By Abby Van Duyn, ’24
School and professional sports teams that use Native American mascots have grown more controversial in recent years. After years of criticism that their team name was offensive, the Washington Redskins of the National Football League retired their mascot in July and spent the season known as the Washington Football Team. In December, the Cleveland Indians pro baseball team announced plans to phase out its name, its logo featuring a red-faced cartoon chief, and the “tomahawk chop” often used as a rally cry by its fans.
The debate came to a head in Hanover last year when the community began to look at its symbol, the Indian, which has represented the schools for decades. Some people in Hanover argued that the Indian mascot was disrespectful as well as historically inaccurate, while others believed that it was a long-standing town tradition that honored our local Native American heritage. For many, the symbol – rendered in recent years as a blue and gold H with a Native American headdress – was a source of pride that united generations of students. When people thought of the “Hanover Indian,” they thought of so many winning athletes and sports teams over many years.
After much debate, the School Committee voted to retire the mascot in August of 2020. The change to team uniforms and school logos has been estimated to cost up to $100,000, but district officials stated that they were persuaded after hearing from local Native Americans and students who felt that the old mascot was problematic. The decision kicked off a months-long effort to choose a new mascot that included more than 400 submissions such as the Anchors, the United, the Hornets, and the Huskies. On New Year’s Day 2021, the school district announced the new selection: the Hanover Hawks.
After a couple of months to get used to the change, many students approve.
“I definitely like the new mascot,” said freshman Izzy Maclellan, “and it makes me feel better that we have a new mascot that isn’t offensive to a culture.”
“I like the Hanover Hawks because of the alliteration,” said Maeve Sullivan, a sophomore. “I think it sounds nice.”
“I wish it was the Huskies but I’m glad we changed from the Indians because I never realized how offensive and disrespectful it was,” said Sam Curtis, a freshman.
Other students aren’t happy with the change.
“I think that with everything that happened last year, the (George Floyd racism) riots and stuff, that our mascot has just been a positive representation of different races,” said freshman Abby Smith. “We represent the Indians who lived in Massachusetts, and it feels wrong to change it because we were representing someone in a positive way.”