Northwood’s Little-Known Husky History

Ask any student or faculty at Northwood what our mascot is, and they will respond with ease: “the Husky.” But how true is this, and what is the Husky’s history?

With the Ring the Bell Campaign and Winter Carnival, Northwood spirit is at its peak; parents, faculty, alumni, trustees and students are enthusiastic about the success of our school. Along with these school-wide events, another fundamental factor in creating a sense of belonging is our school mascot: the Husky. However, questions have been raised recently regarding the authenticity of this Husky. Students have noticed the lack of Husky-branded merchandise and apparel in the school store, and some longtime faculty note the school’s history includes another controversial mascot that some believe may have never been formally abandoned (or even adopted).

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Today, the Husky represents Northwood with a common public identity. Just like our mascot, we live in a cold region, the Adirondacks. We are also strong, fierce, outgoing, but most important, we are friendly and welcoming. Students and teachers believe that the Husky suits the school’s spirit well.

“We’re very similar to huskies. Both of us are northern and outdoorsy,” said Ms. Aerie Treska, an English teacher and the 11th grade class dean. Imani Hawman ’20 added, “I think that our mascot tells us who we are as a school. For example, huskies are a symbol of endurance, which is why they’re used for sled dog racing. They can withstand the cold very well and are one of the most athletic dogs, too. We have a lot of things in common with huskies, and I’m proud of that. This is my second year at Northwood, and I’ve liked the fact that we’re the Huskies ever since I came to this school.”

Though the Husky is widely considered the symbol of our community, not a lot of people at Northwood today realize that we had been the Northwood Indians for much of the school’s first one hundred years. According to “History of Northwood School,” written by Don Mellor ’71, a current Northwood English teacher, for the first twenty-three years of the school’s existence, Northwood, or rather, Lake Placid School, as it was known then, had a winter campus in Florida and the school newspaper was called The Migrator to “[recognize] the school’s dual identity.” It was a tradition of the school to break up into two teams of native tribes — the Seminoles (of Florida) and the Mohawks (of New York state) — and compete against one another in events ranging from team athletics to debate.

“Only later, when the Florida winter school ended, did the Seminoles become the Senecas,” wrote Mellor. Northwood’s athletic teams were first referred to as “the Indians” in the 1958 yearbook, in which school teams wore jerseys emblazoned with an Indian, but students can be seen with an Indian mascot on their uniforms as early as 1950.

However, later on, students found such ethnic labels offensive and saw the tradition as a bit anachronistic. In a recent interview, Mellor said, “I remember Mr. Weaver [who used to coach Northwood’s lacrosse team] coming back from a lacrosse trip and saying, ‘We went to play lacrosse on an Indian reservation up at Salmon River playing against Native Americans, and all our kids had drawings of Indians on their bags. It’s messed up.’ Students used to even paint their faces like Native American warriors. It’s hard to imagine people now painting their faces to look like other ethnic groups.”

The school-wide controversy on the mascot soon led students to take action. In his school history, Mellor further explained, “the Board decision to change the school’s official mascot from the Indian to the Husky began as an impromptu student initiative… when an informal vote picked the Husky over several other North Country options.” Bill Kelly, Northwood’s night watchman at the time, and a Native American, is assumed to have been the “real inspiration” for the choice of husky, because he raised a group of huskies in his trailer on campus near where the Hanke Ski Building is today.

According to the official minutes of the February 2, 2001 Board of Trustees meeting, the school’s governing body formally approved changing the school’s official mascot from Indians to Huskies. (Incidentally, nearby Saranac Lake School Board voted to drop “Redskins” as its official mascot just five days later.)

Initially, however, the Husky was not fully endorsed by everyone. The Mirror flipped back and forth, sometimes calling our teams the Indians, other times the Huskies. More often, it would skip the issue altogether, referring to our players simply as Northwood. But after many years of confusion and disagreement, the Husky took root as Northwood’s mascot. The fact that this paper has used the term “Husky” or “Huskies” without controversy more than 300 times this school year illustrates that the Husky is accepted as Northwood’s mascot.

Nevertheless, the standing of the Husky as the official mascot of Northwood remains unclear, since the mascot is only conceptual: the school does not have its own graphical depiction of the Husky. As a result, none of the items in the school bookstore, including school supplies and athletic clothing, have the image of the Husky printed on them. UConn, probably the most famous school with a Husky mascot, has a recognizable Husky dog that appears on t-shirts, sweatshirts, pennants and countless other merchandise. University of Washington and Northeastern University have their own Huskies.

Until Northwood has its own recognizable Husky dog mascot, students, parents and alumni won’t be able to show their Husky pride. For now, they’ll don sweatshirts and hats featuring the blue N of Northwood.

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