WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew reports that the Pentucket School Committee voted tonight to fully retire the Sachem mascot.
The School Committee has voted to retire the mascot unanimously following a presentation on the history of the Sachem name and imagery, and of the mascot by School Committee Chairwoman Dena Trotta and Superintendent Bartholomew.
The presentation was informed by a meeting the district held with the leaders of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People, Sag8mo Paul Pouliot and Denise Pouliot on July 23, to learn more about the history of Native Americans indigenous the area and the realities of the impact of the Sachem mascot.
The mascot was first adopted by the district in 1958.
During the July meeting, district leadership learned that Native Americans indigenous to the Pentucket area did not use the term Sachem. Tribes in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts did have Sachems, however, who were the speakers for the tribe or the head of a family.
The harmful Native American stereotypes perpetuated by the media and American society were also discussed at the July meeting, for example the popularization of the Native American headdress, which has been featured in past representations of Pentucket’s Sachem mascot.
“A lot of thought and consideration went into this decision, and ultimately the School Committee has decided this is the right path for our district to take,” Superintendent Bartholomew said. “When the mascot first was selected it was done so out of respect for what they believed a ‘Sachem’ represented. We know today that there are myriad reasons why it is not appropriate to have a ‘Sachem’ mascot, and this is an opportunity for Pentucket to start a new chapter.”
The School Committee is expected to discuss the district’s next steps pertaining to a mascot at a future meeting, the date of which remains to be determined. Instead of the “Sachems” the district’s sports teams will be referred to as Pentucket for the time being.
Sports uniforms which bear the name “Sachem” will be used until they are due to be replaced, and the high school gym floor, which bears the name “Sachems,” will be replaced when the new Pentucket Regional Middle High School building is opened, likely in 2022.