Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Indigenous Children Gassed At The Border, Mocked At Football Games

I woke this morning intending to update readers on progress in pressuring Skowhegan Area High School to retire its racist team name/mascot, which some call Pretendians.

Yesterday I was contacted by three women: a news director at Maine Public Radio, an attorney from the Maine ACLU, and a leader of Suit Up Maine (formed to "promote equity and equality in civil rights, social justice, health care, the environment, education, the economy, and other areas that affect the lives of all people"). All three expressed interest in the school board meeting coming up on December 6. The facebook event to organize support for Native people in Maine calling for change has 161 people interested and 31 saying they plan to attend as of this morning.

Mockery of indigenous culture and history is commonplace in the U.S. right down to the present moment. Dehumanizing people is foundational to genocide as students of the Holocaust or ethnic cleansing in Rwanda know. Jewish people were compared with rats and referred to as vermin; Tutsi people were referred to as cockroaches. Then, they were slaughtered.

All hate crimes are preceded by hate language is what I told the school board at their November meeting. 

Which brings us to the gassing of asylum seekers -- many of whom are indigenous children -- at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The demagogue with bad hair in the White House tweeted yesterday that many of those being gassed are "stone cold criminals." To say that he offered no evidence to support his claim would just be describing government by tweet as we have come to know it.

When the point is to demonize the Other who allegedly threatens our collective safety, empty threats are far more effective than facts.

The white supremacist culture of the U.S. has built an entire industry characterizing itself as the anti-Nazis. Most of that culture is war porn where beaches are stormed, buddies are glorified, and concentration camps are liberated by the "good guys" (that would be us). A zillion books and movies enshrine the national myth of violent "Christian" saviors. My friend Bruce Gagnon examined this myth yesterday in a blog post: "Was there an ideological contamination from the Nazis?"

Who now has the courage to speak up and say:

The U.S. imprisons thousands of children in concentration camps in Texas right now. 

The militarized U.S. Border Patrol is attacking children and their families fleeing violence in Central America that the U.S. creates and funds.

Brown citizens are being stripped of their passports even if they earned citizenship via enlistment in the U.S. military.

White militias are massing on the border with Mexico threatening refugees with further violence if they dare to apply for asylum in the U.S.

White supremacy is a disease. Mocking Native people and harming their children are symptoms of moral sickness. Claiming you do so in the name of Christ is ludicrous.

Silence is complicity in these crimes from here on out. 

There's a lot of historical precedent for that, too.

(Special thanks to Hope Savage for all the good meme shares.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mom Of Teen Athlete On Changing Skowhegan's Team Name: Let's Move Forward...For The Sake Of The Kids

Skowhegan High School alumna Tamarleigh Grenfell stood outside a school board meeting in 2015 calling for change.

I am pleased to share this guest post by Julie Cooke, Skowhegan Area High School booster, based on her remarks to the school board on November 15, 2018. I added the visuals.

I think my daughter was in middle school when I remember first hearing about the requests from some Native people to change the Indian mascot. I regret that I didn't take the time to think too much about it, but there was a lot of material swirling about on social media and I did participate in sharing my thoughts. I remember it started with words that were something like "I don't really care a whole lot about this issue but…".

Ugh. (*slaps self in the forehead). I went on to say that my overall gut feeling was that

if Native people were stepping forward to express being hurt by this, then I did not want to be one of the people doing the offending.

At that time I didn't really understand why they were hurt by it. It didn't matter to me. I didn't need a reason. It was as simple as that. After all, being a former three sport athlete and graduate from Skowhegan High School, I reflected back on some of my experiences at that time and fighting against sexism in athletics. I was fortunate to have, in my opinion, strong ethical activists in my family who weren't afraid of fighting for what is right. (*heart swells).

