Telegraph Poll: On the GM Chieftain mascot

Chieftain portrait in GM gallery 2017.

The Green Mountain Chieftain mascot has been much revered since the founding of the high school in the 1970s. It has also been criticized for racist imagery. Is this the right time to replace the Chieftain with another, less-controversial mascot? Take the Telegraph Poll below, then if you’d like to make a civil comment, please do so in the Comments section below the poll. Be sure to include a first name or initial and your last name. Comments without a valid name will be deleted. Thank you.

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  1. I sit on the council of the Koasek Abenaki Tribe. It is important to ask Native Americans what their thoughts are. Green Mountain Union High School according to our chief is not in the wrong. The Chieftain is, in our opinion, an honor to our culture.
    But people are going to have different ideals that vary all over this nation.
    I welcome Green Mountain High School to consult our tribe Chief Paul Bunnell.
    He will draft a letter weighing in on the poll and I am quite sure it will be in favor of the Chieftain.
    Peace, Kwai and Aho to you all.

  2. Ron Patch says:

    Go after Jeep Cherokee and all Pontiac cars.

  3. Raymond Makul says:

    I suggest “Robber Barons”, and the mascot could be a caricature of the most colorful Vermont Robber Baron, Colonel James Fisk, of Brattleboro.

  4. DEBORAH A VELTO says:

    Dooley – YES!

  5. I am curious Sharon Stearn – does your husband think it is OK for GM kids to dress up in warpaint and pass around a baby doll dressed up like an “Indian” at games? Saying things like “scalp em”? I’d be interested to hear his perspective. Is he connected with current Native populations in the US and the issues they are facing? Most local tribal members I have spoken to have the opposite opinion on this.

  6. M Reed says:

    I think it’s best to stick with animals as mascots,”wild cats” always sounded about right to me (but it’s already taken in VT). Vulpes (latin for red fox) that could be fun. How about Morgans? I heard they were raised at Buttonwood Farm at one point. Yosemite Sams could be fun but I’m sure most youngsters these days are unfamiliar with the cartoon, and besides the girls’ teams probably wouldn’t be crazy about it. Keeping the name Chieftain but choosing an image from another nation or historical tribe especially Vikings is a bad idea as some of their symbols have been adopted by white supremacy groups. Or, as someone suggested, could adopt a mascot from one of surrounding areas closed schools whose students have joined Green Mountain? My alma mater, Black River High’s mascot is up for grabs. Funny enough I didn’t realize until this very moment that “Prexy” is actually short for president, and I thought it was a made up the word when yelling, “Go Prexies!” But no way could I can’t imagine GM adopting the mascot of their long-time rivals. Perhaps the students could make up a word that sounds cool and create a fictitious animal character to go with it like a Snuffleuphagus. I’d like to hear what the students come up with, I bet they have some good ideas. The time has come,and GMUHS needs to do the right thing, change the mascot.

  7. S. Clair says:

    Ethnicities are not mascots. It’s really that simple. Imagine naming your high school football team “The Puerto Ricans” or “The Blacks” etc. How stupid would that sound. Then try to defend it saying it’s to honor them. It doesn’t even matter what the original intent was, in this day and age it’s horribly tone deaf. It should go.

  8. Geraldine L .Williams says:

    I have to agree with Sharon Stearns.

  9. Sharon Stearns says:

    While it is admirable to be concerned about Native Americans and all races feeling slighted, often this is a perception which you find out when you speak to those you assume are affected. I married into a Native American family and they are proud of this mascot and the honor, bravery, and courage it stands for. This is tradition, it is honorable, and we. as Chieftains (1984), were brave. We stood/stand for hard work, doing the right thing, and caring about others. We still stand for that. We want to keep our rich history, and our mascot, because it never was racist, and it is part of who we are. Please stop trying to remove history, because if you don’t remember where we’ve been, you certainly can’t know where you are going. Let’s continue our Chieftain pride and commit to explaining it to those who don’t have that history or understand its significance.

  10. G. Donohue says:

    We are now in a unprecedented moment that should inspire GMUHS to step up to the plate and embrace cultural inclusiveness. The School Directors should make it a policy that no cultural icons based on indigenous people or races of any kind can be used to represent the school in any way.

  11. Dooley Merrick says:

    DEBORAH A VELTO – I think you misinterpreted my comment or I was too vague. “your race supersedes their’s, keep it.” was meant as sarcasm. Anyone who thinks that the feelings of the students aren’t the most important issue, just don’t care. I do care.

