The Reconciliation of Indigenous Culture
BY NEHA PALADUGU '24
The story of the colonial and American colonialism is a subject that’s been covered in multiple school curricula since elementary school. You may have learned about how, thanks to the help of benevolent Native Americans, the thirteen colonies survived starvation and celebrated alongside their newfound friends during the first Thanksgiving. As much as the American education system covers colonialism, the colonists’ exploitation of Indigenous people is often glossed over in the name of patriotism. As the cradle of the United States, Massachusetts’ school districts, including AB and Brookline, have taken steps in an attempt to rectify their past ignorance.
For over 30,000 years, Indigenous peoples had inhabited the land the modern-day U.S. covers until they were forcibly removed by the new settlers. From genocide to induced wars and internment, their suffering was limitless at the hands of colonization. Still, Americans have historically denied responsibility by using insensitive language and appropriating Indigenous culture.
AB has been no exception. On the surface, the Colonial, AB’s former mascot, seems like a patriotic homage to the nation’s founders, but this naming minimized the experiences of Native Americans’ countless past struggles.
A similar situation has transpired with Brookline High School’s newspaper “The Sagamore.” In several Northeastern Native American tribes, “sagamore,” or “sachem,” is a term of honor given to the chief of a tribe. Faries Gray, the current Sagamore of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag, voiced his perspective on the newspaper’s title in a conversation with Brookline High School’s staff. Appropriation of Indigenous terms “remind him of this country’s brutal history of violence towards Indigenous people.” Gray continued: “When I see a school that has [us as their] mascot, honestly, I just feel like we’re trophies. They look at us like we are a trophy. Like, ‘look at this savage that we conquered.’ They’re not viewing us as human beings.” He concluded by asking people to have empathy and try to understand what Native Americans experienced and continue to go through.
Recently, AB students made a necessary change in the recognition and reconciliation of Indigenous culture. One example is the changing of AB’s mascot to The Revolution. Prompted by the Acton-Boxborough Students for Equity and Justice (ABSEJ), this change was enacted in hopes of establishing a mascot that better represented our community. The logo has changed to reflect more updated values, and all AB clothing and merchandise features the new branding.
Brookline High School has also changed its newspaper name after its cultural insensitivity was brought to its attention by representatives of the Indigenous community. These changes are only a start to treating the long-scarred wounds that the U.S. has inflicted on Indigenous peoples.
It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous people’s hardships have not ended. Their horrific and wrongly justified treatment in the past has set a basis for their experience in the present day; they continue to face hate and discrimination.
As the initial petition that advocated for the Colonial’s removal stated, a mascot like the Colonial “give[s] a likable face to a time period that set the stage for present-day racial divisions. Changing [it] is an ethical and educational action that will underscore the need to know real, and not sugar-coated, representations of the past."