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Adults have turned our kids into pawns again ... this time in Killingly

And so, the latest episode of "You Can't Make This Up" comes from Killingly, where some newly elected politicos have ensured the high school football team, playing for a state championship Saturday, will do so without a nickname or mascot.

The Weston Trojans vs. The Killingly (TBAs).

Seems the previous Board of Education's act to get rid of the nickname "Redmen," an offensive term to native Americans (and a cause articulated quite deftly by some Killingly High students) wasn't good enough for the new board, whose members voted to rescind the new Red Hawks mascot Wednesday night.

They also couldn't agree to reinstate "Redmen," which will result in what one published report called "a special committee of both Democrats and Republicans to look into a new mascot."

The Norwich Bulletin reported that high school principal Elise Guari said the controversy "had overshadowed the achievements of the students this year," and that the students "have already adjusted to the new mascot."

Ah, but Ms. Guari, clearly a voice of reason in the wilderness here, should know by now that the kids don't count anymore. Not when self-indulgent adults can, as the Bulletin reported, call each other "racists" and "liberal communists" right there in public — in front of the kids — embarrassing and disgracing themselves to exponential levels.

So now we have high school kids sadly educated in Shakespeare's timeless question of "What's in a name?" In Killingly, the answer is bickering, backbiting and bloviating.

I remain bewildered by people in and out of Killingly who just can't comprehend that the term "Redmen" is offensive. Their argument unfailingly rests on "tradition," as if "tradition" trumps decades of negligence.

Some folks in Killingly may find what I did Thursday a bit radical. I shut my mouth and listened. No, really. I spoke to someone who has a background with Native Americans and Native American Studies.

Nick Fischer, the former superintendent of schools in New London, spent some of his younger life working on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana. He brought water to homes in towns with 100 people and one water pump. He helped make drainage pits near their homes for sinks and to dig pits for outhouses for homes where there were no toilets.

Fischer also taught Native American studies in the Minneapolis Public Schools, acquainting himself with Native American traditions throughout the upper Midwest.

I mean, his knowledge of Native Americans can't compare with the all-knowing folks of Killingly and their "traditions," after all, but here's what he said:

"The primary tribal groups for the eastern region of Connecticut historically were the Pequot-Mohegan," Fischer said. "If folks in Killingly want to have a mascot connected to the areas Native American history, totally appropriate names for the Killingly team might be the Pequot, which in Mohegan-Pequot means 'people of the wolf. The Mohegans often take it to mean 'people of the shallow water,' referring to the Long Island sound, or the Mashantucket, which in Pequot means 'people of the wooded land.'

"Generally tribal names in the tribal language mean 'the people' or 'the people of.' Examples are the Navajo who call themselves the 'Dine,' the Ojibwa of Minnesota who call themselves the 'Anishinaabe,' or the Sioux who call themselves the 'Lakotah' or 'Dakotah.'

"Using a term like the 'Redman.' which has historically often been used in connection with term 'dumb Indian' would be equivalent to calling a team ethnic slurs such as the Micks (the Irish) or the Polacks (the Poles).

"People may not intend to hurt others with mascots that are ethnic slurs but they also may not understand the history of the treatment of many Native American children and adults who were sent to 'mission schools' off the reservation and told that their culture and language had no value, and were punished for speaking their language."

I'm guessing this isn't the sort of conversation that happened Wednesday night in Killingly. And you can remain sure that Fischer's words will get dismissed by the same politicos whose words are fully substantiated by their own opinions.

Imagine if New York City ever adopted The Killingly Way. Imagine if New York's American League baseball team stopped being the "Yankees."

Joe DiMaggio would have been called "The Clipper."

People would go to Broadway to see the musical "Damn!"

The sounds of Fenway Park would be punctuated by the word "Suck!"

You laugh? Don't. Sometimes, sarcasm is used for effect. In this case, it's used to illustrate the utter absurdity that is Killingly, CT, today.

And once again, the kids are the pawns. The football team goes to play before the entire state Saturday with the adult-given present of no nickname. Other students who researched the "Redmen" nickname and asked it to be retired forever were just dismissed as irrelevant.

Nice message.

Now by all means, please form your committee and keep calling each other communists and racists. Terribly productive.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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