A Connecticut high school is reinstating a Native American-themed mascot that had previously been deemed too offensive.
The Killingly Board of Education voted Jan. 8 to return to the “Redmen” mascot, which had been changed to the Red Hawks in October. The name was originally dropped after a June debate ended with the school board giving the mascot name decision to the Nipmuc Tribal Nation.
According to the Hartford Courant, the change to the Red Hawks led to major upheaval in the school board, as Republicans took over to prevent “the beginning of the elimination of our town’s traditions and culture if Democrats take our seats.”
The highest voter turnout in more than a decade ended with Republicans holding a supermajority, according to the Norwich Bulletin. The new board got rid of the Red Hawks name in December, but didn’t officially return to the Redmen until the 5-4 vote on Jan. 8. The board also agreed to look into a new logo, whereas the traditional logo has been a depiction of a Plains Indian. School officials will also introduce a curriculum on Native American history.
According to WFSB, the board voted to return to the name despite no one expressing support for the Redmen name during the community comments portion of the meeting.
“We stopped letting it be about the students and doing what’s right,” said board member Hoween Flexer, according to WFSB. “People can be mad about the process and people can be mad about whatever it is that they think they are losing, but the people who are directly impacted have spoken and we chose not to listen to them.”
There has been support in the community, however, including some fans wearing Redmen-inspired gear and shouting “Go Redmen” during a state championship loss to Weston High School on Dec. 14. Supporters have said that the mascot honors Native Americans and is part of the town’s history.
Killingly, which had a population of 17,370 in the 2010 census, used the Redmen mascot and a Native American logo from 1939 until 2019.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation spoke out against the name during the process.
“Native American mascots, often portrayed as caricatures or cartoons, are demeaning to Native Americans and it is our opinion that they should not be used,” Nipmuc Tribal Council Chairman Kenneth Gould Sr. said in a July statement. “We do not feel it is appropriate for our culture to be appropriated in this way, or that we should be represented in this way.”