    They can keep the name, just ditch the mascot. Go Green and Gold, Go Chieftains.

    Or, start anew. The following is taken from google search.
    Definition of mountaineer 1: a native or inhabitant of a mountainous region.

    Mountaineers are empathetic and passionate. We exceed expectations and set new standards. As a Mountaineer, when you work at something you give it all you have. It does not matter how inconsequential you believe the task to be, you have the ability to make it great.

  12. I thought we changed it already. Oh not the correct chief symbol used. Let’s just keep changing things till there’s no more money left to pay for anything. Let’s spend another large amount of money 💰. After all there’s an endless supply?

  13. Josh and Dooley,

    The mascot IS offensive to those students, and to anyone of Native heritage who comes to games or sees your sweatshirts. For example, my own friends who came to a game found it very offensive. They even took pictures to go home and show people at home. It was embarrassing. Also I AM offended by it, and so Are my kids. I don’t know on what basis you have decided that it’s not offensive? Many of the other students at GM are uncomfortable with it and embarrassed to play sports. Doesn’t that matter to you? The school should support the needs of the kids who go there now, not be so worried about the parents’ good old days.

    Not to mention there is plenty of research out there to show that Native American Mascots are psychologically damaging. The fact that there are any Indigenous kids who go there means that GM is not a safe place for them.

  14. Dooley Merrick says:

    So, if the 19 American Indian students attending Green Mountain Union High School District 35 are offended by the mascot of their race doesn’t matter, and your race supersedes their’s, keep it.

    Ask a young child after discussing this, what they think. I’m sure that it would matter to them, regardless of their own race. They wouldn’t want their friends to feel bad.

  15. Joshua Carlisle says:

    As a GMUHS alumni, some may call it nostalgic or not wanting change or pride to me all of these can be correct as many of us that attend GMUHS. I feel nostalgic and proud of our chieftain mascot so don’t change it and here is why I say this: their very name chieftian signifies a leader and in no way do the images of our chieftain in my opinion show any racism to Native Americans nor does it demean them in any way.

  16. Meshach Tourigny says:

    Races of people should not be mascots.
    Just vote on something cool instead, who really cares!

  17. Chrystal Longe says:

    I think it should be changed. Something like the Lumberjacks, like Tuck mentioned, or the Black Bears, would be far more fitting. As Brook stated, the name is ridiculous for a high school that is predominantly white, on top of having white students wearing “tribal” face-paint and costume headdresses at sports games. I distinctly remember the Girls’ Varsity soccer team running around the field at a Josh Cole tournament with a baby doll painted with face/body paint and a headdress while mocking Native American battle cries. Not only is the mascot image and name derogatory, but the students are also partaking in offensive behaviors because GM neglects to incorporate Native American history into the curriculum and address stereotyping as well. If you really want to show GM pride, changing a mascot and addressing the issue behind the Chieftain head should not affect it. If GM really wants to honor Native Americans, they need to incorporate more Native American history into the history courses.

  18. Judy Verespy says:

    I especially appreciated the comments by Isis Hastings-Vincent and Deborah Velto. Thank you for your thoughtful input and perspectives. I feel like in this politically charged and polarized society we are living, the words “politically correct” have become a putdown. Somehow anyone being “PC” is thought to be making a big deal out of “nothing”. Change the words “politically correct” instead to “culturally sensitive”. If you’re not of Native American heritage, you actually don’t have the background to say a school full of white kids are honoring (and not offending) Native American people with their use of a Chieftain mascot. Can you admit that perhaps native people might be offended by this? Empathy and kindness are important. I can empathize with those who attended GM and don’t want their mascot to change, but teaching our children to be culturally sensitive and thoughtful of others’ heritage seems more important. Native Americans have been marginalized and disrespected for far too long.

