4 Connecticut school districts will break state law to keep Native American mascots

Native American mascots are being phased out around the country at every level of sports, but four Connecticut school districts are still hanging onto theirs for dear life. And it's going to cost them.

School districts for Derby, Killingly, Windsor, and Woodbury/Bethlehem are choosing to defy the state law which bars schools with Native American mascots from receiving tribal funding, Alex Putterman of CT Insider reported Wednesday.

Those four districts were part of a group of 12 that were identified last year as having nicknames or mascots that were unacceptable. Five of those schools completely rebranded, and three kept their Warriors nickname while changing their mascot and branding. They were all given a deadline of July 1 to make the changes.

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Here are the nicknames, mascots and branding those four school districts are choosing to keep:

  • Derby's middle school and high school are the Red Raiders, and their branding includes an arrowhead and feathers.

  • Killingly's mascot is the Redmen, which was reinstated by the school board in 2020 after a brief period when it adopted the Red Hawks as its mascot.

  • Windsor uses Warriors as its nickname, and its branding includes an arrowhead and feathers. Additionally, the student news site is called "The Tomahawk" and at least one school award also uses tomahawk in its name.

  • Nonnewaug High School in Windsor is nicknamed the Chiefs, and an arrowhead and feathers are used in its branding.

According to Putterman, Derby will lose $207,304 in tribal funding if they don't change their mascot and branding. Killingly will lose $94,184 and Bethlehem will lose $4,125 (Windsor and Woodbury were not due to receive any tribal money). Those funds are allocated each year by the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund, which gets its money from casino revenue. There are two major casinos in Connecticut: Foxwoods Resort Casino, owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort, owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribe.

Connecticut is the home of five state-recognized tribes: Golden Hill Paugussett, Mashantucket Pequot, Mohegan, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot, and Schaghticoke. The state used to have many schools with Native American mascots and branding, but CT Insider says many cities and towns have voluntarily dropped them over the past few years.

A detail photo of football helmets and balls on the ground during practice. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
Four school districts in Connecticut will forgo state tribal funding to keep their Native American mascots, nicknames, and branding. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)