Melinda Jane Myers Photography/ Twitter screen capture
Frank Waln was criticized this week on Twitter by students of a West Hartford High school cheering section who call themselves ‘The Rez.’

After 2015 Performance, Artist Frank Waln Mocked by CT High School's ‘The Rez’ Twitter Account

Vincent Schilling
1/30/16

Frank Waln was criticized this week on Twitter by students of a West Hartford high school cheering section who call themselves ‘The Rez.’ Though Waln performed for the high school to positive reviews, Waln said he believes the backlash stems from his discussion against two West Hartford high school Native mascots, the Hall Warriors and the Conard Chieftains.

One Twitter account called Frank Waln a ‘sh*tty rapper’ while another said they were offended by the term cowboys, “because as a white person, I am offended.”

Twitter

Waln, who spoke with ICTMN after returning from a tour in Germany said he took the racial comments personally since he performed at the schools.

“I took this personally because I went to the schools and I performed in front of the students," Waln said. "I said, ‘I am a native person from a reservation and this is offensive and this frustrates me.

I understand we all have differences, but the kids are trying to silence our voices. I don't feel it is the right of these kids in this community to decide what is or isn't offensive to native people. That is why a brought this to the attention of my Twitter followers. I knew that my followers would also help give some perspective to these young people to include a reality check that I feel they needed.”

“There are other native people from the reservation on my Twitter line who are responding back to them as well. This social media account has been blocking all the native people for saying it was offensive. I guess this was a way to bring about the twitter community justice,” said Waln.

 “Today, the Hall high school cheering section is called The Rez. When I was asked to perform last year, I told them I found it offensive because I grew up on the Rez,” said Waln.

twitter

Around the time of Waln’s performance in 2015, the Bureau of Education recommended a change in the school logos in March 2015 after opposing student cheering sections began yelling anti-Semitic chants. The racial epithets brought exposure to Native mascots and by the 2015-2016 school year the schools changed the imagery.

“Even though the administration has said there are no more mascots, they did not enforce it to the point where the students would discontinue the cheering sections. And now they have had a resurgence of students who have come out in an ignorant way. They said, ‘We are still the Rez and we are still selling T-shirts with the logo on it,” said Waln.

See Related: After Mascot Ban at CT High School - Parent Designs ‘F*ck You’ Finger Headdress T-Shirt

According to the Hartford Courant, students at Hall High School were selling t-shirts on Friday. Rachel Corcoran-Adams, a senior, said she stopped 15 freshmen from buying the shirts during school hours. She said heard that Native Americans have spoken out about the issue and are "disgusted with the school and students.”

Facebook

"The (old) logo and fan section name puts Native Americans at the same level as animal mascots. It is downright dehumanizing. It is hypocritical of us to mock their culture through mascots after we banned them from practicing their culture during westernization," said Corcoran-Adams.

One parent told the Hartford Courant his daughter was "dejected and disappointed" when she told him that students were wearing T-shirts featuring the old Indian head mascot with the words, 'The Rez.' "My feeling is that school spirit is bigger than any one symbol or logo," he said to the Courant. "If you can't get behind a new logo than something is wrong with your school spirit."

Last August school board Chairman Mark Overmyer-Velazquez said the schools couldn't legally order the student-led clubs to stop using the names. Though the school cheering section/ pep club told Overmyer-Velazquez they would change the name to “The Red C” last August, The Reservation and The Tribe Twitter accounts remain active.

Conard student council co-president Brian Wilson told the Courant that Conard Tribe T-shirts had not yet been printed though the fan section had posted designs of a new shirt with Native American imagery and the words, "Return of the Tribe."

"I am on the side of keeping the Chieftain. However, I respect the new policy and the compromise," Wilson said. "Even though I may like the design, and the majority of students do like the design, we just need to be respectful of compromise and the change. You may not like it, but it's the way it is."

On Friday morning, Wilson and co-president Mamata Malla wrote a letter asking students demonstrate that they "can respect the privilege of being called Chieftains.”

"If we violate the policy, there is a strong possibility the Board of Education will ban the Chieftain name," wrote Wilson and Malla. "With a tradition that goes back to the 1950s, we would be remiss to have the Chieftain name taken away."

Waln said he understands overall that many of the comments are due to a lack of maturity, but individuals responsible should be responsible for their actions.

“I definitely think the students that are doing this are probably immature children as they are in high school,” said Waln. “But still, if you're going to be making decisions that are affecting other people, within you are going to have to deal with the consequences no matter how old you are. This is a life lesson for these kids. It is better they face this now and have a true rude awakening when they get into college or get involved with other interests.”

