The Merrimack Valley High School's use of a former mascot - a Native American man with a headdress - is causing controversy once again.
The school got rid of the mascot 15 years ago amidst heated debate, responding to concerns that the image was offensive. The image has returned in the last two years on banners, walls, and the gym floor, as Merrimack Valley High School celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The banners - designed for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony - include an image of the Native mascot along with the current mascot, a lion.
Administrators and some board members say the inclusion of the Native image is an attempt to honor alumni who identify with the school’s original mascot and motto of "Indian Pride."
But Carissa Corrow, an alumna, parent, and former teacher at the high school, says the image is "at best ignorant, and at worst racist and immoral."
Corrow is organizing a petition to get all the images removed and to create a policy ensuring that the mascot will not be used in the future.
Corrow calls it a "step back" to use a mascot that the district already deemed offensive.
“In 2019 there’s so much information out there about race and misnomers and how we talk about it that it's just unacceptable for our school leaders not to know that.”
Kathleen Blake, the chair of the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs, and one of over a hundred people who have signed the petition, wrote that the district’s move was “offensive and ill-advised. The governor of Maine recently signed a bill banning this practice. I am dismayed to find it potentially being resurrected in Penacook.”
Lorrie Carey, a school board member from Boscawen, defended the school.
“No mascot has been re-introduced. You have old alumni who have their old mascot. And you have young alumni who have their new mascot,” she said.
The school board is expected to discuss Corrow's petition and the role of the former mascot at its meeting in December.