Two groups targeting a list of Vermont schools with nicknames and logos they say are racially and culturally insensitive
School mascots are back in the headlines with two groups targeting a list of Vermont schools with nicknames and logos they say are racially and culturally insensitive. But one mascot on the list is being defended by a band of Abenaki who says it creates a sense of pride in the community. “We’ve always flown high — very proud of our heritage. And not being recognized, we keep pushing for it because we love who we are,” said Bobbie-Jo Messier, who was born and raised as a member of the Abenaki tribe. She attended Missisquoi Valley Union Middle and High School. The school’s mascot is the thunderbird, a powerful symbol in Abenaki culture. The NAACP and Gedakina, a Native American advocacy group, have filed a formal complaint against Missisquoi’s use of the thunderbird, saying it objectifies Indigenous religious beliefs. But in a response from the Abenaki Nation of Missiquoi, Chief Joanne Crawford says the tribe helped to choose the thunderbird over 50 years ago. She says the school’s use of the mascot was meant to “convey strength, perseverance, and heroism as key characteristics for all students to emulate.” “The thunderbird doesn’t represent hate, it doesn’t represent crime. It doesn’t represent anything but love,” Messier said.