No pretendians in this archived news clipping about Mark Savage and the undefeated, untied
Skowhegan football team of 1951. So much for tradition and heritage claims.
I could go into all the political and civil reasons that I learned to understand about this issue - how it is an example of dehumanization and oppression. Instead, I thought I would share a little about the experience of a student athlete, attending high school in the middle of it all. My daughter entered the Skowhegan High School about a year after this Indian mascot issue surfaced. By that time I had had several conversations with my mother and others, read articles, observed other communities all over the country changing their mascot and was getting a better understanding of the depths of the issue. My daughter was well aware of it as well. She had the same reaction as I, not liking the idea of hurting others. She did have a strong presence of people who stood on the other side of the issue, but this was her own, instinctive reaction.

That being said, being a 14 year old girl just entering high school after coming from a much smaller school and even some years of homeschooling, she was focused on more personal anxieties. Shortly after school started, she went out for the soccer team and was placed on the varsity team! At this point, the votes had been taken and the school board's decision was to keep the mascot. This was, I suppose, all well and good, but that didn't mean that the people to whom it referred would stop being hurt by it.

A few weeks into the season, it was Homecoming week and "Spirit Day" approached. I personally had attended the booster meeting that discussed ordering T-shirts for the girls to wear to school as a team. At that meeting, I raised my hand and offered that I would prefer that we left the word "Indian" and Indian imagery off the shirt.

Portland High School mascot Kamron King poses with a fan at a basketball game. Photo: Portland Press Herald

A few days later I received a text message from my daughter sounding a little panicked and concerned. The T-shirts had come in and the words "Indian pride", (I believe), and some imagery were present on the shirt. She said that the whole team was supposed to wear the shirt the next day and asked what she should do? She was not comfortable, at this point so early in high school, making bold statements or standing out, excluding herself from the rest of the team...all older girls from whom she sought acceptance.

She was also not comfortable wearing a shirt that went against what she and her family believed to be ethically wrong. I told her to do whatever felt right in her gut. She said she didn't want to wear it.

I was proud, but angry! Mama bear took over. I fired off an aggressive message on the soccer team's Facebook page (which in turn taught me a lesson in itself). I said she would not be wearing it, nor would I be donating it. The shirt was going in our garbage can! The team decided not to wear the t-shirts that day and instead wore a travel jacket that didn't offend ANYONE! There was some backlash and people decided they weren't going to be as friendly to us as they had been , but we, and she, survived!

Gardiner (Maine) High School mascot in action at a football game. Photo from Kennebec Journal by Michael M. Seamens

She is a senior now. She is a three sport varsity athlete. She has been voted by her coaches and teammates as captain multiple times. She has been recognized by her coaches, other town's coaches, referees, and the newspapers, for her sportsmanship and hard work. She has been acknowledged for her leadership in sports as well as in school. She didn't know she was a leader growing up. There were times, in fact, when she was put in those positions that it made her very uncomfortable, but she chose to rise to them and I am extremely proud. Over the course of her 3+ years, we have had many, MANY instances of discomfort regarding the Indian mascot name.

She has chosen to be more of a silent protester. She is not afraid to say what she thinks among her friends and coaches, but she has chosen not to be loud about it. She doesn't participate in any type of activity that she finds offensive despite what others do. She has a softball helmet that her uncle purchased for her 16th birthday which is slightly different than the rest in that it excludes the word "Indians" written across the front. She does not cheer "Indians" in the huddle when the rest of the team does. She specifically chooses merchandise that does not display any imagery. Her friends are sensitive and considerate. Her coaches don't discuss, push, or judge her based on her stand, but still it makes her uncomfortable, knowing she is bringing conflict to light.

She cringes a little every time her team is announced, especially at away games, as the Skowhegan Indians. It hasn't been easy, but she handles it with grace. Meanwhile, I don't share many sports articles that celebrate her success because the papers are littered with the usage of the word Indian, despite their published editorial that the mascot should change.

I have resisted sharing interviews she has done because the interviewer has described her as a Skowhegan Indian.

