The Scrap Over Shawmut's Symbol

Is Shawmut National's corporate logo respectful of Native Americans or politically incorrect? The answer isn't clear, even to Indians, who are divided on the subject. The dustup started when New England's third-largest bank recently began placing its 82-year-old logo--an imposing bust of Obbatinewat, who was chief of the Shawmut tribe in the early 1600s--on the 33 branch offices of its newest acquisition, New Hampshire's New Dartmouth Bank.

But then Indians from Dartmouth College objected. "It's a stereotype image and does not reflect the reality of the native people," says Michael Hanitchak, a film instructor and Choctaw from Oklahoma who heads Dartmouth's Native American Council.

Some New Hampshire Indians disagree. Sharon Hunt, a representative of Drum Inc., a support group for the native Western Abenaki tribe, backs Shawmut because it donated five acres of land to Drum in February. "It was like a sign to us," she says. "We're very appreciative." Besides, she adds, she likes Shawmut's Indian: "We think he's rather handsome."

Shawmut is taking things slowly. The bank won't put up the Indian logo "until we come to an understanding with all sides," says a spokesman.

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