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Naval Academy's Tecumseh statue typically is painted ahead of the Army-Navy game — but not this year

In a May 12, 2020 photo, the statue of Tecumseh is painted in honor of the United States Naval Academy's graduating class. The statue has traditionally been painted in honor of various events throughout the school year, but the 2020 Army-Navy football game won't follow that tradition.

STACY GODFREY/U.S. NAVY

By HEATHER MONGILIO | The Capital | Published: December 7, 2020

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — The Naval Academy is starting to gear up for the annual Army-Navy game, which will take place at West Point this year, but one tradition has already been modified.

This fall midshipmen will not paint the statue of Tecumseh, said Cmdr. Alana Garas, spokesperson for the Naval Academy. Instead, midshipmen painted panels that are mounted under the cannons at Tecumseh Court's entrance.

The decision to suspend the painting this semester came after input from faculty, staff and alumni, in addition to the Brigade of Midshipmen, Garas said.

"During the pause we are listening to those who consider the practice of painting Tecumseh inappropriate and offensive, as well as those who view it as a time-honored tradition," she said in an email.

Typically, midshipmen will paint both the statue in the base ahead of events such as Parents Weekend, which was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Army-Navy game. A Facebook post by photographer Bob Peterson on Nov. 5 shared images of the spirit panels painted by the 9th Company this year, ahead of the game against Tulsa.

Tecumseh is traditionally painted in war paint, although in some cases the midshipmen will go with a different theme. In 2017, it was painted green and purple following a Hulk theme.

The statue of Tecumseh is the only one on the academy grounds that honors Indigenous people, Garas said. Tecumseh first came to the academy in 1876 as a wooden bust from the USS Delaware. While the statue, which is now just bronze instead of the original wood, is named after Shawnee leader Tecumseh, it is actually modeled after Tamanend, who was a leader of the Delaware tribe, according to previous Capital reporting. The mistaken identity caught the attention of President-elect Joe Biden who requested a name change in 1998.

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