Letter from the Editors: The Sagamore to reevaluate name after 127 years

Letter from the Editors: The Sagamore to reevaluate name after 127 years

To the Brookline community,

Over the past two years, members of our staff have been researching the history of our name and its meaning. 2020-21 Arts and Multimedia Managing Editor Aryn Lee, 2020-21 Longform Managing Editor Graham Krewinghaus and 2021-22 Longform Managing Editor Rowan Roudebush have led this effort.

With help from the Brookline Historical Society, we have gained insight into how our newspaper became named “The Sagamore.” The word “Sagamore” is used by some northeastern tribes, including the Massachussett tribe at Ponkapoag, to refer to a leader. According to President of the Brookline Historical Society Ken Liss, the students who named “The Sagamore” could have been following the popular trend at the time of romanticizing Native American terminology without understanding the culture the word comes from.

The paper’s name is also connected to an 1800s fraternal organization called the Improved Order of Red Men. This organization was comprised of white men who appropriated Native American imagery and terminology for their titles and logos.

Charles A.W. Spencer, the Improved Order of Red Men’s Assistant Chief of Records, was the father of The Sagamore’s first Editor-in-Chief in 1895, Arthur Spencer. One of the Native American terms appropriated to describe the ranks in the Improved Order of Red Men was “Sagamore.” There is a link between the name of our newspaper and this organization that demeaned indigenous cultures.

In early issues of our newspaper, a quote from John Winthrop was printed under the name: “there being ten Sagamores and many Indians at Muddy River.” John Winthrop, one of the first settlers of Massachusetts Bay, was part of the colonization effort that devastated indigenous people. The use of this quote further tied our newspaper to a history of genocide and white saviorism.

As part of our research into the name’s history, Roudebush spoke to a variety of people, including a local Native American spokesperson and the Civic Engagement Coordinator at the North American Indian Center of Boston. Through these conversations, we have begun to understand more clearly the harm our name is causing today.

Ultimately, “Sagamore” is a word that has meaning to a culture that does not belong to us nor those who named our paper. The name of our paper was born out of cultural appropriation and disrespect towards indigenous people.

When the aforementioned research was presented to our staff, we began a series of conversations about our next steps. “The Sagamore” has been the name of this newspaper for almost 130 years and brings with it memories, stories and a community. Attached to our name, we have a business and years of service to Brookline. We were daunted with the idea of what it would mean to change it.

However, our staff collectively came to the conclusion that we must reconsider our name.

To fully acknowledge and understand the impact of our name, staff members will spend this summer conducting more research, speaking to more indigenous people and planning our next steps.

We do not want to rush this process, as we believe a name change requires thoughtful conversation and deep research. We are excited about the work we will continue to do to improve and reimagine our paper.

Be on the lookout for more updates this fall!

Charlotte Dresser, Rosa Caramazza and Luca Kelley Nielsen, 2021-2022 Editors-in-Chief
Anisa Sharma, Anya Rao and Eleanor Bergstein, 2022-2023 Editors-in-Chief