NEWINGTON – The Newington High School Indians have had their last hurrah. After 50-plus years, the mascot used to represent the school community and its sports teams is on its way out.
The Board of Education discussed the issue at its meeting Monday night, after former board Chairman Joshua Shulman brought it to their attention.
“Over the years I have had conversations with members of the public and fellow board members about this topic,” Shulman wrote in a letter to the Newington Town Crier and other local media. “Our mascot is a people,” he said. “Our mascot subjugates an entire population. It’s wrong and it needs to change.”
A committee will convene this fall to begin the process of selecting a new mascot and rebranding the school, according to Superintendent Dr. Maureen Brummett.
“The Board and I felt that we have to focus on the Reopen Task Force right now, but in the fall, we could begin this process,” Brummett said Tuesday. “In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to use the letter “N” in lieu of the Indian on all of our merchandise, websites and signage.”
Brummett said she does not believe the mascot was ever created with ill intent.
“However, given the ongoing local and national concerns with equity and dignity for all races and ethnicities, I don’t believe continuing to use the Indian as our mascot is appropriate in a district that promotes and supports culturally responsive practices,” she explained.
The Sachem of the Wangunk peoples represents the school mascot. He originally sold the land on which Newington stands to the settlers, historical records indicate.
The logo used to appear as the head of a Native American wearing a feathered headdress. In more recent years, the school started using the blue and gold ‘N’ instead. However, teams are still known as the NHS Indians.
“We’re halfway there but were still the home of the Indians,” Shulman said. “It doesn’t feel right.”
He served on the BOE from 2011 to 2019, as chairman the last two years. The issue remained on his conscience when he left to focus on family and professional commitments last year,
Since then, Shulman and his wife had a son, Ezra, now nine months old.
“I feel now more than ever that it’s important to set a good example when something’s not right,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it causes a controversy, if people get upset or if it takes a lot of work. I hope as my son grows up he knows that doing the right thing isn’t always easy. I took the easy route and I want to fix my mistake.”
NHS boys volleyball coach Curt Burns shared his dislike of the symbol with the Herald back in April. Burns said he hopes to see Newington follow in the footsteps of other towns that have done away with potentially offensive mascots related to Connecticut’s tribal history.
“I would like to see it changed,” the coach said. “I’ve never been in favor of it. There’s so many of them in Connecticut, but they’re falling by the wayside, which is a good thing.”
A mascot committee will be formed to begin its work in September. Any community members interested in participating are asked to contact the Superintendent’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.