College issues cease and desist letter to apparel company

by Ioana Andrada Pantelimon | 10/1/19 2:05am

The College issued a cease and desist letter on Sept. 25 to Vintage Brand, a company which sells vintage-style college clothing and objects — including some with Dartmouth’s former Indian mascot. 

Vintage Brand’s website states that their “product is not affiliated with, licensed, sponsored, or endorsed by any college” and that the artwork incorporated “has been copied from a work that is in the public domain.” However, College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement that Dartmouth has not granted permission for the company to use its name or related images.

Lawrence notified The Dartmouth of the cease and desist letter in response to an inquiry from this newspaper on Vintage Brand’s use of the College’s name in its products. 

Vintage Brand offers “the world’s largest selection of retro college apparel and unique sports gifts designed from historical works of art” made for “history buffs and American sporting culture enthusiasts,” according to the company’s website. 

Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees voted to cease the use of Indian names and symbols in 1974, declaring “use of the [Indian] symbol in any form to be inconsistent with present institutional and academic objectives of the College in advancing Native American education,” according to Lawrence.  

“The Indian History of an American Institution: Native Americans and Dartmouth,” a book by history professor Colin Calloway, notes that while Dartmouth never officially adopted the Indian symbol as its mascot, athletics teams were referred to as “the Indians” between the 1920s and 1970s. 

In 1928, the Indian symbol began appearing on College athletic uniforms, and in 1965, the “Indian head” began appearing on football jerseys. In 1971, Native American students at Dartmouth issued a formal policy statement condemning the College’s treatment of Indians, stating the institution had “nourished only a romantic notion of being an ‘Indian’ school through the creation and retention of a Dartmouth Indian’ [sic] mascot and assorted caricatures of Indian Americans.” Subsequent action by the Board of Trustees banned the use of the Indian mascot in 1974. 

Stores in Hanover producing goods related to Dartmouth have exhibited varying attitudes regarding the use of Indian symbols in their merchandise. The International DVD and Poster store sells some objects displaying such symbols. According to Ken Gorlin, the owner of that store, the goods he sells are antiques with historical value and are not meant to be offensive to anybody. In his 17 years in Hanover, Gorlin said that he has only received two complaints regarding such objects. 

The Dartmouth Co-Op and Traditionally Trendy, apparel stores in Hanover, are both vendors approved by Dartmouth, and thus prohibited from using symbols like the Dartmouth Indian mascot. 

Representatives from Vintage Brand were unable to be reached for comment.