Op-ed: GM founding principal says time is right to change the Chieftain

By Graham Nye
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

When the Green Mountain High School was created in 1971, Chester High School teams were known as the Sentinels.

As we transitioned from Chester High School to Green Mountain — a task that I played a role as principal of the newly built school — it was determined that because students would be coming from three other communities a new and fresh mascot needed to be selected.

Of course some students, especially those from Chester High, did not want change. But the students were then given the opportunity to vote and the Chieftain was selected.

The recent decisions of the board of the Green Mountain Unified School District to first retire the “Indian head” image and now the Chieftains name have been controversial.

At the time it was chosen, it was the students’ decision. And they believed it represented leadership and pride.

But now the current board has had little choice in retaining the Chieftain and its image since Vermont law has been established banning ethnic or racial images.

Times have changed and this time should be used for reflection — by the students and communities — on how public concerns should be addressed. Let the students nominate and select a new image. This is not a time to create division.

Graham Nye currently lives in Rhode Island.

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  1. Randy Miles says:

    Just a thought? Since we can not agree weather word Chieftains is good or bad? Or our new design of Native American in head dress is good or bad? How about we contact some local tribe leaders and ask what they think? I myself feel the word Chieftains is good it does not show disrespect. Leader is good shows respect and honer. The image of native american with head dress. I think the new image shows strength, pride, honer, But that’s just me. So why not contact Native American tribes around here? If they found it offensive and asked us not to use it. Then we respect that and don’t use it. What if they said it honored them that we use respect and always have used respect.I think it would be more disrespectful to get rid of all everywhere with out talking to Native Americans input Why not get the input of who we think we are offending? Lets do our home work and use this as a teaching moment for everyone!

  2. Randy Miles says:

    This is a divided subject. But taking the easy way out? Is this what we teach now? The word Chieftains is not offensives but the opposite. Unless I am wrong and leader of people ,pride, honer is bad now? If we are offended by the head dress? I guess that is something else. We talk to each other with right and wrong but have we or do we really hear from the Native Americans on issues like this? My view is, We non Native Americans argue right and wrong about this. How do the Native Americans feel and what is there opinion of our/there situation on this? Every situation is different. Some show a lack of respect while others show pride and respect,like I think ours does at GM. I am not native american but I very much agree with a lot of there ways. They are filled with pride and honer and they are a community that works together and they each have there say. If they say they would rather we not use the logo? Then we understand and show respect and honer it. If they say it shows respect and allow us to use the logo with respect. Should we say no? GM had never used Chieftains or its logo with disrespect. Never seen it! If we take all the the logos and words out of schools all over from Native Americans even the ones showing respect and pride. I would think that would be disrespectful to them with out asking them first what do they think? Wiping out all the ones that show positive pride and respect? It is unfair to say right or wrong with out talking to the people it really impacts. Why do we feel we know everything and what is best? Sometimes the road is bumpy, do we always turn around? Or keep trying to find that right smooth road ahead of us all,sometimes you have to ask for directions along the way!

  3. Martha Mott says:

    Thank you for your perspective on this issue. I was 11 years old in 1971 and lived in another part of VT. At that time the name Chieftain did and still does represent leadership and honor to me. However, others may think differently and when my kids were at GM several years ago it was very divisive. Some years they could wear a Native American headdress and some years they couldn’t when they were cheering for their teams or other events. It was challenging for them and they often didn’t know which way to go. It’s a great debate to continue in the classroom as a critical thinking exercise or in history or current events class. However, when they are out having fun they need to be able to fully get behind their team and school. Therefore, I suggest that they have a mountain lion as the mascot and be the Green Mountain Lions.

  4. Raymond Makul says:

    I guess General Motors was ahead of its time when it did away with Pontiac cars.

  5. R. Parker says:

    Wrong Graham. This is your opinion only and quite possibly your attempt to sway people. Have you seen the policy ? It is not set in stone as to what will happen. The policy given is merely a guideline that can be changed and should be by the people funding GMUHS along with the students.

  6. Be like Rutland, no nickname just Green Mountain, it works!!!

  7. Tim Roper says:

    Hear! Hear!