I don't buy her the things the other kids might buy. I seldom share certain fundraising events that could potentially earn her team more money because the names of the fundraisers, in my opinion, contain racist language that I can't ethically support.

Lisa Savage holding a sign at school board meeting May, 2015 in Skowhegan Photo: CentralMaine.com
In the end, I just can't help but wonder, who would have been uncomfortable if all of this had been resolved years ago? Would anybody have had to go through high school offended or embarrassed or uncomfortable if the mascot were changed to something about which everybody could feel good? What is the sense in perpetuating extra drama that the kids don't need? If this issue, causes discomfort and conflict for my child -- a confident, beautiful, well-liked blonde, white girl -- I can only imagine the struggle it might be for a native child who feels targeted and offended by this.

Let's move forward, once and for all, with empathy and understanding and support...for the sake of the kids.

-- Julie Cooke, Skowhegan

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Penobscot Nation To Governor-Elect Janet Mills: Uphold Our Right To Protect Our Children, Our River

Rally to retire the mascot, Skowhegan, Maine August 5, 2015. (My photo)
With the racist "pretendian" mascot issue blowing up again in Skowhegan, it might be time for some context.

Here is Penobscot wise woman Dawn Neptune Adams' essay on indigenous issues in play as Maine's former Attorney General Janet Mills heads toward being sworn in as governor. (Photos and captions added by me.)

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation at center, protesting then Attorney General Janet Mills' trampling of Native sovereignty as it applies to the Penobscot River.  Photo credit: Carl D. Walsh, Portland Press Herald

Indigenous Issues and the Newly-Elected Governor, Janet Mills

Moving Forward

By Dawn Neptune Adams

November, 2018 
Congratulations! We all survived the midterm elections. Now, where do we go from here? 
Newly-elected Governor Janet Mills is known for her work in opposition to Indigenous issues during her time as Attorney General. Three of the most pressing issues are presented in the following essay, along with steps in moving forward: 

Banner created for the Maine Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which documented sexual abuse and other violence against Native children removed from their families and placed in foster care in the 1970's. For more details on righting this historic wrong, see the documentary Dawnland currently streaming on PBS.

Native Womxn are three times more likely to suffer from violent crimes than any other group of womxn. According to statistics, 80% of these crimes are committed by non-Native men. Mills fought to keep Wabanaki Womxn from protections under the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, stating that our communities are not sovereign but are municipalities and therefore not eligible for the additional safeguards put in place by the Federal Government, for every Federally-recognized tribe in the Nation but those in Maine and Alaska.  
Moving forward, an updated version of Legislative bill LD 268 “An Act regarding Penobscot Nation’s and Passamaquoddy Tribes’ Authority to exercise Jurisdiction under Federal Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013” must be introduced and passed. Any attempt on the part of Governor Mills to veto the bill should be met with resistance.  

Maulian Dana, right, joined her father Penobscot Chief Barry Dana and several other family members at a rally to retire the mascot in Skowhegan, August 5, 2015. (My photo)

A comment was requested from Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana, who answered: “We are committed to working out the kinks in the potential jurisdictional issues that have been barriers in the past. This may mean looking at how the [Maine Indian Land Claims] Settlement Act is being interpreted and used not in the best interest of tribal sovereignty. It is on the radar of the new Governor and we are hopeful we can reach some deeper understanding.”

