Monday, November 6, 2017

Skowhegan On The Map Again For Racist Chamber Of Commerce Campaign To Hunt The Indian

Since the insistence on clinging to the racist "Indian" mascot of Skowhegan Area High School has in the past brought national press attention, I expect the blundering of Skowhegan's Chamber of Commerce will do so as well.

As a fun holiday promotion the Chamber, composed of local businesses who proudly display signs supporting the racist team mascot, decided to create the first annual "hunt the Indian."

You can't make this shit up. Here, in their own words, (from a screenshot of a post later taken down after the Chamber began hearing from lots of offended people):

Now the Chamber has apologized for their (white privilege-induced) blind spot and promised to rename the scavenger hunt.

They have not, and I suspect will not, addressed the problem of the original large wooden statue that they are basing their identity on. That "Indian" (pictured above) was created decades ago by Bernard Langlais, a sculptor whose works can be found throughout the town. Native people are not keen on this artifact of cultural appropriation. As Penboscot chief Barry Dana observed to me, "It doesn't look like any Indian I ever knew."

Native people struggle every Halloween with Pocahottie costumes and every sports season with "war paint", "war whoops" and Tomahawk chops. Just this fall Wells High School in southern Maine saw a display of these offensive practices on behalf of a team named "the warriors" and against a team headed up by a Native quarterback. The quarterback's mother Amelia Tuplin made a huge fuss about it, as well she might.

I have repeatedly heard Native adults say how difficult it is to explain to their children why their culture is being publicly mocked.

The historical underpinnings of this gruesomely insensitive aftermath of attempted genocide of the Native people in North America are about as bad as it gets.

Rick York was a Skowhegan Area High School coach when he sent this photo of a "scalp towel" accompanied by a joke to school board member Jennifer Poirier, who also appeared to find it pretty amusing.

Commonly portrayed in popular culture and cartoons as scalpers, Native people were in fact the scalpees in the early centuries of European invasion and occupation of their homelands. 

From the record of a 1749 war council by English military forces led by aristocrat George Cornwallis:

"For, those cause we by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council, do hereby authorize and command all Officers Civil and Military, and all His Majesty's Subjects or others to annoy, distress, take or destroy the Savage commonly called Micmac, wherever they are found, and all as such as aiding and assisting them, give further by and with the consent and advice of His Majesty's Council, do promise a reward of ten Guineas for every Indian Micmac taken or killed, to be paid upon producing such Savage taken or his scalp (as in the custom of America) if killed to the Officer Commanding."

Micmacs (a word also rendered in the Roman alphabet as Mi'kmaq) are part of the Wabanaki confederacy which is comprised of Native groups still living in North America.

Other reasons why a cutesy "Indian hunt" is anything but cute:

  • Native children were being removed from their homes and placed into abusive foster care en masse in Maine as recently as the 1970's. The Wabanaki Truth & Reconciliation Commission compiled a report of this tragedy which you can read here.
  • Native people have been resisting capitalism's destruction of the balance in our natural environment for profit for hundreds of years now. We should listen to them, else we will continue down the path of climate chaos and extreme weather.

Aftermath of the nor'easter of October, 2017 in Portland Maine, a storm which knocked out electric power for days and affected more than one million customers in New England. It also resulted in raw sewage flowing into rivers, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I hope the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce will do the right thing, but I'm not holding my breath. The idea that profit trumps all other considerations is the hallmark of the stunted thinking that led to where we find ourselves today.

Now where is that Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group I keep waiting for in Skowhegan? If there's not one by the time I retire, I pledge to start one myself.

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