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Killingly: the home of true Native American expertise

So let me get this straight: A professional football team from Washington, D.C. recently rid itself of a name offensive to Native Americans (and many others).

Guilford High School, undergoing the same epiphany as many other schools throughout the country, just ditched "Indians" as its mascot.

Mohegan Chief Lynn Malerba told The Day earlier this year, "It is the position of the Mohegan Tribe that the use of American Indian mascots and American Indian named teams be discontinued. While the stated intent may be to 'honor' American Indians, there is great potential for less than respectful behaviors to occur in conjunction with these mascots."

Nipmuc Nation, a tribe indigenous to central Massachusetts, northeastern Connecticut and northwestern Rhode Island, wrote the following to the Killingly school board: "The Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council has very publicly decried the use of Native American mascots, even when the organization using said mascots believes that they are in some way flattering or used as a means of honoring Native Americans. Native American mascots, often portrayed as caricatures or cartoons, are demeaning to Native Americans and it is our opinion that they should not be used."

And still, Killingly persists with use of its old mascot, a name which will not be used here in The Day.

I had this thought the other day, perhaps spawned from my reckless idealism: Maybe the actions of the Washington football team and from the Guilford school system would deliver a blinding flash of obvious to the Killingly school board.

So I sent an e-mail to school board chairman Douglas Farrow on Sunday night. Here is what I wrote:

"Hi Mr. Farrow — Given that the Washington (football team) changed its name last week, I'm wondering if any more talk has surfaced about Killingly moving away from (the existing mascot). — Mike DiMauro, The Day."

Now for today's stunning upset: No response yet.

On vacation and not checking e-mails? Perhaps. Embarrassed that neither he nor his colleagues can mount a defense that passes the laugh test? I'll take the latter.

So isn't it time the people of Killingly grew a backbone and stood up to their hallowed leaders once and for all? I understand that it's hard for some people to accommodate new information and changing circumstances. But if we haven't learned anything else during these days of social reform, we should have learned this:

We do not live another person's truth. We have not experienced what they have. And we need to start respecting their opinions, regardless of whether we agree with them. It's called being human.

One of the things that amuses me about our country: The number of people who have never been part of a minority anything — and have a hard time tolerating people who are — who still influence public opinion and policy. Everything they say is substantiated by nothing more than their own opinions. And yet we entertain them as if there's some educational and cultural value to their whims.

I found this quote on npr.org from Killingly school board member Norm Ferron, who voted to reinstate the offensive logo, rather than keep "Red Hawks," the mascot the kids of Killingly researched and recommended to the old board.

"I felt like the whole thing was rushed and a lot of misinformation was put out and a lot of emotional knee-jerk reactions were looked at instead of basically looking at the facts," Mr. Ferron said.

And what facts are those, Mr. Ferron?

That Chief Malerba recommends the use of Native American mascots stop?

That Nipmuc Nation says the same?

Or this: Paul Freeman, Superintendent of Schools in Guilford, said recently after receiving a letter from the Mashantucket Pequots, "I think it has become unavoidably obvious that the reality and offense that is delivered or perceived is substantially more important than the intention that exists behind the moniker."

So you, Mr. Ferron — and your colleagues — presume to know more about Native American traditions than Native Americans?

Holy Hubris, Batman.

I eagerly await a return e-mail, phone call, test or even Morse Code from the dramatis personae in Killingly. Go ahead. Defend your position. Educate me about Native Americans. I'm waiting.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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