Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch unveiled a proposed revised mascot for North Quincy High School Monday, amid criticism from students and community members that the school’s current cartoon depicts a racist Native American stereotype.
“Yakoo,” which has been in use by North Quincy since the 1950s, uses a cartoon to depict longtime school benefactor Dr. Allan Yacubian with a feathered headband, while carrying a tomahawk and spear.
The revised mascot would continue to depict Yacubian, himself a North Quincy graduate, but dressed as an American colonist carrying a flag with the school’s initials, and wearing a tricorner hat.
Koch, who spoke in a video posted to the city’s YouTube channel, said a final determination on the design and the school’s nickname will be made by the principal and the school community. North Quincy currently plays as the “Red Raiders.”
“The essence of the mascot stays, for the people who have graduated North and take pride in it,” Koch said. “It’s evolved, it’s changed in its message, its outfit.”
Yacubian, who also appeared in the video, said the mascot is very special to him and defended its legacy.
“Yakoo is now 63 years old. And in the 63 years, has done nothing to shame North Quincy High School or anything to do with the city of Quincy,” Yacubian said.
More than 12,000 people signed onto a petition that opposed the original mascot, and called it “an ignorant and hurtful representation of the Quincy Public Schools community.”
Annie Lu, who started the online petition, called the change “great news” in an update added to its website Monday.
The US Department of Education has previously asked the school to remove the mascot, and federal civil rights officials have criticized the image.
Quincy joins several Massachusetts communities that have faced renewed debate over the use of Native American imagery and nicknames for school sports teams.
Critics have said the imagery perpetuates harmful stereotypes of Native Americans as warlike figures, while ignoring the cultural traditions of people living today in Massachusetts.
Calls to change the North Quincy mascot have been tied by students to broader demands to address the racial climate at the school. Hundreds of current and past North Quincy students have used social media to describe racist behavior by teachers and classmates.
Koch on Monday said the revised mascot has been shared with the Massachusett Tribe.
“I think it takes anything that may have been offensive or perceived as offensive gone,” Koch said. “We are historic Quincy and I think this speaks to our history as well.”