Published in the April 20, 2017 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — As part of our coverage of the April 25 Town Election, the Daily Item posed a set of questions to the candidates running for the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee. We are publishing their responses all this week.
Today, we turned our attention to the five candidates running for School Committee: Christopher Callanan, Ashley Chase, Anne Fortier, Evan Kenney and Greg Powers. We asked them to weigh in on the following question:
There is currently a bill in the state legislature to do away with Native American school team names and logos. But in a recent letter to Item Forum one of Wakefield’s most prominent citizens, who also is of Native American Descent, said that far from being offended, he was proud and honored that American Indians are recognized in this manner. Would you support changing the Wakefield Warrior team name or logo?
Incumbent School Committee member Christopher Callanan said that he sees no need to change the logo or name.
“While this question has gained some notoriety in some communities around the country, I don’t think there is an outcry in Wakefield to change anything,” Callanan said. “I have not in all the time I have been on the Wakefield School Committee received a single request to change the logo. Wakefield’s own Dick Bayrd has stated that he has never felt slighted by the emblem and as you state supports keeping as it is, so I would not support forcing a change. If there comes a time when it is an issue then we should let the public decide. I do not see a value of creating a problem where one does not seem to exist.”
Candidate Ashley Chase said that she would defer to Native American opinion on the matter.
“If this legislation is passed at the state level, of course we will need to respond as mandated,” Chase said. “My personal opinion is that I do not have the right to have an opinion on this topic. I am not a Native American and therefore I would turn to our Native American citizens to find out what they prefer. If our Wakefield citizens who are of Native American descent feel honored by being recognized, then I would hope that we would continue to honor them. If they feel offended, I am sure our town would choose to respond appropriately.”
Anne Fortier believes that the question warrants a community discussion.
“The issue of teams using logos and nicknames that use Nation American symbols and imagery is not a new one,” Fortier observed. “I believe that this is a discussion that must take place within our Wakefield community in an open and public forum. While I have a great deal of respect for the views of the individual highlighted in the question, it is critical that all voices are heard. Also, I believe that this is a discussion that should take place because the citizens and students of Wakefield have a vested interest in the topic rather than simply in response to a potential law or regulation.
“My hometown of Sanford, Maine had been the Sanford Redskins for decades. In 2012 the school committee voted to change the nickname and they are now known as the Spartans. While there was a substantial opposition from alums, many of the then current high school students supported the change. According to reports, students felt that while respect for tradition is important, it is equally or more important to provide an inclusive environment for all students,” Fortier added. “Changing the nickname and logo was a step in this direction.”
Evan Kenney answered the question with an unequivocal “No.”
“I’m a proud Warrior,” Kenney said. “And rather than telling us what to do with our mascots, or giving themselves massive pay raises, I think legislators would better serve their districts if they focused on the needs of our schools, instead of on our mascots or their own wallets.”
Greg Powers was also firmly against changing the Warrior team name or logo.
“I am not in favor of replacing the Wakefield Warrior,” Powers said.
“American Indians are entrenched in our history and have a special meaning here in Massachusetts. Christopher Columbus, Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower, and Thanksgiving it all started here. Two groups
coming together to learn from each other. As a boy scout I would go camping at Camp Massasoit several times a year. We learned about American Indians and studied skills taken from American Indian culture.
“We are honoring the symbol of the American Indian that is Pride, Honor, Loyalty and Commitment. The title Wakefield Warrior is part of our town’s identity. Over the years I have coached many young athletes. They aspired to be Wakefield Warriors someday and represent our town and its schools on the athletic field. Our students are proud to be Wakefield Warriors and know that this identity will be with them well after they graduate. We see them every year at the Thanksgiving Day game wearing Warrior apparel with pride. Many parents and adults also display Warrior pride with a big red W placed on car windows or wearing sweat shirts and fleece warm ups. I have a Wakefield Warrior sweat shirt and my wife has a warm up jacket that we wear. We have two boys in our schools that play sports and are proud Warriors,” Powers added. “We are a Wakefield Warrior Family.”