Before recorded written history, there is evidence of Native Americans living across not only Manchester but all of the lands we now call the United States. When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 they first encountered Wampanoag Indians from the Nauset tribe in what is now Eastham, Mass. It is well documented that the early settlers learned to plant corn from the Native Americans. A crop that significantly helped the pilgrims survive in this harsh new land.
From the early days of this nation to this day the contribution of culture and service to this country by Native Americans is significant. The Navajo Code Talkers of World War II provided our military with a method of communication that proved to be priceless. To honor and recognize Native Americans is not only justified it is politically correct.
The history of the lands within the boundary of what is now the west end of Manchester was home to Indian settlements in areas we know as Hillstown Road, Olcutt Street and West Center Street. The early English settlers adopted some of the language and names from the Indians. We can look to the Native American word Hocquaun meaning hook-shaped or crooked river to find where the name of the Hockanum River came from. Even the name of our State, Connecticut comes from the Native American language.
Manchester High School athletic teams have been known as the Manchester Indians for generations, it is a tribute to the Native Americans that originally occupied the lands upon which the school previously and currently is located. The mascot for any school should reflect some of the history, it must be something that is held in high esteem by the community, it is a symbol which not only the students but the community can look to proudly.
Manchester High School could have chosen the farmer, weaver or even the silkworm as a mascot. Who would question as politically correct a “farmer” mascot? Yet today some would question the selection on an Indian as the mascot.
If one understands the honor and esteem a community places in a mascot they understand the true nature of the importance the mascot holds within history of the community. In the case of Manchester High School when a cheering section chants “We are the Indians, mighty mighty Indians, everywhere we go people want to know who we are, so we tell them” they are endorsing the roots of the community. The original inhabitants are remembered and their strength as a culture is recalled. The Podunks were known as a peaceful people and their history is our history, their history is a key building block in the foundation of the Manchester we know today.
Today there are some folks that although well intentioned, may be misguided in their interpretation and understanding of the Manchester High School Indian Mascot. Those that would call for a change in the mascot are calling for a revision of history. They are asking that we remove an honored part of our heritage, a building block and a memory for generations of Manchester alumni. They are asking the community to take away a position of leadership, esteem and reverence the current Manchester Indian holds.
I submit it would be far better to educate the misguided to understand the historical importance of the Native American, Indian people in Manchester. It would be far better if those that want to replace the current mascot with some less meaningful symbol would instead join with the generations of the past and remember the significance of the Indian mascot.
Perhaps it is time for a block of instruction within the school curriculum at the middle school level to introduce the Manchester Indian to the next generations so that as they enter high school they will not only understand the contribution and importance of the original inhabitants but also take great pride in being known as a “Manchester Indian”. Calling ourselves, Manchester Indians shows our understanding and kinship with our historical roots. Manchester alumni are proud of those roots and the next generations should share in that pride.