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Bill Would Ban Native American Mascots In Mass. Public Schools

A bill that would ban the use of Native American mascots in Massachusetts public schools was the subject of a public hearing at the State House Tuesday.

The push comes after Tewksbury officials rebuffed efforts last year to change the name of their Redmen mascot.

Parents appealed to state lawmakers, arguing the mascots perpetuate stereotypes and harm Native Americans.

"There is harm," Tewksbury resident Linda Thomas, who requested the legislation, told WBUR before the hearing. "And Native Americans have been saying that since the 1960s. Also language changes over time. I mean there's a big difference in our culture of the past 20, 30 years in terms of how we talk about minority groups."

Several people who spoke during the hearing said the mascots, especially when accompanied by a cartoon logo, perpetuate an inaccurate stereotype of Native Americans.

Jason Packineau, of Lincoln, said Native Americans like himself did not create these mascots.

"This is my identity, this is my history, and I want to be represented accurately," Packineau said.

Opponents say mascots become part of a school's culture and aren't intended to be demeaning.

Wilmington state Rep. Jim Miceli, whose district includes Tewksbury, opposes the bill.

"I'm hoping you give it an unfavorable and Tewksbury will continue to be called the Redmen," he told the committee that hosted Tuesday's hearing.

The bill defines a Native American mascot as a "name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name."

The bill gives specific examples, including "Redskins," "Savages," "Indians," "Chieftains," "Braves" or "Redmen."

Thomas says there are 40 public schools in Massachusetts that use such mascots.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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