Banner by the Artists' Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) of the Union of Maine Visual Artists

2. Penobscot Nation vs. Attorney General Janet Mills 
The Penobscot River has always been home to the People of the Penobscot Nation. As the Attorney General listed in the lawsuit Penobscot Nation vs. AG Janet Mills, Mills has vociferously defended the State’s opinion that the Water flowing in the Penobscot River surrounding the 200+ islands that make up the Penobscot Nation, was not part of Penobscot Territory. This contradicts Treaties and past interpretations of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act (MILCSA). The State of Maine and a consortium of 17 Industrial and municipal intervenors, represented by the lobbying firm Pierce Atwood, opposed Penobscot stewardship of the main stem of the River in a manner said by the Federal Government to be in violation of Federal Indian law, and tantamount to an “unlawful territorial taking” of 61 miles of River. In December of 2015, the U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, reaffirmed the Tribe’s Treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights, but decided in favor of the State in redefining the definition of “Tribal Waters.” In the First Circuit Court of Appeals, one of three judges issued a dissenting opinion. Judge Juan Torruella wrote an argument reaffirming the Penobscot territory to include both the land and the water, in which he cited the Treaties of 1796, 1818, and 1833; and legal precedents set in previous agreements which support Tribal stewardship of the River. 
Moving forward, the Penobscot Nation has one more level of appeals called an “en banc review” in which the case is heard by a large panel of judges and is usually reserved for complicated or unusual cases. This option is currently being discussed by Tribal leaders. We will need the support of all of our friends and coalitions to keep Industrial interests from framing the narrative in a way that suggests the Penobscot People are trying to exclude anyone from using the River; the Penobscot Nation is simply defending itself against territorial theft and a termination attempt. The River is our Relative and we are determined to protect her health for future generations of ALL the people of Wabanaki Territory. 

Sherri Mitchell speaking about Penobscot Nation restoring the river's health so that it no longer raised sores on children who swam in it. Bangor, June 10, 2017 (my photo)
3. Maine vs. the EPA
Clean water and fish on the dinner table should be a right for all of the people in Wabanaki Territory, now called Maine. In 2014, the State of Maine’s DEP tried unsuccessfully to set water standards so low as to allow only 1.4 ounces of fish from Tribal Waters per day. This equals a portion the size of almost one-half of a deck of playing cards; not even close to the definition of sustenance.  
The EPA refused these standards, fulfilling the Federal Government’s trust responsibility to uphold Treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights, and in 2016, insisted on water standards in Tribal Waters that would allow for safe consumption of 10 ounces of fish per day. This resulted in the lawsuit Maine vs. the EPA, in which AG Mills stood with Industrial interests and Gov. LePage in opposition to clean water for all of us. Later, Mills petitioned Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, to withdraw the standards set by his predecessor.  
At the current time, Scientists from the Penobscot Nation Dept. of Natural Resources recommend NO freshwater fish consumption for Womxn who are pregnant, nursing, or planning to become pregnant; nor for any child under the age of eight. For anyone else, recommended consumption is 10 ounces per month. 
Moving forward, resistance to this regression in water quality standards is of the utmost importance. Because Penobscot people eat more fish than surrounding populations, the cancer rate is five times higher in our communities than in the communities of our neighbors. Our cultural connection to the River includes eating fish, just as our Ancestors have done since time began here in this beautiful place we now call Maine. Clean water is in the best interest of ALL the people of Maine, and we must make sure that Industrial interests and Trump’s EPA no longer have an ally in the Blaine House nor in the Attorney General’s office, as they did while LePage was Governor. 

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills at far right. Photo credit: Carl D. Walsh, Portland Press Herald. 

In all of the issues outlined above, the recurring theme is the question of sovereignty and misinterpretation of the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. The Act was signed with the understanding that any ambiguities should favor of the Tribe and that the MILCSA never abrogated our Treaty rights. I look forward to standing with you in the protection of our Relatives.

Friday, November 16, 2018

I Do Not Have White Guilt, Local Resident Tells Skowhegan School Board. But, I Listen

Nancy Blaisdell Baxter speaking to the school board which has the power to retire the racist mascot of Skowhegan Area High School (SAHS still calls its teams "Indians" amid growing opposition). Baxter cited a historic tour she took recently of the island in the middle of town and suggested "Islanders" would be a good alternate name for the school's many teams. Elementary school principal Jean Pillsbury looks on.

