Mighty Red Pen

March 26, 2008

If I were a Natick Redman

Filed under: Word wars — mighty red pen @ 6:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

In a disappointing but not wholly unexpected result, Natick voters yesterday approved — by a 2-1 margin! — a nonbinding ballot question that asks the town’s school committee to take a new look at its decision to do away with the Natick Redmen. The name of the town’s school sports teams is considered by many to be offensive, racist, and demeaning (and, MRP thinks, sexist).

The pro-mascot supporters have two main arguments: it’s tradition and it was not intended to be offensive. As one article states:

Redmen traditionalists say the name is part of town history and refers to red athletic jerseys, not the Native Americans who settled in this Boston suburb in the 1600s.

Football fans wearing Indian headdresses with their faces painted have been a common sight along the playing fields in this sports-crazy suburb. During the debate over the name, bumper stickers bearing the slogan “Once a Redman, Always a Redman” were often seen on cars traveling on Main Street.

MRP finds the tradition argument specious and disingenuous. The actual traditional name of the Natick sports teams is the Red and the Blue; the Redmen name has only been traditional for about fifty years.

As for the other argument — that offense was not intended — as we also know, words have power. Regardless of the intent with which the Natick Redmen were named, we must also consider how the name is now perceived. (Read another article here about what local Native Americans have to say about this issue.)

Well maybe it’s because we’ve been listening to too much “Fiddler on the Roof” at la casa de MRP, but all day I’ve been wanting to rename Natick Anatevka for the 6,000+ Tevyes that apparently live here.

But even Tevye knew which traditions were worth hanging on to, and which were worth letting go. And this, I think, is worth letting go.

Update 3/27/08: “Natick vote won’t delay Redmen name change”



  1. My family and I have been quiet until now. We are indians who are 3 generation Natick residents. We are Mic Mac indian and members of the Shuenacadie tribe in Nova Scotia. We will be coming out in support of Natick using the logo. We have never found it offensive and neither do any card carrying natives we know mind. This all is the work of a bunch of activists….

    We have always been proud to be part of Natick’s Redmen, we wish people would have asked us if we minded.

    Darren James

    Comment by DJ — May 11, 2008 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Darren, Thanks for commenting, it’s interesting to hear your point of view. Do you mean you wish people had asked you personally? Natick residents have had many opportunities to have their voices heard, including the forum last week specificially on this issue. I have heard that Chief Caring Hands has come out against the name, and at the recent forum, Mary Anne Hendricks of the Nipmuc Council spoke about why she opposes the name.

    As with everything, there are two sides — just as there are former athletes who are diehard supporters, there are former athletes (like the one who raised the question in the first place) who abhor the name. You make a good point that pro-mascot/pro-change sides are not as clearly delineated as some would like to believe.

    “The work of a bunch of activists”? You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    Comment by mighty red pen — May 11, 2008 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

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