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Canton BOE creates committee to review Warrior mascot – The Collinsville Press
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Canton BOE creates committee to review Warrior mascot

Most of the Native American imagery once used as part of the Warrior logo at Canton High is gone. Two feathers at the base of the letter C, as shown in the large wall banner, is in the gym and on some athletic uniforms.

CANTON, August 13, 2020 – The Canton Board of Education unanimously approved the creation of a committee to review Canton High’s athletic mascot – the Warriors.

The committee will review the mascot based upon the mission, beliefs and values of Canton Public Schools. Canton High Athletic Director Kim Church and Republican Nicholas Algizakis from the Board of Education will be co-chairs of the athletic mascot committee.

Democrat Erika Hayes from the Board of Education will be on the committee along with representatives from the student body at Canton High and other members of the community. People interested in serving on the committee should reach out to Kevin Case, the school superintendent.

The committee will report to the Board of Education at their next meeting on August 25 with recommendations for membership on the committee. The committee will be required to develop recommendations to share with the Board of Education at the October 27 meeting.

“As we look to create a more culturally sensitive, inclusive and equitable environment for all of us in the Canton community, we have received a request from community members (asking) to relook at (Canton High) mascot,” Case said in requesting permission from the Board of Education to form the athletic mascot review committee.

Canton joins a number of Connecticut schools re-examining their mascots and the Native American imagery used with those mascots. Farmington High (Indians), Glastonbury High (Tomahawks) and Newington High (Indians) are currently reviewing their choice in mascots and imagery.

In 2019, Manchester High changed their nickname from Indians to Red Hawks and in March, RHAM High in Hebron changed their mascot from Sachems to Raptors. Several weeks ago, Guilford said they would change their nickname. They are currently the Indians.

Northwest Catholic in West Hartford changed their nickname from Indians to Lions in 2015. West Hartford’s Hall High is still the Warriors but has abandoned any use of Native American imagery in 2015. West Hartford’s Conard High, whose nickname is the Chieftains, has also stopped all use of Native American imagery, also in 2015.

Killingly High changed their nickname to Red Hawks last summer but in February, a newly-elected Board of Education voted to go back to the legacy nickname of Redmen, which many people consider a racist slur.

Canton’s mascot has been the Warriors for the last 70 years since the early 1950s.

The last time that Canton reviewed the Warrior mascot and the use of Native American imagery was in 2006 just prior to Case’s hiring as superintendent.

In this 2013 photo, you can see the warrior painted at center court of the school gymnasium.

The 2006 committee was formed to examine the mascot, research its history and make recommendations. The committee recommended that a revised Native American symbol be used in order to “preserve and maintain the dignity of Native Americans” according to Board of Education minutes in 2006.

In 2006, a different version of a warrior dancing with no axe and a different ceremonial head dress was painted at center court in the gymnasium. The issue came up when the gymnasium floor was being refinished and the Canton High principal at that time, Gary Gula, did not want to replace the “Dancing Warrior” logo.

Over Gula’s recommendation, the school board voted in 2006 to keep the Warrior name and logo, the Hartford Courant reported at that time.

In the last 10 years or so, Canton has been quietly phasing out the use of Native American imagery and replacing imagery of an Indian warrior with the block letter C.

When the gym floor was refurbished after the 2013-14 school year, the warrior was replaced by a big letter C at center court. Gula retired in 2013 and current Canton High principal Andrew DiPippo began his tenure in September 2013.

The only visible Native American imagery remaining is two feathers off the back of the block letter C on a large black cover in the gymnasium that covers a climbing wall and on some Canton High athletic uniforms.

School officials declined to comment on the actions to remove Native American imagery over the past few years.

Any members of the public with comments on the Warrior mascot and imagery used at the school should send them to Julie Ausere, the chair of the Board of Education, or Kevin Case.

The dancing warrior was once painted on the gymnasium walls at Canton High. At one time, it was on athletic awards handed out to students.

It’s hard to tell when Canton began using the Warrior nickname but a good guess is 1949 when a season-ending photo of the high school football team in the weekly Farmington Valley Herald had the headline: Canton Warriors.

According to newspaper stories in the Farmington Valley Herald, the Hartford Courant and high school yearbooks, Canton used the nickname Redskins for a few years after World War II before moving to Warriors.

Prior to World War II, stories in the Farmington Valley Herald and The Courant about Canton High or Collinsville High athletics did not have any nicknames in them so it’s hard to tell if the school was using a nickname at that time.

Above is the recording of the Canton Board of Education’s latest meeting on August 11.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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