Last night was an unusual school night for me. Emboldened by the prospect of a snow day (5am, just got the call!) I stayed out late enough to join four other women in favor of retiring the racist "Indian" sports mascot of our local high school. I wore my dad's old varsity letter sweater which has no mention of the name nor any caricatures of Native people. I was inspired, not for the first time, by the leadership of Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana who recently sent a letter asking the school board to make a change. I also sent an email to Superintendent Brent Colbry which you can read here.

Before any of us spoke, the Civil Rights Team adviser of one of the board's elementary schools set the tone by explaining what civil rights means, and why they are important. 

The beauty of diversity on display in a hat crafted by fiber artist and wise woman Rainbow Cornelia.
My sister and I had just visited a nearby art gallery to see an impressive group show Color: Explorations in Fiber. One of the artists was MSAD#54 board member Peggy Lovejoy, and she came over before the meeting got underway to give us a hug. Peggy described some of the harassment and threats she's received over the years from Skowhegan "Pride" group members who resent her advocacy for moving into the 21st century and leaving emblematic racism behind. We said we were sorry she had to go through that; Peggy is a petite retired Kindergarten teacher.

First to speak from our team was booster mom Julie Cooke. She described the tension her daughter, a senior athlete at SAHS, has experienced over the racist name. They bought a special softball helmet for her so that she would not have to wear one that said "Indians" on it. Her friends stopped wearing their team t-shirts because whoever ordered them had "Indian Pride" printed on the shirts without consulting the team.

Julie said she hoped the board would do the right thing so her daughter could finish out her high school athletic career without the divisive issue of racism hanging overhead.

Later, in the parking lot, Julie told us that the booster moms are overwhelmingly in favor of changing the team name, for the good of their kids. A couple of diehard coaches are, in her opinion, the ones standing in the way.

Julie was super speaking to the board, and her mom Ann MacMichael followed up with an elder woman's reflections: how it is hard sometimes to change, and how she's learned to let go. She hopes her granddaughter and all students will benefit from changing the team name.

Here is the text of my sister Hope Savage's remarks to the MSAD#54 board last night, which were spot on. (Emphasis and links added by me.)

