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Letter to the Editor: Perhaps it’s Time to Retire ‘Warrior’ and ‘Chieftain’ Names

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West Hartford’s superintendent of schools, principals, teachers and the Board of Education deserve high praise, and deserve to be basking in the afterglow of a very successful commencement for Hall and Conard High School students. Given that the coronavirus pandemic is still posing a threat, they are of course all hard at work preparing for whatever may come next month when teachers return, and in September when the 2020-2021 school year begins.

That said, events in the news this week compelled me to re-raise an issue that I recognize is not as much a priority given the importance of securing everyone’s health. I was motivated by a message to the community  from Tom Moore himself, earlier this year, that racial inequality must be addressed wherever it is found.

To me and my very white family, the names of our two high school sports teams remain an embarrassment and a blot on our diverse community. Isn’t it time to retire the “Warriors” and “Chieftains” and other derogatory war-like references to Native Americans? I know there is a large, outspoken segment of our community that has fought all attempts to change these names, and that they cite the support of a Native American as evidence of those names being proud reminders of that culture. I’m also aware of how this was previously addressed. The result was a compromise that left the names intact, something I opposed, although not publicly.

I’ve been told the Board needs to hear from more than one voice to consider action again.  I’ll take that as a challenge to gather more voices for the names of our high school teams to be reconsidered in the months to come.

My bottom line: If the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians can take another look at changing their names, should we not, also?

Again, I respect that there are other, more pressing priorities right now; this is indeed a back burner issue for the Board, as I have been told. But to me, it is never too late to do the right thing.

I close with my thanks to everyone in the West Hartford Public Schools for all you do for our town’s school children and their families.

Dawn Ennis
West Hartford

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5 Comments

  • Should the Irish group The Chieftans change their name as well? Why would an everyday, anodyne word – warrior or chieftan – that is used in many contexts be considered derogatory to native Americans, especially now that the schools have eliminated the native American images associated with those names.

    • Speaking as an Irish-American woman, no. But why don’t you ask the Cleveland Indians why they may change their name even after removing the Chief Wahoo image?

      • Is Indian an everyday word, or does it directly specify a racial/ethnic group? If your last name is Masters or Masterson, should you change it because of its slavery connotation? If your last name is one that was ever a slave-owning family name, should you change it? (Check Ennis.) Do we need to change the names of the West Hartford streets that are named after Indian tribes? Where would this all end? Until we’ve virtue-signaled ourselves to a present with no relation to the past?

    • A Chieftian in Ireland has absolutely nothing to do with a Native American. Irish Chiefians were the the leaders of the respective clans of the High Kings.

    • A Chieftian in Ireland has absolutely nothing to do with a Native American. Irish Chiefians were the the leaders of the respective clans of the High Kings.

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