Clarkie of the Week: 02/04

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Talia Gallagher (‘17) is from North Haven, Connecticut. She is most likely majoring in International Development with a minor in Sociology and possibly Education.

SCARLET: What activities are you involved in on campus?

Talia: I’m in the musical, Vagina Monologues, Food Truth, Amnesty [International], I have a job at the info desk, and that’s about it.

SCARLET: Now, I’ve heard you are trying to change your hometown mascot?

Talia: Mhmm.

SCARLET: So it’s the mascot of the entire town?

Talia: So it’s [the mascot] owned by the school system and I think both the high school and the middle school are the Indians just to be cohesive.

SCARLET: And what made you decide to go about changing that?

Talia: Well, it was something that I had identified as offensive in high school and I talked about it with my friends and then it wasn’t really until I came to Clark and started getting more involved in activism and seeing how that works and just how important it is to make change in every possible way you can. And so I started the petition and was like, “Hey, this needs to get done.”

SCARLET: So what’s been going on with it?

Talia: My petition has close to 700 signatures. I’ve been trying to contact different people from tribe councils and professors that are versed in this and just trying to get as [many] resources as I can to make a presentation to the board on March 12.

SCARLET: And this would be the board…

Talia: Of Education.

SCARLET: Did you just sort of notice it one day?

Talia: It was a conversation that me and some of my friends would have on and off like, “Wow. I can’t believe we’re still the Indians.” And then we were talking about it over the summer one time and I was like, “Yeah, that really needs to get changed.” ‘Cause it was something that was always a conversation but anyone was never like, “Hey this is what I’m doing to try and change it,” so I was like, “I’ll do it then.”

SCARLET: How long has the mascot been the Indian?

Talia: Like forever.

SCARLET: And nobody’s thought to really actually do anything?

Talia: I’ve heard that there have been a few movements to try and change it but when I talked to the Board of Education, they said that no one has formally presented them with trying to change it.

SCARLET: So what has been the response from people? You have 700 signatures but there has to be more.

Talia: There’s been a lot of backlash. I’ve had a lot of support, which I have been very [grateful] fo,r and a lot of people have been trying to add to my research or just throw in their support. Someone started a counter-petition and there’s been a fair amount of [talking] and comments on Facebook. There’s been a very strong reaction on the other side.

SCARLET: Do they just think that if you get rid of the mascot it’ll get rid of their history?

Talia: Most of the main arguments from what I’ve seen is that it’s like, “The Indians are part of North Haven’s tradition. This is what we rally behind. This isn’t an offensive symbol.” But just really having any sort of mascot as a race of people is offensive and appropriative. What I’ve been trying to say is that I’m proud of being a North Havener, not being “an Indian”

SCARLET: Now the mascot of the Indian, is it a person from India or is it a Native American?

Talia: It’s a Native American. So it’s not even the right name.

SCARLET: So you said you present this to the Board, and then what happens? Do they just say, “Ok, we’ll change it” or is it something else?

Talia: I talked to a chairwoman and they said that the Board is gonna have to decide what the next step would be. But if they do decide to change it, what I would try and propose is having a contest where people can propose candidates which could be approved by a board of people made up from the

Board of Education, a tribal council, or just someone who can speak as a representative in the area, and possibly the North Haven Historical Society, because a lot of people on the other side have been saying, “This is getting rid of our history.” So if we want to include the history, the new mascot could incorporate that as well.

SCARLET: And when you say “Tribal Council”…

Talia: Tribal Council? Yeah of the tribes left the closest one to my town is the Connecticut [Native American] Inter Tribal Urban Council, which is [composed of] different tribes of Native Americans that make up this council of people.

SCARLET: And for the research part of it, how do you research changing a mascot?

Talia: I just started generally looking into the issue and I found a few different websites of different groups speaking out about it and what the mascot means to them.

SCARLET: About your mascot in particular?

Talia: Just the general use of Native Americans. Whether it’s the “R word” or even Indians who are just the North Haven Indians. And then, I’ve actually been very lucky, a lot of people who have done research have been like, “Hey, this is what I’ve found.” And the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is trying to put a resolution to ban all use of Native Americans as mascots. The American Psychological Association has found that it has very harmful effects on Native American communities when kids see their race represented in that way. The NAACP, the NCAA, there’s a bunch of organizations that are against it so I’ve been trying to see what those organizations [and other Native American tribes] are saying.

SCARLET: Have you been doing this all by yourself? I mean, I know there are people supporting you but you’ve obviously been the leader of this. Do you have anyone helping you?

Talia: I guess probably the best way to frame it is that I’m the contact person because I’ll be the one making the presentation, but there’s been a lot of people who have just had other things to offer me or advice or statements to read or just insights into this issue. So it’s definitely been a widespread effort; it’s definitely not just me

SCARLET: How much publicity have you gotten for this?

Talia: Back home I’ve gotten a fair amount. It’s been on a few local news sites and a few of the local papers.

SCARLET: Do you like the publicity or has it been more harmful than helpful?

Talia: Some of it has been kind of slanted towards the other side which I found frustrating and a few news sources have run the story without trying to contact me, which I found frustrating because my name and my email are on the petition, so I’m very easy to get in contact with. But a few other sources have [contacted me]. There have been a good amount [of sources] that have been like “Hey like I want to talk to you about this,” so I’ve appreciated that.

SCARLET: So with all the backlash, how do you stay motivated to keep going with this?

Talia: Honestly the backlash is kind of what is the motivation, because I think that was something that really strengthened a lot of support on my side; seeing people who just really don’t understand or can’t lend a perspective to the other side to try and help out, especially ‘cause my town is predominantly white, so there’s been a lot of issues, especially in the conversation. There’s been a lot of talk of the existence of white privilege and what that means, and especially in a small suburban town those issues aren’t really talked about, so that’s really motivated me. So hopefully in thirty years if this does get changed people will be like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we were ever the Indians.”

SCARLET: Any fun facts about yourself?

Talia: I’m a vegan. I fenced in high school. I won a Pi memorization contest.

SCARLET: Pi memorization contest, like the number?

Talia: Yeah

SCARLET: How many decimals did you get to?

Talia: Somewhere in the 230s.

SCARLET: Did you have to just stand up there and recite it?

Talia: Yeah, it was so weird cause memorizing it, everyone just kind of breaks it up into different patterns themselves, so hearing other people do it and hearing it out of pattern was so weird.

SCARLET: What do you do in your free time? Do you have any free time?

Talia: Sort of. I consider a lot of the activities I do sort of like my free time, and I like to just watch TV and hang out with my friends, you know, just lie in my bed, whatever.

SCARLET: What’s your favorite place on campus?

Talia: I really like that stone bench that faces the main gates, especially when it’s nice out. It’s a nice place to sit and you’re not really disturbed but sometimes people walk by so it’s not super secluded.

Photo taken by Jonathan Edelman

Photo taken by Jonathan Edelman