By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
For weeks, the Medfield community has found itself arguing about changing the logo that represents Medfield High School sports teams, and in a way, the town itself. The mascot currently resembles an unspecified Native American wearing a headdress. However, in the 1950s, detailed depictions of the Medfield Warrior could be found on clothes, sportswear, and on pages of the high school yearbook. The logo was redesigned in 2002 to be a more simplified geometric figure, but still contained its Native American likeness.
Given the close-knit community that is Medfield, it isn’t shocking that the mascot has come to represent town spirit, rather than just school spirit. For weeks, many have defended the logo in the name of tradition. A town forum on July 30 saw many community members, teachers, and Indigenous representatives present their case for its removal.
However, everything must come to an end.
On Thursday, August 13, the Medfield School Committee voted to remove the logo and replace it with something more befitting Medfield's legacy. School committee members took the time to explain their opinion. “I had never really realized, and I’m now owning up to the fact, that I was pretty ignorant of the damage that I was doing using this image. And only after I started kind of doing the heavy lifting like the research, the reading, and the listening did I start to understand and did I fully admit that I was in the wrong. I’m committed to learning and doing better,” said Financial Secretary Meghan Glenn of the Medfield School Committee.
Glenn continued to explain why the committee was voting on the issue, despite existing concerns with school reopenings and the Dale Street project. “It just happened that events in this world kind of brought something that, for a long time, had been percolating behind the scenes in this town to the forefront, and nonetheless, to dismiss the opportunity to have this tough discussion and to reexamine out values because it wasn’t convenient or wasn’t a good time was inexcusable,” she noted.
Many members of the school committee came to their decision after examining how the logo could be damaging for students and families living in Medfield. "When I think about this decision what I actually think about is invisibility. So many of our children who do not conform to a certain kind of perceived norm, how invisible you have to be to survive in Medfield, and it’s not necessarily the truth but it's a bit of a myth. A lot of the discussion I heard was ‘well, this is honoring Native Americans' on the other side, or that 'this is our heritage.' I think that if you were to watch the forum, you would realize that we have other ways to embrace our heritage, our town, our pride, and where we live. But the children who are in our schools, and the families who are in our town, who are of color, I think to an extent, live a life as a little bit invisible to try to live here. We have not done a great job of embracing culture and that is part of the longer conversation,” explained Vice Chairperson of the School Committee Jessica Reilly.
Reilly went on to cite some of the ongoing conversations she’s witnessed on Facebook, including one asking if there are any Native Americans in Medfield. "The answer I can give to that women, and the answer I can give you today, is that yes, a young woman wrote us, who had lived in Medfield and was a Native American, and had talked about the logo, and tried to open a conversation about it because it did hurt her, it did offend her, and she felt as though that conversation went nowhere. Again, it is her experience, her lived experience. Many of the Native American voices that we have heard over the last several weeks, this is also their experience. We spent a lot of time saying 'Okay, but do you think that now? Okay, but do you think that now.' And yes, these warrior logos feel damaging,” Reilly observed.
Chairperson of School Committee Anna Mae O'Shea Brooke noted that recent conversations had changed her view of the mascot. "I must confess that I, too, thought the mascot was very innocuous," she explained. "The geometric symbol may be less human in form, but it still symbolizes humans - humans that still very much exist and very much are still suffering. Native American are people and not mascots," she concluded, before letting Jessica Reilly move the committee to vote.
The Medfield School Committee unanimously voted to discontinue using the Medfield Warrior logo. With the vote, a chapter of Medfield history has closed and a new one has opened. It is unknown whether or not Medfield will continue to be represented as the “warrior,” or if that will change as well.