Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Skowhegan School Board Director Poirier Ignores Legal Vulnerability, Brings NAGA To Town

Birds of a feather flock together. Pretendians and actual Native supporters of Covington Catholic School boys who mocked Native ceremonial drumming at an Indigenous People's Day March in Washington DC last month while wearing clothing with the slogan "Make America Great Again".

Skowhegan school board director Jennifer Poirier has decided to ignore her legal vulnerability for bias in conducting MSAD 54's business of educating children.

Plowing straight ahead into that particular storm, in her capacity as an organizer for the Skowhegan "Indian Pride" (SIP) group she has invited the Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) to Skowhegan for an invitation-only event to be held at the bowling alley.

NAGA was established by people affiliated with the Washington R#%$kin$ football franchise and their efforts to resist calls to retire their racist team name.

The sports site Deadspin has been following their efforts in Washington DC as well as their involvement in local mascot controversies at schools in New York and Utah, among other places. 

Post from Cedar High School, Utah mascot controversy where the "R*dmen" were recently retired. Posted by Not Your Disappearing Indian podcaster Jacqueline Keeler.

Now, NAGA will come to Maine.

So much for SIP's constant refrain that they are tired of people from "away" telling them what to do about the Indian team name they claim is a purely local issue.

Probably the most convincing evidence that NAGA does not actually represent Maine's Native people is their own statement, "NAGAs[sic] mission is to preserve and perpetuate Native American culture..."  As we know, Maine alone has four Native groups, each with their own distinctive culture which includes language. Passamoquoddy is not Penobscot, and vice versa, etc. 

There is literally no such thing as Native American culture, singular.

(Also, the white people who lead NAGA might want to study their own cultural practices around correct use of the possessive apostrophe.)

MSAD 54 school board members should probably listen to legal advice and check themselves before they wreck themselves. What they do during board meetings is protected by insurance in place to cover any liabilities incurred while conducting official business. We, the taxpayers, pay those insurance premiums, presumably because there would be too much risk to an individual making policy decisions that might lead to a lawsuit. What directors do outside of board meetings is not protected unless they have their own insurance for this. They are acting as individuals, and can be held liable as such.

For broader context, here's news of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan filing a federal discrimination complaint against the Paw Paw Public School district. What's the mascot/team name at Paw Paw High School? The R#%$kin$.

(I use a euphemism for this name because of the connotation of scalping and bloodletting that were foundational to the attempted genocide targeting indigenous people in North America.)

The ACLU of Maine has already notified Poirier and the other MSAD 54 directors, on more than one occasion, that they consider the team name Indians violates non-discrimination statutes that schools receiving federal funds must observe.

This screenshot from the SIP Facebook group indicates that changers who want to weigh in at the event this Sunday, February 24 from 1-3pm at the bowling alley would do well to stand on the public road (Route 201) with their signs.

As someone who has exercised my 1st amendment rights in Skowhegan on many, many Sundays, I feel safe in saying that the local police are well aware of where people may engage in political speech. Hooray for the Constitution!

As for why pretendians and some actual Native people from away represent for NAGA, we know that the majority owner of the Washington NFL franchise and its branding is very, very wealthy. Could be it's all about the Benjamins, baby.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Skowhegan Elementary Teacher: Many Teachers Want Mascot Retired, But Board Does Not Listen To Us

As the adult child of an alcoholic, I experience stress around listening to excuses. Ironically, for the last 25 years I've worked as a public school teacher and listening to excuses is part of the job. 

This condition of mine made it challenging to go door-to-door in Skowhegan last Sunday. 

My canvassing partner and I listened to several versions of stuff white people say when they are excusing their own failure to show up for racial justice. 

The gist of what they told us went something like this: I am in my [white privilege] comfort zone and I won't do anything that might take me out of that zone. 

Of course no one actually used the words white privilege. Its tremendous power rests on its pervasive yet invisible nature.

The person who articulated it best shared that they only leave online political comments under a disguised name. They gave the example that they are against Trump, but if they had a bumper sticker that was anti-Trump, someone would trash their car. This person also thought the mascot controversy was fairly new and was quite surprised to find that Native people have been requesting that it change since 1990. They characterized the eventual retirement of the "Indian" team name as inevitable, but they weren't sure if it would take another 5 or even 10 years. And they certainly weren't going to help hasten the process even though they freely admitted it would be the right thing to stop being offensive in the 21st century.

I don't see why this is a problem, is what several of the less politically aware folks told canvassers. Many others stated that they were of two minds, that they could see both sides, clearly feeling that this was the perfect excuse not to get involved.

We hope the mascot will have retired by spring, and we await the February 28 school board meeting with interest.

However, if the pretendians are still around come spring, then we'll canvass again. As we did last Sunday, we'll offer information on the local history of Native people, why the American Psychological Association found Native mascots harmful to all students, and copies of lovely posters reminding us that we are on indigenous land.

Summary of Door Notes Sheets
Skowhegan canvass Feb. 10, 2019

FOR CHANGE: 7 (39%)

  1. Support, concerned with how we get there
  2. Support, has high school kids
  3. Saw both side, no kids
  4. Yes!!!
  5. Yes!!!
  6. Thinks stay same, a middle school kid
  7. Didn’t open door, wants to keep mascot, gave public comment
  8. Hadn’t heard much, in support of change, not interested in being involved
  9. No opinion, no convo
  10. 50/50, went to the high school, receptive, took our handouts
  11. 50/50, thinks we should educate, we’re doing good work, husband’s school in Sanford changed name. Did not want to sign anything or take papers. Seemed a little defensive/cautious. Doesn’t think mascot was initially meant to upset anyone.
  12. Not down to talk
  13. Supportive / but attached to name. The longer we spoke the more he was convinced. “If we change this, we’ll have to change more.” Thought mascot was degrading but not name.
  14. Sympathetic, not willing to take action.
  15. Didn’t know much about the controversy, talked about pride, took historical info & Hope’s essay
  16. Haven’t given it much thought, don’t see why the controversy is “so ugly”
  17. Did not engage
  18. In favor of change, Skowhegan elementary school teacher, said many teachers want change but school board doesn’t listen to staff

I find #18 particularly compelling. MSAD 54 school board directors, are you listening?