MONTVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) — Montville is the latest school district to get rid of a Native American mascot.
The Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the “Indians” nickname and mascot from Montville High School and the Leonard J. Tyl Middle School as well as any logos that include Native American images or symbols.
For generations, the Mohegan Tribe and the town have had a strong relationship and have worked together dating back as far as when that imagery was first developed to now. Superintendent Laurie Pallin said the Mohegan Tribe has offered to help cover some of the costs to replace the logos and uniforms.
“If we can’t find it in our hearts to show our Native friends in Connecticut that we understand and respect them, then how will we ever be able to teach our own children understanding and respect,” one woman said during the meeting.
Nobody who wanted to keep the name spoke at the meeting Tuesday night.
“I don’t even care if it’s politically incorrect, it’s just wrong,” Montville resident Patty Williamson said. “They can come up with something better.”
“I think it’s pretty said with all this woke nonsense,” Peter Corna, another Montville resident said. “I think it was a tribute to name a team mascot, Indians. It was a tribute to me. If it offends them then… I don’t see why… but if it offends them, then I guess they should change the name. You don’t want to go out of your way to hurt anybody.”
According to Montville Mayor Ron McDaniel, the town and Mohegan Tribe understand “… the use of names and imagery are nuanced, and that intention does matter.”
James Gessner Jr., the chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said their partnership is why it decided early on to work with the town, “… including helping to pay for any expenses related to any change.”
“We don’t want the use of the Indian name to be a polarizing issue for the town or the tribe and we recognize that our use of this nickname is not a Montville issue but a much more global decision,” Pallin said. “We are proud of Montville Public Schools’ relationship with the Mohegan Tribe, and I hope our community unites around the fact that we want to stand together with the tribe in making this change.”
“The Mohegan Tribe greatly values its relationship with the Town of Montville, which has spanned generations to the benefit of both our communities,” said Dr. Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, Chief of the Mohegan Tribe. “Those close ties have served as the foundation for an open and cooperative dialogue on the topic of school mascot names. In our discussions with Montville, we made it clear that we appreciate and applaud any community seeking to be more sensitive to the history of American Indians. Montville has always been that community.”
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, issued a statement Wednesday:
“We are pleased with the outcome in Montville. We respect the process followed there and applaud the Board’s decision to remove Native imagery from their schools. Mashantucket is grateful for the legislature’s move last year to bring this issue to the forefront, including by giving the effected tribal government the final say in the matter if towns and schools wish to maintain Native symbols and imagery for their athletic teams while continuing to receive support from the Pequot-Mohegan Fund. Native American history in Connecticut is extremely important to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and we hope that this decision will encourage other schools to remove Native-inspired mascots and imagery from their institutions.”
For now, the schools’ new logos will be a large orange “T” for Tyl or “M” for Montville.
Last year, a state law was passed determining any public schools which use Native American names of imagery for mascots, nicknames, logos or team names could lose state funding in 2023, and that funding would come from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes.
Montville stood to lose more than $1.4 million in funding from the state if they kept the “Indians” name.
Killingly, which changed its Redmen nickname to Red Hawks then changed it back, is among a few schools that could still lose funding under the 2021 law.
“My point is it’s just that I respect them, and if that’s not what they want to use, then just go with it,” Montville resident Terrie Leslie-Liebig said. “Why fight it?”
The video below is from a News 8 newscast on March 15, 2022.