WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Two West Hartford high schools are in the process of changing their names that have a connection to Native Americans. But a petition is now circulating in the community trying to stop it.
It’s the Warriors at Hall High School and the Chieftans at Conard High School. An alum has organized a petition to stop the Board of Education from changing their names. The BOE says the names are insensitive to Native Americans but are they really?
“They have a minority viewpoint, but they have all the control and they say, so we the people are pushing back,” said Scott Zweig.
Scott Zweig, a 2001 Hall High School graduate, created a petition in retaliation against the BOE’s February vote to change the high school names.
“We’re not just going to give up because a new name has been chosen. The names Warrior [and] Cheiftan are deeply rooted in this community. We plan to keep them, fight for them,” Zweig said.
“We don’t want you to forget about us and I think it’s a way to have us erased by taking us away,” said Chief Richard Velky.
Chief Richard Velky is the leader of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Kent. He sees this nationwide trend of removing names and imagery as another genocide of the Native American people.
“That’s what I’m afraid of us by disallowing the symbols, the names, the end realm to back to how it was originally,” Chief Velky said.
The BOE is currently considering alternative names at both high schools, seeking input from students. Dozens of CT schools have removed Native American mascots in the last two years.
It was last year that the legislation passed a provision to withhold slot machine revenue from Connecticut’s two tribal casinos from any towns whose schools continue to use Native American mascots. Because of this, West Hartford would lose $28,000 annually.
Although Zweig claims the town could still receive funding with the Schaghticoke Tribal Council’s broad resolution in March allowing Connecticut schools to continue to use their names and imagery.
With this petition, they need as least 3,002 signatures for the town council to take action on it. If they don’t, Zweig said they should get a referendum.
Organizers told News 8 they already have more than 500 signatures.