I do not have white guilt. 
I did not commit the atrocities my ancestors enacted by using other human beings for slaves, neither did any of you on the school board. 
I am not personally responsible for committing deliberate genocide of Native Americans. Neither are any of you in this room today. 
I did not offer a bounty for Native American scalps, nor have I ever scalped a Native American. Neither have any of you here tonight, I’m willing to bet. 
I have never stolen Native children from their parents and put them in boarding schools in order to educate the Indian out of them and I know this school board hasn’t either.  
I have never killed a Native American in order to take their land as my own. I seriously doubt anyone here tonight has done so or would ever do so. 
Yet I, as you do, have some responsibility here. Because my ancestors benefited greatly by the abuse of other humans. This benefit of lands and political power gained by the slaughter are still mine...and yours. The Native children removed from their families, denied the right to their own culture, their mouths washed out with soap if they spoke in their language they learned first were not from a long time ago. They are still here today, some in their early 30’s, to tell the stories of their pain. 
It wasn’t that long ago.
And what can I, who never personally injured them, do about that past? Not much!
I can’t change it. I have nothing to offer monetarily that would make up for hundreds of years of abuse and unfair treatment. 
I can’t force our government to honor the treaties made with the Native Americans, which are broken whenever the government wants back what they agreed to give. 
But, I listen!  
Listening is what I have to offer as a descendant of those who murdered, as a descendant of those who raped, of those who stole from the people living here long before we showed up. 
When I was a young mother, my tiny son had a costume for Halloween given to him. It was so he could be an Indian. He looked real cute in that costume, his little blonde head with his feathered headdress and the warpaint we put on him. He was four years old. He’s now 34 years old. My how times have changed! I never thought back then that his costume was racist. Why? Because I didn’t know I was offending anyone, of course.
Until I listened.  
Once I listened, there was no way to not know.
Once I listened, I felt shocked at myself for being so oblivious to the pain of others. No, I didn’t create their pain. But, I poked at it. Made it bleed a little each time I participated in dehumanizing them, turning them into a stereotype. Turning them into a costume. Using them for my amusement and benefit. Do I feel guilty about it? No. Why? Because, once I listened, I changed. So as not to do harm to others for no reason, I changed. I am no longer a person who would have their child imitate an oppressed people for Halloween fun.
I would hate to think how Native American children felt here at Skowhegan High School each time a depiction of their culture was used as a mascot. Humiliated? Probably. Angry? Probably.  
Powerless to stop it? Yes, surely. Because the use of them as mascots wouldn’t be done if they had power to stop it.  
You have the power to stop it, Skowhegan school board. 
You have much to gain by LISTENING.Listen to their ambassadors tell you you’re offending them. Listen when they tell you they don’t feel honored. Listen to what the rest of the country has said as they, one by one, change their offensive mascots. 
Listen: Aunt Jemima syrup doesn’t use a black female slave on their bottles anymore.
Listen: Sambo’s Restaurants stopped using their decor that exaggerated negroid features of Little Black Sambo characters.
Listen: They stopped selling Darkie Toothpaste in 1989. 
Listen: The Frito Bandito , depicting Mexicans as thieves, has been run out of town. 
Listen: You are now the only school in the state of Maine that didn’t LISTEN to how offensive and racist Indian mascots are and act to undo that.
I am still listening today. 
I listened when a member of Skowhegan Indian Pride shared a sniggering joke with board member Jennifer Pelotte Poirier about him still having a scalp towel. 
I listened while that same group provokes, hangs racist signage and tries to counter Indigenous People’s Day celebrations.  
I listened at a reconciliation ceremony held each year in Norridgewock by local tribes to remember the slaughter of women and children by my ancestors. 
I listened to local townspeople rudely tell me it’s none of my business, that I should just leave if I don’t like it, though I have paid taxes to this school district for 15 years and my family has lived here since before this school district and this town began. 
It is time for you to listen. You are on the wrong side of history. 
Listen: The world is changing yet, you steadfastly refuse to change with it. 
Listen: It is no longer acceptable to mock minorities by using them for mascots. 
Listen: Hate crimes went up 17% this year. 
You don’t have to feel guilty about what your ancestors did. But, you surely should feel guilt for being told now that you’re causing harm, and still doing it anyway.
Thank you.
-- Hope Savage, Skowhegan resident 

No one spoke in favor of keeping the mascot at the last high school in Maine still insulting Native people this way. Maybe the tide has turned.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Time For Some Leadership Against Racism #Skowhegan #mepolitics

Screenshot of an exchange between a Skowhegan Area High School coach and a school board member. The depicted item is a vintage artifact of the celebration of genocide against Native people. As historians know, scalping was instituted by white settlers as a way of terrorizing the local Native people and of proving that a bounty was due for their murderers. In case you can't see the image on the towel clearly, it is of a hand clutching a crumpled up scalp with hair on it.

This morning I used my school email account to send a message to the Superintendent in Maine School Administrative District #54. I work in a neighboring district but own a home in Skowhegan near the high school that will eventually step into the 21st century by retiring its racist "Indian" mascot for its sports teams.

My father played football for the high school and I'll wear his vintage letter sweater to the board meeting tonight. There is no Indian on it, and claims of "tradition" and "heritage" supporting this racist mascot are bullshit. My family has paid taxes for several generations to support this school system, an otherwise admirable system that does not deserve this blot on its reputation. 

A young member of my family played freshman football this year for Skowhegan and was good enough to be called up to practice with the varsity squad after the freshman season ended. He was told by coaches that the Indian is not the team mascot. Clearly, the school knows that continuing to identify as "Indians" is unsustainable and unpopular with youth. 

