The Manchester Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to change the high school’s mascot from “Indians” to “Red Hawks.”
The vote was a culmination of a movement started by a group of students seeking a change based on the cultural insensitivity of the Indians nickname. The Student Activist Team surveyed fellow students and staff, polling for a new name over the past few months.
The school community ultimately favored Red Hawks over Red Lions. Superintendent Matthew Geary said the school will move ahead with Red Hawks as it seeks a new logo.
The meeting Monday night followed a community forum last week. Some alumni and community members spoke out against the move, both at the forum and on social media.
“Many students, staff, parents, alumni and community members attended the [Monday] meeting and spoke in favor of a Board vote to change our mascot to a symbol that is positive and unifying,” Manchester High principal Katelyn Miner said in an email to the school community. “Some attended and shared their desire to keep the Indian mascot. The discourse was respectful and participants actively listened throughout the evening. …
“Last week during the community forum students leaned into discomfort to engage fellow citizens in conversation about equity, race, and change. During the public comment session this evening I observed students clap, snap, and cheer as their teachers and peers exercised their right to share public comment as citizens of Manchester. At the Board recess following the vote I watched as our students interacted respectfully with community members who held opposing viewpoints and thanked them for participating in the conversation.”
Manchester first used the Indian mascot in 1949. But the brand has been re-emphasized in recent years, as a logo of a Native American figure was replaced by a red “M” insignia.
Geary, the former principal, acknowledged that administration supported a change. Miner is a graduate of the school and has also spoke out in support of a change.
The Activist Team — along with other students — argued that the school was without a mascot to embrace, so re-branding was the only option.
Manchester, one of the largest high schools in Greater Hartford, is the latest school to address the issue of Native American mascots. Newtown shifted from Indians to Nighthawks in 1996 and Quinnipiac abandoned Braves for Bobcats in 2002.
In 2015, West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic changed from Indians to Lions. That same year, the town’s public high schools — Hall (Warriors) and Conard (Chieftains) — changed their logos while retaining their nicknames.
In April, the Maine state senate voted to ban the use of Native Americans in logos, nicknames or mascots.