Educate, Engage, Activate

Winchester Sachem: An Inclusive Dialogue about Native Mascot Change

By Katherine Herlihy, Network Intern

On Wednesday the 17th, the Winchester Student Allies for Native Mascot Change (WSANMC), in conjunction with the Network, hosted a discussion about racism and the Winchester Sachem mascot. Panelists included: Elizabeth Solomon, Ed Harris and Rhonda Anderson.

Nearly one hundred people attended the event, including some Winchester Public School administrators and members of the School Committee.  There were questions about Native mascots and how to better honor Native Americans, and the speakers delivered answers such as “If you want to honor Massachusett people, you should get to know us.”

Ed Harris and Elizabeth Solomon are members of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, and Rhonda is an Alaskan Native Iñupiaq living in western Massachusetts. Elizabeth Solomon is Assistant Director of Academic Affairs and Fellowship Programs at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and has a long tenure there. Ed’s name in his native language is Quantakaman Paucottauwa, which means Running Dear Come Home, and he teaches math in the Boston Public School system. Rhonda is the Western Massachusetts Commissioner to Indian Affairs and works with local schools to educate students about Native Americans.

This virtual discussion was the first large-scale event since the facilitated conversation about mascots and Native American representation, held at the Winchester Unitarian Society in March, with Faries Gray, a resident of Woonsocket, RI and Sagamore (or “War Chief”) of the Massachusett Tribe and Jon Swan, a local Winchester resident, Network Board member, and enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. The March conversation marked the formal creation of the WSANMC group and its working relationship with the Network. 

The WSANMC is focused on education about Winchester’s history and Native American history and seeks to implement a new mascot. Having members of the community listen to Native Americans speak about racism, discrimination against Native peoples, and the impact of having Native mascots is an important step in reaching that goal. The WSANMC views the recent conversation as a first step in educating the public and gaining more community support for an eventual change.

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