Tell the MA Senate Ways & Means Committee: Amend the Native American Mascots Bill!

Action Alert Published on 6/12/2020

The Joint Committee on Education voted the mascot bill favorably out of its committee to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This is a step forward in removing Native American mascots in Massachusetts; however, the Joint Committee weakened the bill by amending the text.

Instead of clearly prohibiting the use of Native American mascots in the Commonwealth, the amended bill now provides that “no public school uses an athletic team name, mascot, or logo which denigrates any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group.”

This new language severely weakens the bill by: 

  • Erasing language specifying Native Americans avoids acknowledgement of racism directed towards them as a public health crisis.
  • The word “denigrates” will cause confusion by being too subjective (especially since many non-Native people believe that these mascots “honor” Native Americans), and
  • The phrase “any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group” is overly broad and contradicts the purpose and name of the bill, which is focused specifically on Native American mascots.

Additionally, many Native American Tribes and Nations and individual Native Americans located and living within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts support the original text and oppose the amended text.

Letters have been issued by the Chappaquiddick Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation, Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe/Nation, and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to call for a prohibition on all Native American sport team mascots, logos, and nicknames in Massachusetts public schools:

Chappaquiddick Mascot Letter
Herring Pond Mascot Letter
Mashpee Mascot Letter

Finally, the Joint Committee also removed paragraph 5 of the original bill, which recognized that Native Tribal Nations with their own sports teams should have the ability to choose their own mascots without limitation, as part of their right to self-determination.

We call on the Massachusetts State legislators to amend the language of Bill S.2593 “An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth” back to its original language.

Use the Action Network form to send your letter, or use the email template and contact information further down the page.

Prefer to not use the form? You can find the email template and contact information for the Senate Ways and Means Committee below:

Sample Letter

Dear members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee:

I am a resident of (town), Massachusetts. I am writing in support of Bill S.2593 “An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth,” as it was originally drafted. I am a (parent, teacher, therapist, of indigenous descent, social worker, lawyer, etc.) and I call on the Committee to forward the bill out of your committee after amending the bill back to its original language.

The original language of the bill should be used because (1) many Native American Tribes and Nations and individual Native Americans located and living within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts support the original language; (2) the word “denigrates” will cause confusion by being open to interpretation; (3) the phrase “any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group” is too broad and is not consistent with the purpose and name of the bill; (4) and paragraph 5 of the original bill should be put back in its entirety because each Native Tribal Nation should be allowed to use the names they so choose as part of their right to self-determination.

The current language in Section 98 (a) of the bill states, “no public school uses an athletic team name, mascot, or logo which denigrates any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group.” (emphasis added). The original text provided “no public school uses an athletic team name, logo, or mascot which names, refers to, represents, or is associated with Native Americans, including aspects of Native American cultures and specific Native American tribes.”  What is most concerning about the changes to this language is the word “denigrates.” This word will cause confusion by allowing for different interpretations of what “denigrates.” Schools using Native mascots will argue that their use of a Native mascot does not insult or misrepresent Native Americans, but rather “honors” them (a claim which is inconsistent with the research findings).

Moreover, the phrase “any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group” is too broad. There are no mascots in Massachusetts among public schools, which implicate any other contemporary racial group. There are no other racial, ethnic, or religious groups in Massachusetts that are complaining about mascots that supposedly depict their likeness. Given this, there is no need for the overly broad standard. Further, the purpose and name of this bill is to prohibit the use of Native American mascots by public schools in the Commonwealth. Using the unnecessarily broad language that does not specify Native Americans will take away from the aim of the bill.  

Finally, paragraph 5 of the original bill states:

This section shall not prohibit a Native American tribe, as identified by the commission on Indian affairs, located within the boundaries of the commonwealth, from choosing to use a Native-related name or logo for a sports team comprised of its tribal members, including a tribal school or intramural league, or from that tribal nation giving explicit consent for a school to use their particular tribal name.

This section should be put back in its entirety. As part of each tribe’s right to self-determination, they must be allowed to use the names they so choose.

Research findings reveal that Native American mascots are harmful to Native American youth because they generate a harmful climate for learning, and that they are also harmful to non-Native youth because they reinforce stereotypes of Native Americans. Thus, these mascots are not educationally sound, and should be removed from our public schools. The best way to make sure they are no longer present in our schools is to use the specific and clear language that bans their use. Please forward this bill out of committee and amend the bill back to the original language. 

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address, Phone, Email

Senate Ways and Means Committee Members to Contact

Michael J. Rodrigues – Chair
Cindy F. Friedman – Vice Chair
Jason M. Lewis – Assistant Vice Chair

1) Michael J. Barrett
2) Joseph A. Boncore
3) Michael D. Brady
4) Nick Collins
5) Barry R. Finegold
6) Anne M. Gobi
7) Adam G. Hinds
8) Patricia D. Jehlen
9) Eric P. Lesser
10) Joan B. Lovely
11) Michael O. Moore
12) Michael F. Rush
13) Patrick M. O’Connor
14) Ryan C. Fattman
15) Dean A. Tran

Emails: Michael.Rodrigues@masenate.gov; Cindy.Friedman@masenate.gov; Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov; Mike.Barrett@masenate.gov; Joseph.Boncore@masenate.gov; Michael.Brady@masenate.gov; Nick.Collins@masenate.gov; Barry.Finegold@masenate.gov; Anne.Gobi@masenate.gov; Adam.Hinds@masenate.gov; Patricia.Jehlen@masenate.gov; Eric.Lesser@masenate.gov; Joan.Lovely@masenate.gov; Michael.Moore@masenate.gov; Mike.Rush@masenate.gov; Patrick.Oconnor@masenate.gov; Ryan.Fattman@masenate.gov; Dean.Tran@masenate.gov

In your email, please also cc Senate President Karen Spilka: Karen.Spilka@masenate.gov