MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Around 30 people, many of whom had signs, gathered in front of Morgantown High School (MHS) on Thursday afternoon for the ‘Save the Mohigan’ protest, which was in favor of keeping the school’s mascot, the Mohigan.
The Mohigan, which is characterized as a Native American, is seen as racist and offensive to some, so much so that a petition was started to remove it. That petition now has roughly 3,500 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
However, a growing effort for keeping the mascot has also garnered thousands of signatures on multiple petitions. One petition, started by Liam O’Connor, an MHS junior, already has more than 750 signatures and the other petition, that is also in support of keeping the mascot has more than 4,400. O’Connor was the one who organized the ‘Save the Mohigan’ protest and said he did not like how his schoolmate went about starting her petition against the mascot.
“The petition was started by someone at my school who is not of Native American heritage, which is not important, but they were claiming that Native Americans are offended by it,” O’Connor explained. “I’m Native American on my mom’s side and I have a lot of friends that are also Native American and I feel like she should have definitely spoken to us before saying this, but she didn’t. And after we spoke to her about it she kept the petition up, so I decided I would start ‘Keep the Mohigan’ because I believe that the Mohigan is a good symbol of my people and I’d like to keep him up. He’s never been racist, it’s never been derogatory, it’s always been a solid representation.”
O’Connor said he was happy to see so many people out championing the cause to keep the mascot, in fact, he said it was more people than he expected to come. One of the people who attended the protest was Michele Krucoff, an MHS alumna, who took time off work to attend the protest.
“I’m here to represent my class, the class of ’78 and the pride of being a graduate of Morgantown High,” Krucoff said. “And I think it’s very important that we keep the symbolism of the Mohigan. I think it’s ridiculous that they want to change it and that’s why I felt it was important to be here.”
Krucoff said she was “very happy” to see peaceful protesters fighting speaking out against the petition to change the mascot, which she described as getting out of hand. She said she was not only representing her class, but also the classes of ’77, ’79’ and ’80. In addition, she said she was representing all those alumni who live out of state and could not attend to show their support.
Another protester who did not want to be named said she was part of the graduating class of 1963 and that her sons had graduated from MHS as well. She called the move to change the mascot “wrong” and said she wanted to uphold the tradition. The alumna added that she has Native American ancestors and didn’t see how the mascot was offensive.
O’Connor said he has sent a letter to the school’s administration but has yet to hear back. However, in a recent statement to WBOY, the school’s principal said the following:
Morgantown High School and Monongalia County Schools are committed to positively impacting the lives of our students and alumni and to continuing to benefit our larger community. We appreciate recent concerns surrounding the school’s Mohigan name and imagery and currently are engaged in continuing internal discussions regarding strategies to address these issues. Considerations including Morgantown High’s tradition of academic excellence, its history and longstanding ranking among the state’s most respected high schools will inform any decisions resulting from these discussions.Paul J. Mihalko, Jr. – Principal, Morgantown High School
At the end of the day, O’Connor said he just wants to keep the mascot, not for a political reason, but because it is a positive tradition and in no way offensive to his Native American heritage.
“I just want people to know that I’m staying out of politics,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think this is a political situation and I do think that I’m doing what’s right and what’s right by my people.”