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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A New Angle on the Mascot

While we know that the people native to North America were mistakenly called "Indians" by early explorers who believed they had reached Asia, the name "Indian" has, over subsequent centuries of use, according to Webster, come to mean any of the first or earliest known inhabitants of a region.

Neither the original reference nor the latter was intended or has come to be derogatory. Often, over time, what once were technically incorrect names become accepted as accurate for purposes of common understanding.

The opposite is also sometimes true: our interpretation of the meaning of specific words evolves incorrectly. Consider Webster's definitions: "Mascot" -- any person, animal or thing supposed to bring good luck.

"Symbol" -- something that stands for or represents another thing, especially to represent something abstract.

"Nickname" -- an additional or substitute name given to a person, place or thing, usually in fun, affection [or derision].

If we can say fairly that no college would intentionally choose a nickname that ridiculed itself, then the proper definitions given above imply no disrespect to the chosen object.

Who among us does not earnestly hope for good luck every day of our lives? How many times do the things which we say we most love actually stand in as symbols of complex feelings we cannot explain? How often do we use our own terminology to refer to the things most dear to us?

In the early 1970s, when Dartmouth chose to relinquish the unofficial nickname of its athletic teams, that was, correctly, the result of a tremendous, common groundswell of thought and feeling that dramatic visible changes were needed to attempt to redress the practices of differentiating or characterizing human beings by such superficial tokens as skin color, race or religion.

Emphasis was beginning to be put on the much more important human distinctions we all share in common, rather than the more visible, cursory differences. While typecasting and racial profiling have come back into the vernacular due to recent world events, it is still fair to say that the youth of today are far more accepting of and interested in co-mingling and collaborating with people of other races and creeds.

However, our mature society as a whole has now become swept up in a materialism the likes of which the United States has never seen before. This country was founded to escape religious persecution, and soon thereafter, unfair taxation. The goal was that every person should be able to have a life without threat of oppression.

Somehow, over time, that creed has become more for the sake of more, power for the sake of power, with little regard for excess and waste, environmental destruction or concern for world equality of human rights. With these two conflicting philosophies now in evidence, the young people of today will not only have to choose by their actions which they will stand for, but they will have to have the courage of their convictions.

Particularly and significantly because our nation is going through a period of great moral distress, now is the time that Dartmouth should choose a symbol that represents Dartmouth's history, what Dartmouth is about now, and what Dartmouth will stand for in the future.

Dartmouth was founded in a remote outpost in part to educate Native Americans. Two native people appear on the Dartmouth Seal. If we now recognize that Dartmouth did not do as much as it might have to better the lot of the Native Americans, we have the opportunity to redress that issue.

The American Indian first welcomed the Europeans, but eventually wound up fighting to the death for his native land against the relentless invasion. Now Dartmouth can pay homage to the example, the legacy of our Native Americans, by fighting for the true American dream -- equality for mankind in harmony with preservation of nature.

In what, at this time, appears to be a narrowing future, the sons and daughters of Dartmouth must brave two critical tasks. They must work diligently toward world peace and some level of equality for all people, and at the same time they must make a last ditch effort to save the environment, before the destructive spiral we are now witnessing becomes too powerful to reverse.

Over two centuries ago, Native Americans, the American Indians, began to understand that their way of life was in mortal peril. They began a resistance, then a fight, and finally a war which they ultimately lost. Let us now recognize that they fought for the exact same thing we must now fight for -- the preservation of the only eternally viable life for man -- peace and moderation in agreement with the natural world.

Past, present, future -- there can be no other representation, symbol or nickname for Dartmouth than the "Indians." But, let Dartmouth reclaim the Dartmouth Indian in a new light, as a proud symbol, intrinsically linked with everything Dartmouth must always strive to be.