Friends of Wissatinnewag President Cris Stormfox Carl
(Unami Lenape) has been instrumental in bringing about the end
of a short-lived, racially offensive sports cheer.
During the 1980s a piece of music with an associated pantomime of a
"tomahawk chop" was adopted for use at Turners Falls High
School in Turners Falls, Massachusetts.
Turners Falls was named for the captain who led a massacre of over
300 Native non-combatants on May 19, 1676, an event that has come to be
known as the "Turners Falls Massacre." The majority of the
victims of the early dawn raid were unsuspecting women, children and
elders. The ancient Pocumtuc village of Wissatinnewag, located within 3
miles of the Turners Falls High School, was the site of the attack.
The "chop" was used at the high school for several years until one of the
school's principals banned its use in the early 1990s. However, the
"chop" was reintroduced a few years later without the benefit of
Educational forums have been held at the request of the school's
principal and superintendent. These events have included the school's
staff, students, and
members of the community. FOW President Carl, along with several other
Americans, have participated with the goal of bringing about greater
understanding and sensitivity
regarding the use of such negative symbolism. Their initiative mirrors other
nationwide efforts to point out the harm caused by the use of Native
Americans as sports mascots or associated entertainment. Carl also used
the forums to educate participants about the Native American history of
the local area.
A public hearing was held on January 12, 2009. The ultimate
outcome of the often emotional hearing was an increased understanding
of the issues involved. The Turners Falls High School Committee has
stated publicly that they will uphold the ban that they instituted last
fall on the "chop," and will continue to support the school's
administration. In addition, the school is looking to increase its
Native American history curriculum as a result of the recent dialog.
For more information and the opinion of the current Superintendent Ken
Roche, go to: