"The pen is mightier than the sword" is something I wanted to believe when I was young, and studying history and current events has strengthened this conviction.
Other ways I've learned of expressing this belief include "You can't kill an idea whose time has come" as well as the proverb of indigenous people of Mexico:
With those thoughts in mind, today I'll share the latest crop of opinion pieces and letters to the editor calling for the retirement of the Skowhegan high school "Indian" mascot/team name.
The first is from The Maine Campus, student newspaper of the University of Maine, Orono. It's a well-researched and well-written op-ed by Liz Theriault. "Maine high schools should consider harmful impacts of Native American Mascots." An excerpt:
No one understands the painful history of a culture more than those whose ancestors endured it. USA Today reported that high schools across the nation started adopting Indian team names around the 1920s and 1930s, the same time that the use of Native language or the practice of Native religion was banned. The Civilization Fund Act of 1819 provided federal funding to boarding schools designed to assimilate Native Americans into white culture. While these egregious acts were being forced upon Natives, and as they were banned from practicing their cultures, students wore feathers, mocked chants and offensively danced on the sidelines of sports games.
I look forward to reading more from Liz Theriault in the years to come!
The next two letters were published today in the Waterville Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal, sister newspapers serving the area that contains the sprawling district MSAD 54.
"Skowhegan's mascot fight is costly" was sent in by Abby Norling, a retired special ed teacher whom I taught with many years ago in Oakland. An excerpt:
With the school budget season upon us, I can’t help but wonder what else $15,000 could buy for students — perhaps new books, science lab equipment, or busing to tournaments? New uniforms have also been suggested, but that’s not a pressing need, since SAHS team uniforms don’t say the team name on them and haven’t for years.
As a former board member myself, I also worry about potential future legal actions, and what that might cost taxpayers. Prudent management of the district’s scarce resources for education would seem to suggest that retiring the team name soon would be a financially responsible thing, as well as just the right thing to do.
"SAD 54 Board should listen to tribes" by Ernie Hilton brings his perspective as an attorney into play by pointing out which groups are and aren't credible when they claim to speak for Maine's Natives. An excerpt:
...the governing bodies of the four sovereign tribes noted above [Penobscot Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Houlton Band of Maliseets and the Micmacs], having as they do the legal right to represent the interests of the larger diaspora of their members, have engaged in a deliberative process and arrived at a conclusion — a conclusion mind you which is based on a great deal of unrefuted scientific evidence that the use of “Indian” symbology, whether termed as a mascot or otherwise, is damaging to their members. They have appointed official ambassadors to present this request.
Interested parties may want to join us to maintain a presence at the MSAD 54 board meetings.
|Alumna Tamarleigh Grenfell at the last board meeting. I particularly like the message on her yellow sign. The acronym SAHS on her pink sign stands for Skowhegan Area High School.|
The next meeting is tomorrow, Thursday, February 28 at 7pm in the Skowhegan Area Middle School cafeteria (link to Facebook event with more info here). An item to decide on how to proceed on the mascot issue is on the agenda, but it's very unlikely a vote will occur this week.
If you'd like to share some information or reasoning with the school board directors, a handy copy and paste list of their email addresses can be found here.