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anonymous01's picture
anonymous01
Submitted by anonymous01 on
Frank Waln, First of all, you and your twitter followers seem to misunderstand that free speech is a right. Whether you like it or not, students are allowed to wear T-shirts and participate in a (non-school sanctioned) club. Just because you and others are offended doesn't mean others are not allowed to have a different opinion. "Offensive" speech is also protected under the first amendment. Secondly, as a Hall high alum, I want to explain our use of the Native American mascots. Our town recognizes the Wampanoag tribe's historical presence in various ways. There is a swim and golf club named for the Wampanoags. Also, there are many streets named after Indian tribes (Mohegan, Mohawk, Sequin, etc) in the area previously occupied by Indians. I attended King Phillip Middle School named for the Wampanoag chief Metacomet, who was known by "King Phillip." Our now retired logo aims to commemorate the native history of our town. Furthermore, mascots are often associated with a positive connotation. To Hall high students and alumni, the warrior represents strength, bravery, and tenacity. We aspire to emulate these valiant traits of the native culture and in no way intend to be disrespectful. I understand that natives have faced horrible oppression from the U.S. government. Sadly, we cannot change the past, but these mascots are an attempt for non-natives to show overdue respect to your people. This article doesn't seem to grasp the sarcasm in the tweet referencing the Dallas Cowboys, but I might add that there are several mascots depicting whites. For example, the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish all are mascots comparable to Indian mascots. They seek to commemorate the history of their area and/or glorify the admirable traits of a population. Also, I wish you and your followers would recognize that white people of today are not to blame for the sins of our ancestors. We did not chose to be white any more than you chose to be native, and therefore white people are not inherently immoral as you insinuate. Lastly, I am disgusted by the lack of maturity and respect shown by you and your twitter followers. As an adult, you condone and encourage cyberbullying. While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, you chose a poor way to communicate it. You and your followers show a vindictive spirit and want young people to be publicly shamed for expressing their opinions. Through your tweets and retweets, you have villainized students for showing school spirit (ie. Re-tweeting innocent pictures of the fan section at athletic events) and called someone racist for disliking your music. Also, I have to wonder, why do you and your followers care so much about something that doesn't affect you personally? You claim that white people care more about mascots than improving life for natives. However, you and your followers choose to fixate on T-shirts. A high school pep section is a very minor issue for both West Hartford residents and especially for those who have no connection to West Hartford and Hall. Do you really think teenagers deserve to be bullied by your followers for wearing T-shirts. Remember, these people have a right to opinions too. Additionally, your tweets generalizing and disparaging the student body of Hall reveal your hypocrisy. You incorrectly assume that all Hall students and Rez members are white, which is very far from the truth. According to Hall's 2014-2015 school profile, 66% percent of students are white. Your generalization of us as "privileged whites" ignores the 34% of students that are black, hispanic, asian, or native (11%, 11%, 11% and 1%, respectively). You claim the opinions of whites do not matter, and you retweeted a tweet referring to white people as "gingos." I don't think you would like it if I came to your reservation, generalized your people, disrespected your right of free speech, and referred to you using derogatory terms. As a white person, that would be considered horribly racist. So, why is it okay when you, a native, insult our school. To me, someone who is unwilling to return the respect he demands of Hall high should not be welcome, let alone a special performer. You fail to realize that further division prevents our nation from moving forward from its dark past. How can you expect us to treat you with respect if you cannot do the same thing for us? To all readers of this site, say what you want about me, but I wish you'd actually consider what I have to say. - A recent Hall alum

mem's picture
mem
Submitted by mem on
How pathetic these European children have to steal from other cutures to feel strong, brave, & united. Don't they have any representation that they can have the same unitedness from their own European cultures? And, don't use the "cowboy" word or symbol to rep a European because that was another cuture theft stolen from another native, the Mexican. It is pathetic but these children like many generations before them are so ignorant to where & what they really come from.

anonymous01's picture
anonymous01
Submitted by anonymous01 on
@mem 34% of Hall high students are of non-European origin.

mem's picture
mem
Submitted by mem on
anonymous01 - The majority rules the attitude and that is what is eminating from your school - the usual attitude of the European. The POINT is the same & has nothing to do with percentage. Don't you have your own reps instead of stealing from other cultures?

CreeDence's picture
CreeDence
Submitted by CreeDence on
anonymous01, look at it this way, would be a good to name a team, any team, the White Skins. What about The Black Skins. Better yet, what about the Espanol SmallPox'ers. All of those terms are offensive (and I know your mascot is not the same as Washington's NFL team), I'm just giving you a different perspective. Provided that you see this, don't you think it would be offensive to use The White Skins as a mascot.
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