Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Clue To The Skowhegan Indian Pride Conundrum: "Don't Change The One Thing That Hasn't Changed In Our School System"

I hate to use quotation marks in my titles because the template I'm using on Blogger always turns the opening mark wrong side around. (Yes, I am a grammar nerd.)

I made an exception today because I wanted to quote a Facebook post that contained a significant contribution to the debate over retiring the outdated "Indian" team name and mascot at Skowhegan Area High School.

"Don't change the one thing that hasn't changed in our school system!!!" 

writes Jessica Keene, a young mother who has already created and shared a keepsake for her children's eventual graduation in the years to come. (Yes, it has some punctuation issues too.)

Ms. Keene also copied and pasted a looong quote from Wikipedia as a comment on my share of the petition to retire the Indian. Without quotation marks or attribution. That's plagiarism, and that also hasn't changed since she was in school.

The reason Ms. Keene's Facebook account came to my attention in the first place is that yesterday she singled out my sister and me in another post. This was most likely because we gave a joint interview that was published in the Waterville Morning Sentinel.

Maulian Dana, Penobscot Tribal Ambassador, has been threatened many times by Skowhegan "Indian Pride" group members, and rape is a common theme in those threats. I can understand where she was coming from when she commented:

I will respectfully disagree from the comfort of my white privilege and membership in one of the founding families of Skowhegan (you can read more about us at the Skowhegan History House display outside along the banks of the Kennebec River).

I am protected from disappearing without a trace like so many Native women and girls who are kidnapped and never heard from again. If I am physically attacked, the police and the courts will respond to enforce the law. If I need legal advice, I can get it from many available sources. This is what is meant by institutional racism.

Reading about why people are motivated to join hate groups helped me understand that they are looking for a feeling of belonging to something greater than themselves.

I totally get that. Just having a certain family name isn't enough to give my life meaning. I've been involved as a peace and social justice activist for the same reason: belonging to a community working toward something that transcends my own family life.

Sometimes I get a big adrenaline rush, like when I was part of a peace group acquitted of criminal trespass charges on a successful 1st Amendment defense.

Sometimes when I am at a large gathering of peace workers I am suddenly able to weep for the millions of lives ended or damaged by the U.S. military machine.

Sometimes when I march for climate justice with my family, I am comforted by knowing there are lots of others concerned about destroying the planet's life support for humans. Especially wise indigenous voices, to whom we should listen more carefully.

Sometimes I get a thrill hearing from former students or their parents about the lasting influence of my participation in their education. My education community stretches from friends I met in elementary school to friends I teach with now. Sometimes they get into conversations with each other over an article I share on Facebook. How cool is that?

There is nothing wrong with the human desire to belong to a community with values we share. We are social animals, and there is so much suffering in life that often we need to find meaning in order to move forward.

I don't belong to the Native community, but they are my neighbors, my students, and my teachers. I've admired and supported their water protection actions and their educational efforts here in Maine. I've been enriched by the opportunity to be a white ally in the quest to retire an outdated and offensive team name/mascot. I've met so many wise people I might not have known otherwise (looking at you, Maulian, Amelia Tuplin and Dwayne Tomah).

Jessica, if you've read this far, I will say that many things about the MSAD 54 district have not changed in the years since my now adult children attended those schools. Sports is still far more important than it needs to be, special education still aims to mainstream students into regular ed classrooms as appropriate to meet their special needs, and there is still gifted and talented education from primary grades through graduation. The high school still hosts the Drama Festival Regionals, and students still go to Boys and Girls State to learn how our government is supposed to work.

Jessica, right now your alumni community and your MSAD 54 parent community are divided by the Indian team name. In order to come together again, the name has to go.

With your lovely children and your friends and other family, you will be able to find belonging even without Skowhegan Indian Pride. Maybe you will also find yourself in a group with people interested in local history and prehistory. 

I'm rooting for you.