  19. Isis Hastings-Vincent says:

    After reading other people’s thoughts on whether or not to change the mascot, I can tell the majority of people’s motives that oppose this are coming from a place of nostalgia and not wanting change. People want to keep it because it’s been there for so long, since their parents went to GM and they truly do believe that having a native mascot is “honoring” Natives and if you are one those people reading this please be open to a new perspective and look at it this way: If we have the opportunity to acknowledge that having a chieftain as a mascot may be offensive to Native American’s then we should take the time to realize that a symbol like this is less important then how we make others feel in our community especially Native Americans who have been marginalized since our country was founded! Just because you personally don’t find this to be offensive doesn’t mean actual Native Americans don’t find this to be disrespectful. If we are going to be honoring Native Americans we should ask them how they would like to be respected rather then assuming using a chief as a mascot is what they deserve to be shown respect and honor. They deserve more then that. Over 450+ Native Organizations and advocates have signed letters demanding the removal of all Native Mascots and imagery. We can’t tell them to sit down and shut up because we are honoring them and tell them “they just chose to take it the wrong way”
    We should give them the power and voice to be able to decide how we should honor them. A majority of Native Americans find this to be offensive so we should take this opportunity to stand with them in solidarity. That’s how we can truly bring honor to them.

  20. M Woods says:

    I would like to keep it. I have always been honored to have the Chieftan as our mascot. To us it was a symbol of strength, unity, and pride.

  21. Darcy Gibney says:

    Alan Webster yes! Exactly my thought. So many cultures have a chieftain as a leader. Having an image isn’t necessary! Then it is open to one’s interpretation. Keep the name, lose the image. The image promotes stereotypes and for this reason alone is harmful-does not belong in a school setting which should alienate or marginalize no one.

  22. Charlie Record says:

    I went to GMUHS for 6 years, as many others did, and I can’t remember being called the Chieftains ever being an issue. Guess I must have missed something. It seems this politically correct world we live in now finds something offensive about everything.

  23. Gilly Gilcris says:

    This is the reason students flee our great state when they graduate…. We are more worried about this garbage then giving them a reason to want to live in the area… How about a poll to come up with reasons to attract the younger generation to want to stay instead of the Garbage….

  24. Tuck Wunderle says:

    As a GM alum, I feel like the mascot should be changed. While it could potentially be seen by some as a symbol that honors Native Americans, I believe that the only people who can make that choice are indigenous peoples themselves. It is not up to the descendants of colonizers to decide what is and isn’t offensive. We don’t get to make that call. Also, the Green Mountain Lumberjacks would be way, WAY cooler.

  25. Justin Turco says:

    Keep the mascot.

    The real question is: Are you going to let the Chevrolet owners club, the local Hell’s Angel’s chapter and even more controversial White Lives Matter group fly their flag with Old Glory. Don’t do for one what you wouldn’t do for all. That would be racist.

  26. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Hi Hannah,

    A group of former students asked if I would be willing to put up the poll, particularly to ask for comments. They were interested in what the community would say and wanted to hear those views. The wording of the poll was my own.

  27. Matthew Sargent says:

    As a former Alumni , I feel alumni and students only should vote .

  28. Alan Webster says:

    The Chieftains are one of my favorite Irish bands. The name Chieftain is fine, the image is not. Get rid of the ridiculous logo. There are a lot more people of Irish descent in Chester than Native Americans.

  29. Chris Walker says:

    I am a graduate of GMUHS. I am a native of Vermont. The Chief mascot Is a symbol of pride and a should not be replaced. There is a lack of tradition in our town now look at the Alumni Parade for example. Less and less people participating every year. Our town and society and becoming generic stop this before it is too late. Keep the Chieftain.

  30. Brook Garrison says:

    Look the name is ridiculous. White people running around pretending to be Native Chiefs look ridiculous. How many white people do you see running around pretending to be Black? If you are white and not willing to dress up and pretend to be Black than why do you feel comfortable asking your kids to take to the court and pretend to “redskins”. Honestly pretend to be a beaver or a wildcat or some other animal when you are out there trouncing your enemy.

    Or if you really want to go Down the native mascot path why don’t you research how and why the Seminoles don’t get bad press. As far as I know there is money, education, specific permissions and respect for Seminole Sovereignty when that mascot rages the field.

    Chieftains is ridiculous your kids look line ridiculous white kids pretending to be little brown warriors. I’m glad my daughter doesn’t have to go to that school and look like a fool for four years.

  31. Hannah Monier says:

    Curious who is responsible for calling this racist and starting a poll?

  32. Shawn Davis says:

    A mascot is something to be admired. The chieftain is one of the greatest mascots ever! Compare a chieftain to a wolf, a dolphin, etc. There is no comparison. Let our students strive have the strength, courage, bravery, and integrity of chieftain. Not an animal that might be elected to replace him, such as was done in South Burlington, changing from Rebels to Wolves. And, let our history serve to teach us and remind us. To eliminate the mascot also further eliminates the memory. Shawn Davis – now and forevermore a proud chieftain of GMUHS.