The biggest question is whether the professional educators like Superintendent Colbry will lead the way or if they will continue to acquiesce as white supremacists disrespect and threaten Native women and children with  violence.

To: bcolbry@msad54.org

Dear Superintendent Colbry,
I will be at the board of directors meeting for SAD#54 tonight to deliver a message whose time has come. In particular, I will be calling on you as an educational leader to take a stand and work toward retiring the remnants of SAHS's racist mascot, the "Indian" -- or as some Native people refer to it, the "pretendian."

Here are images I will offer tonight as evidence of the viciously racist nature of the "Indian" brand. This evidence may help you and the board understand the urgency of righting this historical wrong.



These images may help you understand why the American Psychological Association found that the use of American Indian mascots HARMS ALL CHILDREN exposed to them, including those seeing their culture misrepresented. In 2005 the APA called on schools to retire the use of such mascots. That was 13 years ago. 

Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana has received threats to rape her and to do harm to her two school aged daughters because of her vocal opposition to the "Indian" mascot. That's the side you're on. I urge you to find the courage to do the right thing.

Lisa Savage
Skowhegan homeowner and taxpayer

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Does Maine Lead The Nation In Retiring Racist School Mascots?

Below is a post I prepared two years ago.

There is a school board meeting this week, Thursday, November 15, 2018, to raise the issue of the need to retire the "Indian" team name and racist caricatures and other crap like scalp towels. The meeting is at 7pm at the Skowhegan Area Middle School and there is a time on the agenda to hear from the public.

As a homeowner and taxpayer in Skowhegan -- now watching the third generation of my family play sports for the town -- I will be there. I hope you can join me if you live in the area. You can spot me because I'll be wearing my dad's vintage varsity letter sweater with a big orange "S" on the chest. My dad was a football player who earned three varsity letters, and  there is no Indian on my dad's sweater. This pretendian nonsense based on tradition is no such thing. That is what I plan to tell the school board.

Time To Retire The Racist Mascot Of Skowhegan High School "Indians" #mepolitics

When Skowhegan, Maine began using the Indian mascot, no harm was intended.

People who defend the mascot claim its intent is to "honor" the people of Maine's tribes. But representatives from all four tribes -- Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac -- have told the school board they do not feel honored.

In 2015, it is clear that the institutionalized racism inherent in using native people as team mascots harms us all. Maine's tribal leaders have repeatedly told the school board they are offended by the Indian mascot. Penboscot elder Barry Dana has stated, "Why should I need to explain why I am offended? Shouldn't the fact that I am offended be enough?"

Passamaquoddy elder Madonna Scotomah asked the Skowhegan school board last month why a team or its fans would want to imitate someone else's culture, or consider that imitation an honor?

The American Psychological Association has published research indicating that the use of American Indian mascots harms all children exposed to it, including those seeing their culture misrepresented. In 2005 the APA called on schools to retire the use of such mascots.

A Canadian First Nations man who was successful in getting a youth league football team to change its name from the the Nepean Redskins to the Nepean Eagles. put it this way:
"[racist team names] are the most in-your-face socially acceptable systemic oppression within our society and yet it's used by children's football teams. 
It's not even a gateway drug for racism, it is racism."
You can read more about Ian Campeau's successful effort here.

The Bangor Daily News published this editorial on April 30: 

Junior Scott LaFlamme hides from fellow Old Town High School students as they file into the gym before the introduction of the school’s new coyote mascot in April 2006. The school’s former mascot, an Indian, was replaced because it was deemed disrespectful to the Penobscot Indian Nation.

A high school age opponent of the change told reporters in Skowhegan last month that changing the team name would "erase history." As a history major and teacher, I beg to differ. History, in fact, is all about change. Some changes are bad for us while others are beneficial. Let's hope the Skowhegan School Board finds the courage to do the right thing.

When they do  retire the Indian mascot, Maine will become the first state in the U.S. with no racist high school team mascots. Dirigo!