Change the Braintree High School Mascot
Change the Braintree High School Mascot
If you grew up in or around Braintree, you're likely aware that the high school's mascot is the Wamps, shown through a caricatured drawing of a Native American. The use of a Native American chief as a mascot is extremely distasteful. For years, students have dressed up in feathered costumes and face paint, running through the halls replicating "Native American chants". These racist practices are unacceptable, yet continue to be allowed and encouraged by the use of this mascot.
The National Congress of American Indians explains, "Specifically, rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples."
15 years ago, the American Psychological Association "called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations. APA's position is based on a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people."
By holding on to this outdated mascot, Braintree continues to contribute to these harmful stereotypes. It's time for Braintree to be on the right side of history.
UPDATED TO INCLUDE OFFICIAL STATEMENT
The following is a script that was read at the Braintree School Committee meeting on the night of June 29th, 2020. It was presented by the group A Better Braintree, a community organization who is focused on working with its local government and education system to make it’s classrooms and neighborhoods a more inclusive community.
First off, I’m grateful to be here and grateful for the opportunity to share why the community needs to move past its current mascot. I first want to say that we are coming from a place of growth, one line that we’ve spent a lot of time considering is “Normalize changing your opinion when presented with new information”. To Braintree, the Wamp is supposed to symbolize pride, resilience, and community. Whether it’s sports teams or murals, the Wamp head feels like a central figure in our collective upbringing. Say the phrase “WAMP PRIDE” to any alum and a rush of nostalgia washes over them. So the very idea of removing the Wamp often gets received as a shock to your identity. Being a Wamp means something to a lot of people. But what is it about those four letters and that design that make us feel that way? Does the feathered headdress remind you of pride? Is it something about words that start with the letter W that really bring a community together? No. What brings us together were the first days of school at Morrison or Flaherty or Highlands, it was BYB games in the East Middle School gym, and varsity matches and graduation ceremonies on Memorial Field. The Wamp was never “a central figure in our collective upbringing,” it was just along for the ride. I used to think the Wamp was a pillar for my childhood, but I’m starting to realize it’s nothing more than ornamental. Once we realize that, it makes it a lot easier to think of what are the intentions behind our actions and what are the impacts of it. Not only does the American Psychological Association say mascots like ours cause a detriment to their respective community, but the very people we think we’re honoring have asked time and time again to stop. It’s time we move forward, and it’s time to change our mascot away from the Wamp.
We, as a town, claim to be honoring Chief Wompatuck by using his name as our mascot. If we truly want to honor Chief Wompatuck, we must listen to local and national Indigenous communities. Faries Gray, the Chief of the Massachusett tribe and a descendent of Chief Wompatuck, has been speaking out against the Wamps mascot for years. In an interview with Wicked Local, Gray said “We’re not mascots, we’re not trophies. We’re a living, breathing people that’s still here.” He goes on to explain that in their culture, shortening a name is seen as disrespectful and that the Massachusett tribe does not find the mascot honorable. The NCAI, National Congress of American Indians, has directly called for an end to all mascots using Native American imagery and names, explaining “these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.” Research on mascots like ours show that they give Native American students a limited sense of self, by minimizing their cultural identity to a headdress and some chats. By using the Wamp we are ultimately complicit in a nationwide suppression of those students' understanding of who they are and who they can grow up to be.. Instead of the Wamp mascot, the Massachusett tribe has asked for their ancestor to be honored through education of Indigenous history and modern issues, engaging in conversations with the tribe, and caring for the planet.
In addition to these Indigenous groups, the American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Education Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association, and U.S Commission on Civil Rights have all amplified Native voices, speaking out against the use of mascots featuring Native American imagery.
From the time we are in elementary school, we’re taught about the golden rule. Treat others how you would like to be treated. By keeping this mascot, we’re going against the direct requests of Native communities, including Chief Wompatuck’s descendants. As a community, we have been breaking the golden rule that we’ve been taught to live by for generations.