The Trouble with the Chieftain


Jackie Cannon, Editor

Graduation: a time for excitement, pride, a little bit of nerves, and… controversy?

Yes, controversy. Many remember Alex Ablavsky’s 2013 speech lamenting the Chieftain mascot. While it was appropriately said, yet perhaps inappropriately timed, this infamous speech has been one of the catalysts for the mascot debate that has continued until the present and has expanded to all corners of the school and community. Now, this is creating more and more tension among students who want to support their school’s activities yet can’t because of their firm opinions against the present mascot.

According to the Stow Independent, Ablavsky said the following at the class of 2013 graduation: “Here I am at the point in my speech where I might say something like, ‘I am proud to be a Chieftain,’ but I refuse to do that. I thought Nashoba would be better than to continue to use a stereotype as a symbol for the school.”

He continues to say, “I am truly proud to be a member of our school, but this particular aspect is incongruous with our ideals of ‘respect, trust, teamwork, and enthusiasm.’” His speech still rings true today, and in no place is it more apparent than in the Chieftain Speech at graduation.

Any senior can write and submit such a speech with the potential of being chosen to read it at graduation. But what if, by doing so, one must go against their steadfast belief that the mascot is racist?

The guidelines suggest that a student should tell their graduating class, their teachers, and the audience why they are a Chieftain. However, there are students who would love to make a speech supporting their classmates and school and yet will not have that opportunity because they do not want to identify as a Chieftain.

There are arguments both for and against keeping the mascot, yet this issue seems to trump all other arguments. As mentioned in a previous article on the Chieftain Press, “Another Mascot Article,” when the use of a mascot is making students uncomfortable participating in activities they would otherwise love, there is a problem. Speaking at graduation is a huge and memorable privilege, and students are missing out on the potential to do this because some feel it would be hypocritical considering their personal views on the mascot.

A Chieftain is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a leader of a tribe or clan.” According to, “the Native American headdress was reserved for the most powerful and influential among the tribe.” Yet, at Nashoba, many identify as chieftains, and, by doing so, disrespect the respected tradition of Native American chieftains.

The prompt of the Chieftain speech states: “living up to the standard of being a true Nashoba Chieftain means you have acted with integrity at NRHS.” However, some think that none of us has lived up to the standard of being a true Chieftain because that is an honor given to members of a Native American tribe, not students who stereotype a minority group at football games.

This year, the graduating class of 2016 may be missing out on a valuable speech because a student that had written it is too uncomfortable labelling him or herself as a Chieftain. Even for those who do not think that the Chieftain is offensive, it is undeniable that it offends a portion of Nashoba students, and that in itself should be enough to inspire change.