Fourteen Connecticut towns or regional school districts, including Canton, could lose municipal grant money from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund if their high schools keep team names, logos, mascots or symbols or mascots associated with Native Americans under a provision in a 837-page budget implementation bill that was passed by the Connecticut State Senate, 23-7, on Tuesday.
The state House of Representatives will consider the legislation on Wednesday.
Towns will have a year to inform the state Office of Policy and Management their intent to change the name or symbol without the financial penalty of losing the grant money for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2023, according a story on the CT Mirror website.
State Senator Cathy Osten, a Democrat from the eastern Connecticut town of Sprague, who is co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, told CT News Junkie on Tuesday it was unfair for towns to expect a portion of slot machine revenue raised by tribes if they insist on using names and imagery the tribes find offensive.
“Why should the dollars that they raise be used to support something like this?” Osten told CT News Junkie. “Again, towns, communities can choose to keep [the names or mascots], they just don’t get the dollars associated with the Native American communities.”
No town will receive a grant if it has an intramural or interscholastic sports team that makes reference to a state or federally recognized tribe in its mascot, nickname, logo, or team name, CT News Junkie reported.
There are currently 14 state high schools with Native American nicknames, mascots and/or imagery include Canton, Windsor, Valley Regional in Deep River, Wamogo Regional in Litchfield and Wilton (Warriors), Killingly (Redmen), Torrington and Derby (Red Raiders), Montville (Indians), Nonnewaug-Woodbury (Chiefs), North Haven and Watertown (Indians) and the two public high schools in West Hartford.
In West Hartford, Hall High’s nickname is the Warriors and Conard’s nickname is Chieftains but neither school has used Native American imagery since 2015.
While the legislation would bar grant money from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund to these towns, Canton, Windsor and Woodbury currently receive no money from the fund. Canton, Windsor and Woodbury are among several towns that have not received any money from the fund since 2018.
Other towns do receive significant grants from the fund. Montville received $1.4 million from the fund this year while Derby ($207,000), Torrington ($196,642), Killingly ($94,184) and North Haven ($86,789) also received five-figure grants.
According to the CT Mirror, the budget implementation bill is a measure that traditionally becomes a catch-all for last-minute changes to the budget and legislation that did not win passage.
The budget implementation bill was made public at about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the CT Mirror, when it was entered in the legislative website as Senate Bill 1202. The section regarding to mascot nicknames and the grant money is found on page 77 and 78 of the bill.
A number of Connecticut schools have re-examined their mascots and the use of Native American imagery used with those mascots. In the last five months, three schools have modified their athletic nicknames. Farmington went from Indians to River Hawks; Newington changed from Indians to Nor’easters and Glastonbury went from Tomahawks to Guardians.
In 2020, Guilford changed from Indians to Grizzlies while RHAM High, a regional high school in Hebron, changed their mascot from Sachems to Raptors. In 2019, Manchester High changed their nickname from Indians to Red Hawks.
Killingly High changed their nickname to Red Hawks in 2019 but in February 2020, a newly-elected Board of Education voted to return to the legacy nickname of Redmen, which many people consider a racist slur.
Canton’s mascot has been the Warriors since the early 1950s. Over the last 10 years, the school has quietly been replacing Native American imagery in the building, on campus and on school athletic uniforms.
The Canton Board of Education established a committee to discuss the school’s current athletic mascot in August 2020.
The athletic mascot review committee held their first organizational meeting in May. Twenty people attended the initial meeting, including school Superintendent Kevin Case, Julie Ausere, chair of the Board of Education, Erika Hayes, vice chair of the Board of Education, Drew DiPippo, principal at Canton High, Kim Church, the athletic director at Canton High, several teachers, town residents and students.
The committee will be charged to learn more about the mascot and its meaning to students and the community. The committee hopes to provide the Board of Education with a recommendation in early September.