The Warrior Name

Believe it or not, there once was a time when the Wakefield sports teams were not named the Warriors. In 1946, the Wakefield High School Student Council sponsored a contest to give the sports teams an inspiring nickname. The winning name was submitted by Harold J. Greene, a graduate of the Wakefield class of 1946, who actually submitted two entries. For his effort, Mr. Greene received the advertised cash prize winnings of ten dollars. He stated he picked the name ‘Warrior’ because the courage and skill of Chief Quannapowitt and his Indian brothers were similar to the qualities he saw in the valiant athleticism exhibited by Wakefield High School players. Mr. Greene might have been specifically referring to the 7-6 victory in the 1945 Wakefield football game against Melrose that featured the famous ‘sleeper play.’ It was thought at the time, that this particular game and the ‘sleeper play,’ was the greatest moment in Wakefield sports history.

It may be surprising to some why the concept of having a team name like ‘Warrior’ was not thought of earlier. Wakefield has a rich colonial history which was not without a share of Native American encounters similar to other areas of the country during the white man’s settling, (or maybe intrusion), of the United States. Wakefield actually built their first garrison house to fight the Indians in 1671 until eventually the fighting did subside maybe due to early settlers purchasing the land from the Saugus Indians in 1686. It is also curious that before 1945, no record can be found of any previous nickname or mascot that was used by a Wakefield High School team. It was a fine, natural choice for Wakefield athletics to adopt a name which was equated with a courageous, noble, valiant, fearsome, maybe even savage person who was experienced in physical combat and had the added bonus of being historically connected with the community.

Wakefield was not alone in their reasoning. If you think about the Middlesex League teams you will see other towns had the same idea like the Melrose Red Raiders and the Winchester Sachems, or even on a professional or collegiate level like the Florida State Seminoles, the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, and the Atlanta Braves. Hollywood capitalized on the classic cowboy and Indian theme to make countless movies and television productions throughout the years. But unlike a sports team, the Indians rarely won in the movies and were consistently portrayed as ruthless, uncontrollable heathens to the point of stereotyping a race in an unattractive and demeaning manner. Many of the sports teams who adopted a nickname did little to honor the Indian heritage when they used mascots or cartoon-like logos to symbolize the spirit of their team. Although there were honorable intentions meant to equate one’s team with a respected fighter, somehow things got carried away. Native Americans and others did take notice.

There is a movement gaining momentum throughout the United States to have organizations with names or logos depicting Indians, whether or not in a denigrating manner, to voluntarily change their mascot. It seems inevitable to some that Wakefield will eventually be politically correct like the many high schools and organizations across America who already completed the transition. Of course there is the other side of the debate where people do not want to give up their athletic heritage or endure the cost of retooling and/or redeveloping their sports image. If it does come to pass, perhaps it will be as simple as just changing a Warrior or Red Raider logo to represent something other than a proud race of human beings. Or maybe it will be as difficult as the debate which Natick had endured for years to change the ‘Redmen’ to the ‘Red and Blue’ which the Massachusetts community struggled with in town meetings. Coincidently, Chief James Quannapowitt eventually did move to Natick after Wakefield.

Whatever the outcome may be, and just in case, start drawing that new logo or thinking of a new name. Maybe you could find out what the name was that Harold Greene submitted that did not win. After all, there might be another ten bucks up for grabs.