Op-Ed: Let Native Americans Speak For Themselves – We-Ha
The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has issued a resolution consenting to the respectful use of Native American names, images or symbols.
By Scott Zweig
On March 15, 2022, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (“STN”) Tribal Council approved Resolution #SNA-022 (“Resolution”) consenting to the respectful use of names, images and symbols that acknowledge the history and Aboriginal culture. Americans. For those who haven’t seen the resolution yet, you can find it below.
This resolution, passed by one of the five Native American tribes recognized by the State of Connecticut, is significant for several reasons. First, with this document, West Hartford now has the written consent required by Public Law 21-2 to retain the Warrior and Chieftain names at our two high schools AND continue to receive grants from the Mashantucket-Pequot and Mohegan Fund, which is expected to be 27 $820 next year. Second, instead of relying on biased academic studies from the early 2000s, the Board of Education can now hear directly from one of Connecticut’s Native American tribes on this issue.
I had the opportunity to speak with STN Chief Richard L. Velky last week about the process that led to the resolution and the tribe’s position on this important issue. During our conversation, he explained that many people from all over Connecticut (which comes from the Algonquin native word meaning “long tidal river”) have contacted the STN to ask for their consent to use a name, image or symbol. Native American in association with their school or sports team. The STN Tribal Council passed this broad resolution so that all schools in Connecticut could rely on it to retain their Native American names, including the Hall Warriors, Conard Chieftains, and Derby Red Raiders.
Chief Velky confirmed what I and many supporters of Native American team names have been saying for years: these names serve to honor and respect the cultural traditions and longstanding contributions of Native Americans to this country.
In fact, Chief Velky said the current eradication of Native American names and images from our schools and sports teams is another genocide of Native American people. Genocide. This is the word he chose to use. For anyone in need of clarification, Merriam-Webster defines “genocide” as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” Chief Velky fears that if all Native American names, images and symbols are erased from our society, Native Americans, along with their rich history and years of sacrifice, will be forgotten. Native Americans have been waging this battle for cultural survival since the first European settlers set foot on North American soil.
If Native American tribesmen in our own state tell us that they feel honored and respected by the use of these names and images, who are we to challenge them?
The option to retain the names, with the written consent of a Native American tribe, has always been available to West Hartford, but our school board and superintendent have refused to pursue this option in good faith. Instead of clearly asking the five Native American tribes in Connecticut for their “consent” to use the names Warrior and Chieftain, they sent a vague letter, asking for “inputs” on the names Conard Chieftains and Hall Warriors. The school board and outgoing superintendent Tom Moore were never willing to have an open and frank discussion about name retention. They were determined to change them. This was made very clear on February 1, 2022, when the school board rejected a proposal to delay the vote for a month so that the city could hold a public forum and seek additional feedback on our continued use of these honored names and darlings. .
The West Hartford Board of Education wanted input from Native American tribes in Connecticut on the use of Warrior and Chieftain. Now they have it. In no uncertain terms, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation supports West Hartford’s continued use of Warrior and Chieftain.
Native Americans in this country don’t need Board of Education members like Jason Chang to speak on their behalf about the impact of Native American names, images and symbols in our schools. These proud Americans can speak for themselves.
It’s time to listen to what they have to say.
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