  33. C. Holden says:

    Stop this racial garbage already!!
    Leave it alone! If anything, the symbol honors the Native American.
    It’s like saying the image of a president on a coin offends you for whatever reason or an image anywhere is offensive. Knock it off and grow up!

  34. The definition of Chieftain from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
    : a chief especially of a band, tribe, or clan

    Examples of chieftain in a Sentence

    Recent Examples on the Web
    The chieftain moves his extended family to the main homes of the Jerusalem village, and settles in one himself—a palace, some might call it, though there is nothing extravagant about it.
    — Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, “In Search of King David’s Lost Empire,” 22 June 2020

    Archaeologists in Spain are searching for the bones of Red Hugh O’Donnell, a 16th-century Irish chieftain who fought English rule in Ireland and died in exile.
    — Fox News, “The hunt for Red Hugh: Archaeologists in Spain search for 16th-century Irish chieftain’s bones,” 2 June 2020
    These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word ‘chieftain.’

    Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

    I wonder if it would satiate the thirst of the politically correct crowd if my alma mater GMUHS would replace the proud and heroic looking native American symbol with a Scottish Chieftain wearing a kilt. Or perhaps we could adopt the pious and courageous, Chester Chief of Police, Chief Cloud as our new mascot. I like him and he deserves the honor. Nobody has served the community better.

  35. I would place this in the hands of the students and have them vote on it.

  36. I am so grateful to see this issue finally being discussed in Chester. While I understand the commitment to tradition, I want everyone to know although you might not see it in our little bubble here – this mascot is culturally insensitive, and frankly offensive. I encourage everyone to research the relationship Vermont and the rest of the country has had with our Abenaki and other Indigenous Populations. As someone who has lived and worked within the Native American community, I implore you to consider adopting a mascot that is more representative of the spirit and population of our community.

    Here things I ask you to consider as you vote.

    This image was created by a white student, not anyone of Abenaki or other Native American descent. There are many wonderful Native American artists in the area who could be consulted on the use of these symbols and images, or who could be hired to create one.

    The school would not have to change the name Chieftains necessarily – there are plenty of anglo chieftain images that could be adopted – look into Irish or Viking images that would be more representative of our population.

    Do the students in the school know anything about the history of our Indigneous people in the US? As far as I know, Green Mountain does not have a Native American Studies program, and they do not donate money to any organizations that support Indigneous populations in our area? It would be a great thing to consider for the future. How many of our students can name more than 3 of the 572 recognized Native American tribes in America? How is this mascot an appropriate symbol of this student community?

    I have heard from many of the students from your school who play sports and who are embarrassed by this mascot and who want to see it changed. Asking students from a primarily white school to walk around with tomahawks on their sweatshirts in 2020 is just not OK. This type of mascot also leads to students saying “scalp em” and other racist things during sporting events. As an educator, I hope you will consider that this could be such a wonderful learning experience for the students of our community. It is a lesson in civics, and in how a community can make a positive change. As a school, it would be an important symbolic gesture of growth that shows a commitment to evolve with the rest of the country. Nothing that can be considered racially insensitive should be part of our public school or community. I personally would not send my kids to Green Mountain High School because of this offensive mascot. Please make this important change that shows Green Mountain is willing to grow and respond to the call for change and for eliminating language and symbols that help to uphold racially insensitive stereotypes. The community of Chester and its students deserve a mascot that they can be proud of. It’s time to let go of old traditions that are not representative of a new and more enlightened youth. Thank you!

  37. jo a richardson says:

    I feel, if anything, the Chieftain mascot honors native Americans. Look at all we have taken away from them through out the whole USA, how we have treated them. It is despicable! This will honor Vermont’s native American history. Leave it alone.

  38. R Lovett says:

    While I understand the allegiance that alumni and students have to this mascot, it is but a symbol. Even if it brings memories and pride to us Chieftans, I look at it somewhat differently. What memories and sense of pride does it bring to others? As we live in a time of heightened sensitivity to all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities, I believe we can unite around a more inclusive mascot. Since our school district now includes many locales that once had their own schools, I’d suggest a mascot representing the teaming of talent we have created today. Also, A Facebook vote on any idea of change usually is not representative of everyone. This is why we have leaders and decision-makers employed by our school system. Trust them in listening sessions and getting involvement from all portions of our district.