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By A Wide Margin, Tewksbury High Students Support Keeping 'Redmen' Name; O'Connor To Make Recommendation Wednesday

Mar 20, 2016 06:38PM ● By Bill Gilman

(Editor's note: Due to an error by the School Administration office, correspondence relative to the Redmen issue that was supposed to be anonymous/private was included in the public packet. Your Tewksbury Today originally published that information. However, since being informed of the error, we have replaced the packet with the new packet, minus the private correspondence relative to the Redmen issue.)

He has heard from Native Americans, parents, alumni, students and other residents.
On Wednesday night, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor will make a recommendation to the School Committee, as to whether Tewksbury High should keep its "Redmen" name and logo or replace it with something that some would consider "less offensive."
The School Committee meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Tewksbury High library.
If TMHS students have their way, their sports teams will be called the Redmen now and forever. Last month, the district conducted an anonymous survey of the students. According to information provided by O'Connor and contained in the packet for Wednesday's School Committee meeting, 461 students responded to the survey. Of that total, 84.6 percent responded that they wanted to keep the Redmen name and logo. Just 15.4 percent said they wanted to change the name and logo to something else. Students also had the chance to leave a comment with their survey answer, with 179 choosing to do so. (A sampling of those responses can be found at the bottom of this story.)
The survey results mirror participation in an open forum to discuss the Redmen issue, held on Jan. 27 at the high school. The event was attended by hundreds of Tewksbury residents, most decked out in Tewksbury High Redmen gear. Among those who spoke at the event, the vast majority spoke in favor of keeping the name.
Included in O'Connor's informational packet for the School Committee were also dozens of letters and emails from all over the country received by O'Connor, TMHS Principal Kristen Vogel and the School Committee regarding the Redmen issue. 
The correspondence seemed to be divided fairly evenly between those wanting the Redmen name kept and those wanting it replaced. Most were written with great passion.
Some of the writers included articles and research studies backing up their position.
Included among the writers were a number of Native Americans, some of whom shared personal stories related to racism they have dealt with in their lives and how that relates to the team name issue.
The Native American community has been rather divided over the issue of sports teams using variations on Native American themes as team names and logos. Some, including the National Congress of American Indians, has lobbied for all Native American team logos and names be changed, as they promote racial stereotypes and are demeaning.
However, other groups, such as the Native American Guardians Association, have argued in favor of maintaining Native American imagery via sports teams logos. Andre Billeaudeaux, executive director of that organization, has said that eliminating all Native American team names contributes to eradicating Native American presence and culture in America.
Even if O'Connor recommends eliminating the Redmen name and logo, the change would need to be voted on by the Tewksbury School Committee., To date, the five members of the School Committee have declined to comment on the issue, saying they would not do so until O'Connor had completed his work and made his recommendation.
While the issue of the Tewksbury High team name and logo has been addressed multiple times over the years (most recently 2007), this specific issue had its genesis in December when a pair of Tewksbury mothers spoke before the School Committee, asking that the "Redmen" name be dropped because is was racist and insensitive to Native Americans. 
In response, a Facebook page called "Redmen ... Here To Stay" was started and now has close to 1,800 members.
there are presently 17 schools or teams in the United States that use the nickname "Redmen." There are presently 40 schools in Massachusetts that still use a nickname and logo with some type of Native American connection.

Related Stories:

Op-Ed: Keeping 'Red Men' Demands Understanding Of The Incompatible Concepts of ‘E Pluribus Unum’ & ‘Decolonization’

What's In A Name? Tewksbury Residents Debate Future Of Redmen Mascot

Op-Ed: De-Constructing Bruce Panilaitis’ Misguided Op-Ed

 

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