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Northern Alumni Association president Peggy Thomson has a different perspective. She thinks that an opportunity to have a conversation about “reconciliation” has been missed by making the decision without consultation, according to her discussions with several alumni. She says her personal opinion is irrelevant, that the controversy has plunged her into over 40 hours of discussion and education around the issues of reconciliation in the last week alone, and as a result of what she considers a hasty decision, other people have been deprived of that transforming discussion. “I’ve had quite a bit of feedback… not all of these concerns are the same locally as nationally. I think that’s why you are seeing such a large amount of people from both the Native and non-Native community in favour of keeping the Brave head. How I feel about it is not important. I think a proper discussion needs to be held on how the Brave head is going to be retired.” She adds that elements could be taken from that symbol to be implemented in a new way. “I’m all for a new day.”
“A discussion is needed,” Thomson insists. “Everyone is saying the same thing. Let’s just talk about it! Not everyone is going to agree… we’re made to believe that this discussion has been going on for a year now, but no one has heard about it. You need to give an opportunity to people who still identify as a Northern Brave, who went there 40 years ago! Why are people so interested in this topic if it doesn’t really matter? …If people had an opportunity to say how the next chapter should look, and then you figure out the best way to move forward, I think everybody would be on board with that.”
Thomson says the logo wasn’t even retired, it was just eliminated and the school is no longer allowed to use the Brave head. “What does that say to people who own spirit ware or sports jerseys or a coat? Are we supposed to feel shame?"
by Isabel Mosseler
The removal of the Braves head as a symbol for Northern Secondary School has provoked some heated discussion about everything from reconciliation to local history, from original intent to changing social norms, from political correctness to improving community relations, with many perspectives weighing in.
The decision, taken by school principal Laurent Paquette, was a surprise to many, and has been both lauded as courageous and informed, and criticized as taken without consultation. Alumni, both Native and non-Native, have pointed out in various social media discussions that the school is coming up to its 50th anniversary in 2022, and they do not intend to wear their old school sweaters with a sense of shame. To many, the original design was a unifying symbol for a school which housed those who felt unwelcome when Sturgeon Falls faced social upheavals during the language crisis of the early 1970’s, when the old Sturgeon Falls High School became École secondaire Franco-Cité and the new Northern Secondary School was built to accommodate the remainder of the population.
The original Braves logo was designed by a student with Métis background, and several generations of students have worn the symbol with pride. But times change, attitudes shift, sensibilities and sentiment are reformed by changing conditions, and as history is reviewed injustices which were once the social norm are challenged as having long term effects on the psyche of those who, today, see things differently.
Chief Scott McLeod of Nipissing First Nation, himself a former student of Northern, indicated he had no hand in the decision, but he did support it. “First off let me say, I did not make this decision nor did I influence Mr. Paquette to make this choice, nor did I say I was ever offended by the Braves logo; I said I support his decision to remove it for the reasons of the bigger movement of reconciliation that he chose to follow and although I too am sad to see it go because I know it came from a better place of respect and inclusion than most other examples, I stand by what I said. I am happy at the direction this country is going with its efforts in the era of Truth and Reconciliation. Nobody is trying to erase anyone’s memories here, there is however a larger movement to eliminate the use of any race images as symbols or mascots of schools or sports teams and that is simply correct, not politically correct. For those of you who are not Indigenous, please stop saying this is not offensive. It is not up to you to say, regardless, if it is or is not offensive to Indigenous people. You are not that privileged to speak for us. Was it appropriate at the time? I would argue yes. Is it appropriate today? I would argue no. Does this make the people who attended [Northern] back then and were proud of the logo insensitive or inappropriate? Of course not. People, it was high school. My high school did not nor will it ever define me, who I am or where I came from… My point is change happens but it doesn’t steal your memories.”