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Reader seeks public comments – pro or con – on her group’s efforts to preserve the Saugus Sachem

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Dear Editor:

  My attached article is in response to the efforts to remove the Saugus Sachem from Saugus High School.

  I also would like to clarify Ms. Two Trees-McGrath’s native heritage claim. Her father was an Arawak Native of the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean – not a Native American.

  There are many of us who know the history of our town and we love, respect, and appreciate our Native American heritage as it is also part of our culture as well. Our Saugus Sachem is the official seal on all our town documents, the Celebration of 1915 was full of references about our Native Americans and the name Sachem appears throughout our town at many diverse levels.

  This bond between our two cultures goes as far back as 1629 when Native Americans and colonists celebrated their unity all the way back to their beginning.

  If you would like to express your opinion, pro or con, or join our group to preserve the Saugus Sachem, please email me at jaroszjanice87@gmail.com

Janice K. Jarosz

  (The following story was taken from an article entitled “News.” that appeared in the Saugus High School newspaper on February 14, 2007. Saugus Sachem symbol of conflict)

The ‘Sign’ of the Times?

By Janice K. Jarosz

  SAUGUS: The town of Saugus has a long and proud identification with Native American culture. It has adopted the term ‘Sachem,’ in meaning respected elder of the tribe and not only as its official town logo, but as the name for its high school athletic teams.

  Its yearbook is called the Tontoquonian. Everywhere you go even on street signs you see the familiar side-view Native American profile, complete with head dress. Officials see this entirely as a measure of respect and a reflection of the town’s roots. Native American representatives do not share the same view. This dichotomy of viewpoints came into focus earlier this month. At a meeting of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s sportsmanship committee, Peter Roby of the Northeastern University Center for Sports and Society argued that member schools with Native American nicknames and logos should do away with them. He based his argument on an NCAA edict two years ago that banned offensive Native American nicknames and logos, yet NCAA schools still sport Native American logos.

  The MIAA does not feel as if it has the jurisdiction to force schools into changing their names.

  And, in the case of Saugus, School Superintendent Keith Manville, who is on the committee, makes a distinction between schools with names that would stereotype Native American culture and ones that honor it.

  But the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) does not make that distinction. And the use of the term “Sachem” is a prime example of this difference of opinion. “I remember, says Town Meeting member Thomas Raiche, a senior on the 1974 football team, that when we were playing, people would ask us what a Sachem was, and we did not know. So, we had to do a little research to find out that it means ‘chief.’” Raiche considers that a good thing in that he and his teammates took the time to find out about the teams’ logo.

  “I never thought of it as derogatory,” Raiche said.

  Other school administrators share similar views.

  “It is truly embedded into the culture of the town,” Manville stated. “It isn’t simply a case of ‘here comes the Sachems.’ The cooperation that existed between the settlers and the Native Americans is why the town exists at all. We have tremendous sensitivity to how Native American terms are used,” Manville said. We do not do anything that would demean the Native American culture.

  Claudia FoxTree, of the MCNAA, however, argues that any reference to Native American culture out of its context is demeaning. “Even what you call ‘positive’ is problematic, she said.

  “When words are used incorrectly, the original Native American meaning is lost, so it is not a sign of respect. Sachems are respected members of the community,” she said, “and a team by that name is in no way a Sachem. When words like ‘Sachem’ are used out of context, it is offensive.”

  Manville argues that this is more than a sports thing.

  “When we had to decide what the symbol of the town was – when we put up the new red street signs – the chief’s head went up.

  It is up all over town. If you look at the town seal, there is a Native American on it. We have a mural at Town Hall that commemorates the Native Americans and European colonists who worked together to create Saugus. It is not as if we can just automatically change our names to “Saugus Ironworkers!”

  Townspeople bring up other arguments.

  “What about the Winthrop Vikings,” athletic subcommittee member Bill Stewart asks. Are the St. Mary’s Spartans dishonoring Greeks? Tom Raiche mentions another issue.

  “What about the Salem Witches?” he asks. If we study our history, this is a bad story – religious intolerance – finger pointing – ‘The Crucible’ – and all that.”

  “I think it is a problem when any group is minimized or ridiculed,” FoxTree said.

  “However, it is much more damaging when the group has been historically oppressed and continues to not have equal representation, nor equal access.”

  She continues, “For example, how many Native Americans do you see in the roles of sitcom actor, newscaster, athlete, police officer, letter carrier, movie actor, musician on MTV, doctor, or surgeon?” And, she says, “let us not forget that the team members are not actual Native Americans or members of the tribe whose name may be used. Would we call an all-white team ‘The Africans’?”

  Finally, Manville says that the whole discussion of nicknames, and what they mean, can get very bizarre sometimes. “When I was in Burlington,” he said, “we were known as the Red Devils. I actually had a woman call me up once and said that bad things were going to happen to us because we invoked the name of the devil.”

My Opinion

  Saugust, as it was first known, was settled in 1629. Now known as Saugus, it is a Native American (Algonquin) name believed to mean “great” or “extended.”

  Alonzo Lewis and James R. Newhall tell us that the Native Americans of the town called it Saugus; and by that name, it was known for eight years. The root word means great, or extended; and they state, ‘it was applied to the Long Beach.’ In an early map of New England, is said to have placed the word “Saugus” on Sagamore Hill. The river on the west was called by the Native Americans, Abousett – the word Saugus being applied to it by the white men. It was once called the river at Saugus, then the river “of Saugus” and finally the Saugus River. Every once in a while, ‘politically correct’ people ‘go on the warpath’ stating that the citizens of Saugus are disrespectful to our Native Americans and want everything that has even the slightest hint of Indian history to be removed forever from our town, our eyes, and our hearts.

  That is one tall order, for example the Saugus High School yearbook, The Tontoquonian, has proudly represented the mainstay of our high school since the 40’s. Sachem Street, Anawan, Arrowhead Drive, Indian Rock Drive, Saugus Ave., Seminole St., Tontaquon Ave., and Indian Valley will have to go in order to totally eradicate any hint that a moccasin ever set foot in our town. Those so-called do gooder’s want to remove all Native American nicknames and logos that they find offensive. Will we have to cancel Lacrosse altogether as our Native Americans invented the game?

  Claudia FoxTree has stated that all our beautiful signs highlighting the face of a Native American, our Town Seal, our yearbooks, and our logos are disrespectful and offensive. Did we deliberately spend all that time and money to demean our Native Americans? How does that make any sense? Further, does she mean we cannot play Cowboys and Indians any more or tell that age old joke, I can make you talk Indian? And whatever will we do if the word Saugus is banned; no more Town of Saugus, or the Saugus River – names so dear to many of our hearts. FoxTree gets all wrapped in words rather than intent and I find her words, calling out our signs, logos, and yearbooks, offensive and disrespectful to all of us who honor our heritage. So, you ask, what is her intent? By chastising the honoring of our Native Americans, I find she one who is offensive, and the question remains; does she truly believe that by removing any hint of Indian history in our town, she is the respectful one? In my opinion, quite the opposite.

  Maybe we should hold a pow-wow, smoke a peace pipe, and establish a mutual respect platform for our American culture as well.

  FYI: Claudia FoxTree-McGrath is a multiracial/multiethnic Native American whose father is Native American (Arawak-Yurumein), and mother is German (from Mannheim-Feudenheim). The Arawak tribe is from St. Vincent Island. Although she spent the first five years of her life in Germany and speaks German, she was born in Boston, has primarily grown up in the U.S.A., and was educated in Massachusetts, where she is active in the local Native American community.

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