That banner on the wall near the front doors of Morgantown High School is why, in part, those 30 or so people were gathered in the parking lot Thursday afternoon.
Said banner is touting a recent placement in the U.S. News and World Report “Best Schools” category, and it features the logo with the stylized “M.”
That’s the one with the Native American headdress draped over the side.
There are many people – current students, alumni and others – who would like to see all those trappings go away, in that they feel such imagery is co-opting a culture that has already robbed enough.
A Change.org petition is already carrying more than 3.500 electronic signatures in affirmative of the above, as of 7 p.m. Thursday.
Liam O’Conner, who has a Native American lineage despite his Irish Catholic-sounding last name, was among that group Thursday.
In fact, the student who will be a junior at MHS this fall is the one who organized the protest and fronted his own “Keep the Mohigan” counter-petition on Change.org., which had notched more than 750 signatures at that same time.
Meanwhile, the “Mohigan” isn’t a traditional, costumed mascot.
According to school lore, the name was appropriated from a mashed-up abbreviation of the yearbook: The Morgantown High Annual.
The indigenous imagery was employed, because “Mohigan” sounded like the Mohican tribe.
After all, “The Last of the Mohicans,” the historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper, was still on reading lists in high school English classes in 1927, the year MHS first opened its doors for classes.
And Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians team became the Indians in 1915.
Which was the student’s point.
“The Mohigan has been here forever,” he said.
“It’s a tribute. MHS sees the image of a Native American as brave, strong and courageous.”
While there’s no traditional, costumed mascot of which to speak, the Red and Blue Marching Band leans heavily on the imagery.
The drum major sports a full headdress and the majorettes – “Mohiganettes” – who follow are adorned in fringes and feathered headbands.
That’s what Pamela Hagedorn, a 1972 graduate and retired teacher from Monongalia County Schools, did during her senior year.
“I was a Mohiganette,” she said.
“And no one was thinking it was disrespectful or racist. There was never a question.”
Brian Lakatos, MHS Class of 1991, feels the same, he said.
“I remember as a child that the Mohigan got me interested in studying our tribes to the north on my own,” he said. “It’s a proud symbol of Morgantown High used in a positive manner.”
His father, Robert, who was Hagedorn’s classmate in ’72, said it was simply a matter of respect for the region’s predominant indigenous culture.
Which, he said, is decidedly different from Cancel Culture.
“Or you gonna do away with the Jeep Cherokee next?” he asked.
Right now, there aren’t any official plans to do away with anything.
Mon County Schools said it will continue to listen to both sides of the argument, and that no decisions have been made, one way or the other, as to whether the 2020-’21 academic year will mark the Last of the Mohigan.
Principal Paul Mihalko said Thursday he just wants to community to remember that MHS has always been MHS – and all that implies.
“We’re such a good, well-rounded school,” he said.
“You see that in our academic achievement, and in our rich music and arts programs and our prowess on the athletic field.”
Sierra Gabbert, Class of 2021, boiled that down.
“We need to keep it,” she said, of the Mohigan.