CANTON, August 3, 2020 – The Canton Board of Education will discuss Canton High School’s mascot, the Warriors, and the use of Native American imagery at their next meeting on Tuesday, August 11.
Julie Ausere, chair of the Board of Education, said that the board will discuss the topic in general and determine the next steps in the process for reviewing the mascot and the use of Native American imagery.
The school has been using the Warriors nickname for their athletic teams since at least 1949. In the last 10 years or so, the school has been quietly phasing out the use of Native American imagery and replacing imagery of an Indian warrior with the block letter C.
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 plan to remove Native American imagery over the past few years. Principal Drew DiPippo and Athletic Director Kim Church directed questions to Superintendent Kevin Case, who only confirmed that the Board of Education would discuss the matter on August 11.
Residents that would like to submit a public comment on the mascot and the use of Native American imagery are welcome to email Ausere at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org. She will collect and forward all comments to the Board of Education members prior to the meeting.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will be a Zoom call. The public is invited to listen in but cannot participate in the meeting. A You Tube link to view the meeting will be posted on the school website generally by 6:45 p.m. before the meeting begins, Ausere said.
Schools across the state and the nation have been dropping Native American mascots and imagery. The most visible change came last month when the National Football League’s Washington Redskins announced plans to change their mascot and nickname, thanks in part to pressure from the team’s corporate sponsors.
In Connecticut, Farmington High’s Board of Education announced formation in June of an ad hoc committee to review the Indians mascot and nickname and perhaps move toward a selection a new mascot by January 2021.
Newington High, also called the Indians, has also formed a committee to discuss their logo and mascot. In Glastonbury, the Board of Education voted in July to discuss changing the school’s Tomahawk nickname.
There was an attempt to eliminate Native American imagery and the Warrior nickname in Canton in the mid-2000s. Gary Gula was the school principal at that time. Over his recommendation, the school board voted in 2006 to keep the Warrior name and logo.
The issue came to light when the school was refinishing the gymnasium floor in 2005 and Gula did not want to replace the “Dancing Warrior” logo at center court. According to reports in the Hartford Courant, Gula said the use of the logo “does nothing to promote tolerance and diversity.” The Courant reported that nearly half of the school’s faculty also signed a petition in support of Gula’s proposal saying that the current portrayal of the Native American chieftain “is inappropriate.”
In 2003, the Canton High Booster Club had presented Gula with a “victory flag” that featured the “Dancing Warrior.” Gula declined the gift but when the Board of Education asked him to fly the flag, he complied, The Courant reported.
Eventually, a different version of a Warrior dancing was painted at center court. But it was not replaced when the gym floor was refurbished after the 2014 season. A big letter C was painted at center court.
Gula retired after 18 years of service in 2013 and was replaced by DiPippo. Case was hired as Superintendent in 2006.
A banner honoring Canton High basketball players who scored more than 1,000 career points had a dancing Warrior on it. But that banner was replaced when all the athletic banners in the gym were updated in September 2015.
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 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.