Hi, is that your Defend Dartmouth sign out here on your lawn?

Yeah, why?

Well, I was just wondering if I could ask you something about it. You’re in favor of keeping the Indians name and logo at Dartmouth High?

Yep. I’m proud of that name. I went to DHS, and so did my kids. We use it respectfully- — it’s a nice way to honor the Wampanoag from the area. The tribe even supports it!  One of the Aquinnah who went to Dartmouth High drew the logo.

OK, let me ask you something else — and this will sound a little odd, but I mean no disrespect whatsoever; I’m just making a hypothetical point. If I were to come over to your house and your whole family was there — spouse, kids, maybe some cousins, aunts, uncles — and I entered your home and I called everybody by a disparaging name — for the sake of argument, let’s say I came in and called your family “turd blossoms.”

What the …

No, hang with me. I’m just trying to make a point — I have nothing against your family!  I can see by your reaction, though, that you’d definitely be offended by being called a turd blossom. And probably the rest of your family would be, too. So, I would be a jerk for calling you all that, you’d agree, and I should probably not call you that, right?

Yeah, but it’s not the same as …

I know, but here’s the point I want to make. Imagine that some of the people in your family actually saw it as a kind of compliment. After all, a turd blossom is a flower and it grows from something awful and disgusting, so maybe they see the term as symbolizing the ability to be beautiful and amazing in even the worst circumstances.

Ha, well that does sound like something my nephew would say.

Right. So, now there’s a part of your family that’s clearly offended by my calling them turd blossoms and another part that thinks it’s great.


Related


Right. Where you going with this?

Since some of your family likes the term, have I offended no one? Or have I still offended part of the family?

I’d still be angry no matter what. I’m not a damn turd blossom.

I agree you’re not! So, I should probably not call your entire family turd blossoms. It would be wrong to use that term for your entire family — even if some people like it.

Agree 100%.

And this is true, even if I called you something that you saw as a compliment but some of the other members of your family were offended by?

I suppose that’s right.

OK, so now, I know the term Indians is nowhere near the same thing as the term turd blossom, and everyone would agree the latter term is far more offensive. But I used an extreme example just to make my point. If some people think a term or action is offensive, it’s still offensive, even if some people aren’t bothered by it.

In light of that, did you know that a lot of Native American individuals, tribes, and organizations are bothered by the use of Native American mascots, names and logos?  One of the largest and most longstanding Native American organizations, the National Congress of American Indians, has officially opposed the use of this symbolism for decades. Even in our region, many tribes have gone on record about how offended they are by all of this, including the Mashpee Wampanoag, the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag, the Herring Pond Wampanoag, the Pocasset Wampanoag, and the Massachusett Ponkapoag. They think it’s offensive and harmful to Native Americans, particularly youth.  

Yeah, but you know, there’s a lot of Wampanoag who live in Dartmouth who like that Dartmouth High uses the Indians name and logo. They think it’s honorable and respectful. Many of them went to Dartmouth High, and they’re proud of it. One of them was the artist who drew the logo!

Yes, but remember you were offended by being called a turd blossom even though some of your family liked it! So, just because some Wampanoag like the Indians name and logo, it doesn’t mean that others can’t be offended. And you agreed we shouldn’t do something that offends some people, even if others aren’t offended, right?

Well, yeah, but I don’t think it’s better to just erase the Native American history in our area. The Indians name honors that history and keeps it alive.

But you would also agree, right, that something that is offensive to some of the people it is supposed to be honoring cannot really honor them?

I think that’s probably true.  But if we got rid of the name and logo I would feel bad for those Wampanoag who support it.

OK, well, maybe we can come up with another way to honor Native American history that everyone would agree is honorable. We could try to do more teaching about it in schools. Instead of just covering it in third grade, maybe we could have something in middle school and high school, too. And we could also put up a display inside the high school that recognizes the Wampanoag lands the school sits on, that talks about their history in the area, and even includes the history of the Indians name and logo and the attempts to dignify the logo and treat it more respectfully. I think everyone would agree that would do real honor to the Native Americans who have lived in this area. We could work with the local tribes to come up with even more ideas.

Yeah, I would support all of that. And I think you might be right that if we did all that, we could probably retire the name and logo, and not offend anyone. It definitely doesn’t sit well with me that all those tribes are really bothered by it.

Great! Well, it was good talking to you.

Likewise. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and have a conversation about this.  You made me think about this issue in some different ways.


Doug Roscoe is a Dartmouth Town Pathways Committee member and longtime Town Meeting member, who has served on the Finance Committee and chaired the 2010 Charter Committee.

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