Student fan groups at Conard and Hall high schools have decided not to order t-shirts with Native American names or images.
By Ronni Newton
Student fan groups at both West Hartford’s public high schools made decisions Monday to abandon plans to purchase and wear t-shirts with graphics of Indian heads and both plan to operate under names that do not have Native American connotations.
At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, Conard’s fan group called itself the “The Red C,” abandoning its former name, “The Tribe.” Conard introduced a new logo over the summer, in response to the West Hartford Board of Education’s vote to allow the school to retain its Chieftain name as long as Native American imagery was not used. As an officially-sanctioned school club, The Red C was impacted by the Board of Education policy.
Last week, student leaders of the fan group began taking orders for shirts that said “Return of the Tribe” and included an Indian head image. The fan group planned to disassociate itself as an official school club.
On Monday, the students made the decision to use The Red C name and will be voting on the design for new t-shirts that will not include any Native American imagery.
Monday night, the Red C issued the following statement: “We are happy to move past this issue and continue as The Red C, cheering for the Conard Chieftains.”
Student Council Co-Presidents Brian Wilson and Mamata Malla wrote a letter to all Conard students on Friday, asking them to reconsider the shirts with the Indian heads and Tribe name. They feared that if the student group blatantly ignored the Board’s policy, Conard would officially lose the privilege of being called Chieftains, which is a “privilege, not a right,” Wilson said.
“Whether we are called the Red C or the Tribe, if these new shirts with Native American imagery are ordered and worn, current and future Conard students could lose the opportunity to be represented by the proud Chieftain name,” Wilson and Malla wrote in the letter.
Wilson said Monday that he was very happy with the outcome after learning of The Red C’s decision.
“Unfortunately this past week Conard was put in a negative light. It is tough to see your school being talked about negatively when I know our school is filled with so many great students. It is times like these when the students of Conard are very impressive and show maturity a lot of people like to think high schoolers don’t have,” Wilson said.
“The problem was rooted in a lack of understanding. Now that we are more aware of the policy and what it means, we are all as a school and town more conscious of our actions and are able to prevent problems like this from happening in the future,” said Wilson.
Hall High School also introduced a new logo over the summer. The school had officially abandoned its Native American imagery in 2012, but it had been used unofficially by the student fan group, “The Rez,” which was not an officially-sanctioned school club.
A representative of Hall’s student fan group could not be reached Monday night for comment, but the group has abandoned the name “The Rez,” and changed its Twitter handle to “Hall Super Fans.” The group is conducting a poll on Twitter for a new name, with choices that include Blue Reign, Blue Wagon, Blue Battalion, and Blue Crew.
According to a tweet from Hall Super Fans, “The shirts with the [Native American] logo were never sold nor worn by anyone, and we are not selling them.”
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