Another school in Vermont is changing its mascot. In a 4-1 vote, the Danville School Board said goodbye to the “Danville Indians” Tuesday.
But for one school board member, changing the school identity was no easy task.
“This was definitely the hardest decision I have ever had to make as a school board member,” said School Board Chair Bruce Melendy.
Melendy has been a part of the district for 30 years. He says all three of his kids were students at Danville School and played on championship teams. Originally, he didn’t find the mascot problematic.
“When you go to a game and you might wear a t-shirt that says “Danville Indians,” you never felt that you were being racist. You felt that you were honoring tradition,” said Melendy.
On Tuesday, however, Melendy was willing to make a change. He along with three other board members voted in favor of changing the mascot.
Chief Don Stevens of Nulhegan-Abenaki Tribe points out the now former logo wasn’t historically accurate.
“We didn’t wear big headdresses. Those were plain style Indian headdresses. You couldn’t run through the woods with something like that on your head. You know, that’s not from here,” said Stevens.
Stevens says Danville was the tribe’s traditional homelands. While the mascot was supposed to honor his roots and people, it misappropriated them.
“What mascots do is compile 500 nations into a stereotypical symbol,” said Stevens.
He adds, the mascot was not only stereotypical, it also wasn’t part of the school’s culture or incorporated into the curriculum. He says the mascot was largely acknowledged for entertainment purposes, not educational ones.
“The moral and ethical thing to do is not appropriate other cultures and lump us into one stereotype of 500 nations,” Stevens said. “That doesn’t even match who we are.”
A Danville senior brought these concerns to the Board in October, and others followed her lead.
“You know the mascot represents the school and the school is the students we have now,” said Mark Tucker, Superintendent of Caledonia-Central Supervisory Union. “A majority of students don’t feel that Indians is an appropriate representation. It doesn’t give them something they feel comfortable sharing,”
In the coming weeks, the school board and administration will appoint a committee to select a new mascot.