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07/28/2021 08:00 AM

Rise to the Occasion

My name is Wendy Marks. I am a Native American person who grew up in North Haven. I am an alumnus of the North Haven school system (class of 1988), a concerned citizen, and a professional educator.

For four long years, every day, walking the halls, I was taunted by the imagery of the Native Chief Sachem Head caricature and the name “Indians”. Each day in the cafeteria, I felt that image glaring at me. It made me feel isolated, embarrassed, and ashamed to admit my native culture. The staff, the students, and some teachers, taunted me as they pretended to dance around in a circle, call out, and pat their mouths as if to imitate a Native American person in a sacred ceremony, screaming we are the “Indians!” This was encouraged at sports events, pep rallies, and even in the school.

North Haven is a beautiful town. I wanted to live in this town and raise my family. However, I chose not to, because I did not want my child to experience those same feelings of isolation, embarrassment, and torture about our Indigenous culture while in school.

Schools should be places where all students feel accepted and encouraged to reach their fullest potential. This is why it was important for me again to express that the retirement of the caricature image is not enough. The name Indians must go so that we can begin to heal and demonstrate to the next generation that the choice of words can hurt others. I respectfully request the North Haven Board of Education and North Haven residents to rise to the occasion and find a new name that honors the entire student body population—past, present, and future.

North Haven knows better and so North Haven needs to do better!

Wendy Marks