Peak House for a field trip and told a story on the raid on the town of Medfield as it pertains to King Philip’s War. The history they are given is incomplete, as nothing is said on the circumstances that led Metacomet's warriors to attack in the first place. At the Peak House, we have not only failed our youth, but also anyone who stops by to read the plaque, which gives no background to the persecution, violence, religious conversion, disease, and loss of land facing the Natives in the years leading to the war,” explained Borkan. “There is no way we can allow this use of the mascot to continue while we simultaneously perpetuate lies about the people we claim to be honoring.”
Rhonda Anderson is a Inupiaq-Athabascan and educator for Western Massachusetts’ schools and the Five College consortium. She was one of several Native speakers who spoke during the forum. “Through these stereotypical representations, it erases the identity of Native people and generates stereotypes of what a Native person looks like - and portrays us as people in the past, as you have heard tonight. Such representation in educational settings leads to more widespread and acceptable stereotyping and biases. Removing Native mascots will not erase us. We’re still here! Native Americans are generally invisible in mainstream society, yes. But we need accurate, diverse, historical, and contemporary representations in mainstream U.S. culture, not harmful stereotypes like Native mascots,” explained Anderson. As she finished her speech, Anderson spoke about the upcoming August vote. “I humbly ask you that when you vote in August to replace the warrior mascot and the name, being on the right side of history. You will not be losing identity, you will not be losing memories. Rather, you will gain community spirit and community of cooperation coming together to create a mascot and name that everyone can truly be proud of.”
This forum provided the perfect space to discuss the mascot issues while addressing Medfield’s past failings. The meeting to vote on the logo will take place on August 13.