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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Montville Board of Education discontinues Indians name

    Montville — The school district's athletic teams will no longer be called "the Indians" and will now be referred to as "Montville." The middle school and high school logos will have no Native American symbols and will simply be a T or M.

    The Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to discontinue the Indians nickname at Tyl Middle School and the high school, with no discussion or comments among members.

    The board delayed making a decision at its Feb. 23 meeting after some of its members and people in the audience objected to the superintendent's recommendation to discontinue the name. Tuesday was the deadline for the school board to submit a certification form about its plans to the state's manager of intergovernmental affairs.

    The school board was faced with making the decision after a budget law passed last summer would allow $1.4 million in funding to be withheld from Montville's school district for its use of a Native American-related name as soon as June 2023. On Tuesday, The board had to inform the state of the district's intent to change the nickname unless it had written permission from tribes to keep them.

    At Tuesday's meeting, Superintendent of Schools Laurie Pallin again stated the board did not receive a letter of consent from the Mohegan Tribe. She reiterated her recommendation and said she, the mayor and the tribe have held conversations about the matter for years.

    "In our conversations we are all in agreement that the value between the town, the schools and the tribe is much more important than the use of a nickname," Pallin said. "And we all agree that we don't want the use of the Indian nickname to be a polarizing issue between the town and the tribe."

    Pallin added she also recognized the use of the Indian nickname is not a Montville-specific decision but is a larger national issue. She said the schools would continue to have the tribe's partnership and support, such as helping the district with the costs to change the name.

    She clarified Tuesday that the names of roads and boroughs were not under consideration with this decision and Mohegan Elementary would keep its name after receiving approval from the tribe.

    Lauren Terni, one of the residents that spoke out at the Feb. 23 meeting against discontinuing the nickname, sent a correspondence email to the school board in anticipation of Tuesday's meeting. That letter was read aloud by the board.

    Terni extended thanks to the board for allowing "a window of time" for the tribal members in her family to have conversations with members of the tribe regarding the removal of the Indians name. "It is with regret that they have come to accept the reality of the situation, but understanding of the larger picture that the Tribe has prioritized," her email read.

    "The Mohegan Tribe greatly values its relationship with the town, which has spanned generations to the benefit of both our communities," the Mohegan Tribe's Chief Marilynn "Lynn" Malerba said in a news release Tuesday night. "Those close ties have served as the foundation for an open and cooperative dialogue on the topic of school mascot names. In our discussions with the town, we made it clear that we appreciate and applaud any community seeking to be more sensitive to the history of American Indians. Montville has always been that community."

    "It is not the role of our Tribe to be the arbiter for each Connecticut municipality making decisions about mascot names," James Gessner Jr., chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said in the release. "This partnership is also why our Tribe committed early on to work with the Montville community should it decide to make changes, including helping to pay for any expenses related to any change. We were proud to hear that the honorific names of schools, roads and boroughs were never under consideration."

    "Our people and our communities will remain united in our desire to have all our children grow, learn, and respect one another," Malerba added. "We look forward to our continued work and partnership with our neighbors."

    "The town and our Board of Education have undertaken a thoughtful conversation on this topic over many months, and we greatly appreciate our neighbors and friends in the Mohegan Tribe being a part of this dialogue," Mayor Ronald McDaniel said in the release. "We also both understood that the use of names and imagery are nuanced, and that intention does matter. I appreciate the Tribe's thoughtful approach to these matters and their input. Neither the Town nor the Tribe asked to be put in this position."

    j.vazquez@theday.com

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