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Natick dumps Redmen nickname

Posted by David Dahl, Regional Editor June 17, 2008 11:23 AM

The Natick School Committee Monday night voted to get rid of the Redmen nickname for its school sports teams.

The 7-0 decision signaled victory for those who believe the name is derogatory to Native Americans and led others who want to retain the status quo to pledge to force a November vote to rescind the measure.

The decision follows emotional public meetings, legal opinions that swung both ways and a nonbinding referendum in March in which 65 percent of 10,000 voters asked the School Committee to rethink an earlier decision to get rid of the nickname.

"This is a national issue, not just one for Natick and Massachusetts,'' said Pete Sanfacon, who heads up the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition, based in Framingham. "It's been going on in this country since the 1920s, and there have been protests at all levels since the late 1960s."

He said he was gratified at the school board's vote, which he believes is the right one: "We're making slow progress.''

Members of the group Redmen Forever began today to gather the signatures needed to place a question on the fall election ballot to overturn the decision. Co-chairman James Brown said Monday's decision was more than disappointing, given the popular vote in March, but not surprising.

"When you're objective you believe what you see,'' he said, of the school committee's vote. "When you're subjective, you see what you believe."

"For me, personally, the name Redmen is synonymous with Natick,'' Brown said. "If you're from Natick, you're a Redmen."

He said the name never has, nor is it intended, to be insulting to anyone: "It's an honorable and noble name."

School officials said, despite the controversy, the process was open and honest.

"All parties represented had the chance to respond,'' said Interim Schools Superintendent Joseph Keefe. "And the most important aspect of the entire process was the openness and the civility in which the committee dealt with the matter."

A task force this spring opted to return to the district's original nickname of Red and Blue and a contest involving school students to come up with a new logo - that has been in limbo because of the disagreement - will now resume, Keefe said.

--- Michele Morgan Bolton

13 comments so far...
  1. So should the Celtics change their name? The Yankees?

    Posted by rlsrd June 17, 08 12:04 PM
  1. Puh-leeze. Celtic and Yankee are not the same as Redmen. One is derogatory.

    Posted by Ray June 17, 08 12:47 PM
  1. Celtics and Yankees are not derogatory, racist names... why not start naming teams after racist terms for African Americans, or Hispanics?

    Posted by mtbr1975 June 17, 08 12:48 PM
  1. Well, if you call someone a Yankee... it is derogratory to some people. (Not in reference to sports team).

    Posted by katviaonline June 17, 08 01:22 PM
  1. So, are they going to change the Atlanta Braves, or maybe the Washington Redskins? I could go on with more examples.

    Unfortunately our country has become so "politically correct" that there is always someone who thinks something is offensive. But, that's what happens when you have so many people from so many different parts of the world.

    And yes, the Yankees could be considered derogatory by some people. At the time it first became popular it was used with contempt towards colonists from New England. Also, if you've gone out of the country at all you would probably notice that Yankee is still used as a derogatory towards US Citizens.

    Posted by mkc June 17, 08 01:37 PM
  1. A Yankee is someone who goes down south, A Damn Yankee is someone who goes down south and stays.

    Posted by Tom June 17, 08 01:56 PM
  1. A plea to Jimmy Brown...PLEASE let this go

    The school committee vote was UNANIMOUS. Committee members who voted to keep the name before listened to Native Americans and changed their vote.

    Sadly, you're not hearing what the Native Americans are telling us. Neither you nor the white voters get to decide what the word Redmen means. Native Americans decide...and based on the avalanche of support withing the tribal councils the message is clear, we need to move on.

    Continue to fight is a TOTAL and waste of taxpayer's money and government's time.

    Posted by m June 17, 08 03:50 PM
  1. A plea to Jimmy Brown...PLEASE let this go

    The school committee vote was UNANIMOUS. Committee members who voted to keep the name before listened to Native Americans and changed their vote.

    Sadly, you're not hearing what the Native Americans are telling us. Neither you nor the white voters get to decide what the word Redmen means. Native Americans decide...and based on the avalanche of support withing the tribal councils the message is clear, we need to move on.

    Continue to fight is a TOTAL and waste of taxpayer's money and government's time.

    Posted by m June 17, 08 03:55 PM
  1. Commenter # 5 asks, "So, are they going to change the Atlanta Braves, or maybe the Washington Redskins?"

    I only hope that they do.

    ALL of these names (and the accompanying imagery) are offensive to Native Peoples, and people throw the term "politically correct" around because they can't be bothered to take the time and effort to simply be respectful (and to learn how and why to be respectful).

    To cling to racist and blatantly offensive terms is to advertise that you yourself are a racist.

    Posted by Julia June 18, 08 10:17 AM
  1. It has nothing to do with being "politically correct" and everything to do with the fact that the name Redman is inherently racist. AND the Natick Indians, who still live in the area, are offended. THAT alone should be enough reason to change the team name. We have taken away their land, their culture, their language; we forced them to march to Deer Island to get them out of Natick, we brought small pox to this country and devastated their people. Why can't we do one decent thing
    and get ourselves a new name? I know it's not an easy change to make, but it's the right thing to do.

    Posted by Beenie June 18, 08 01:34 PM
  1. Beenie, do you have scientific research or evidence that Native Americans that live in the Natick area (not the Natick 'Indians' term that you so eloquently and incorrectly stated) are upset about the nickname? I have never heard of one such instance.
    I live in Natick and am completely sympathetic to those who might be insulted, but I have never heard of any tribe that thinks the name is derogatory. Heck, even the Seminole tribe has given their blessing to Florida State University in support of the nickname.
    I think that the Redmen name pays homtage to the Native American history in the Natick area. Now with a changed nickname, no one will care or even think about it. Shame on those who think otherwise and to the Natick School Board.

    Posted by Dogg June 19, 08 10:11 AM
  1. Big Sigh............Sorry folks......not all decisions in life are up for vote, or can be decided by popular vote.......the school comittee has made its decision....(twice)...we need to respect that. I also believe that the Redmen name was never meant to be insulting or racist......and, it isn't, to me....but, it is insulting to Native American people who have asked to be treated as people, not mascots...we also need to respect that........If we, as adults act mature, and responsible about this, it will be much easier for the students to accept......

    Posted by Natick resident June 21, 08 12:58 AM
  1. Its like when they made Walpole get rid of the confererate flag....no reason for it!

    Posted by Ben September 5, 08 02:06 PM
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