WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – There is a new twist to the controversy over Native American mascots at high schools. A tribal leader is saying to not get rid of all the names.

At a heated Board of Education meeting in West Hartford, the leader of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation told the crowd that getting rid of nicknames is the first step in erasing Native American history completely.

In West Hartford, the Board of Education voted to retire the names Warriors and Chieftains from Hall and Conard high schools, but Chief Richard Velky urged the town to keep the names, which he believes are honorary and not demeaning.

“We are honored in one sense that out of all the names that you could choose, you choose to represent Native Americans. Don’t disregard that, don’t abuse it, don’t diminish it, and that’s what you’re doing when you strip it,” Velky said.

There is a petition to let voters decide, and they have already collected more than 1,500 signatures. To force a referendum, 3,000 signatures are needed, and the petition must be signed in person.

Under town guidelines, the petition can’t be posted online. If you’re interested, you can contact organizers at HallConardUnited@gmail.com.