UPDATE: Shortly after I published this post, Jessica Keene removed the post with my name in it as well as the post I quoted from in my title. I edited this post to use screenshots instead of embedding her posts, but I do not have a screenshot of the one I quoted from. I do have screenshots of her calling my sister the "b" word, but I'm not going to share those.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

How To Save Your Friends And Loved Ones From Hate Groups

Not Your Mascot Maine leaders tabling at the Skowhegan River Days festival August, 2015
Being involved with sharing hate language hosted by the Skowhegan Indian Pride group online has me in a quandry: how to avoid ignoring racism while not fanning its flames.

There are moles in the SIP group that take screenshots of the most disturbing posts and share them outside of the group. I share SIP's nastier posts by emailing them to the school board chair, the superintendent, and assistant superintendent. I do this to emphasize that continuing to have a racist team name holds space for ugly threats and demeaning posts aimed at Native people and, in particular, Native women.

December 2018 Skowhegan (Maine School Administrative District 54) school board meeting hears testimony from Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana while members of the Penobscot Youth Council (in red, to show solidarity with Native women and girls who are the targets of violence) look on.

That's on the one hand, and it's very local. The upcoming public forum on January 8 is scheduled for the night of an away basketball game, so the booster moms and dads won't be in town. Coincidence? I doubt it, because the boosters are coming on strong for retiring an outdated practice that is actively harming their children.

The school board chair, on the other hand, deliberately stacked the deck of speakers at their last meeting when 100 people showed up to support retiring the mascot. Her first several speakers were alumni who cling to their identification as "Indians." Some of these folks literally cry when faced with the possibility that the school's use of the name will come to an end. Dixie Ring then conveniently "forgot" the last speaker on the list, Dr. Susan Cochran, a known opponent of continuing to use the Indian name.

Playing fair is not a value of SIP. Respect is not a value of SIP. What, if anything, will change their hearts and minds?

Kevin James at the December 2018 school board meeting. Photo credit: Jeff Kirlin

White silence in the face of racism is a privilege that I don't want to exercise. I do a lot of reading about white on black or white on Latinx racism. I coach myself to speak up in hair salons, in schools, in person and on line, calling out racism.

The culture of politeness at any cost is what allows most white people to go about their business imagining that "things are better now" for people of color and indigenous people in the U.S.

A lifetime of silence in the face of microaggressions as well as blatant racism is white people's insurance policy for continuing to have first dibs on the best jobs, housing, health care and educational opportunities.

Photo of Shane Johnson from "Inside the Radical, Uncomfortable Movement to Reform White Supremacists"
by Wes Enzinna in Mother Jones July/August 208

This fascinating article about a man trying to coach himself out of a white supremacist hate group rocked my world yesterday. (Shane Johnson's picture reminded me of a desperate addict who terrorized our community last year before he was apprehended.)

Johnson was raised in a KKK family and is now a father who wants to raise his child differently. He experienced racial hatred as a counterweight to being poorly educated and economically disadvantaged. When he and others attempt to leave groups like the KKK, they find parallels to addiction recovery in the process.

The article offers a theory of the appeal of hate groups of any kind:

Arie Kruglanski, a social psychologist at the University of Maryland and a Holocaust survivor, hit upon a related discovery: While researchers had believed that some combination of class, gender, geography, intelligence, and age determined who was most likely to become a white supremacist, Kruglanski found that psychological signposts were better predictors of radicalization. He called these factors “the three Ns”-- need, narrative, and network. It doesn’t matter if they are skinheads or jihadis; everyone who gets involved in hate movements has a deep urge to participate in a greater cause. Yet that cause, Kruglanski argued, needn’t be destructive.
To successfully deradicalize a neo-Nazi, a new, constructive set of Ns— which might stem from education, a job, a partner—would have to replace the old, hateful one.

This theory resonated with so many aspects of the struggle to retire the Indian mascot and team name. Scrolling back through the emotional pleas of SIP members I've been following these many years, I hear their conviction that belonging to SIP makes them stronger, greater and safer. 

Also noted in the article was the transformative power of meeting an actual human being who is from the hated group. This reminded me of a high school student three years ago who was leading a SIP effort and then changed his mind. Zachary Queenan was persuaded to change his position after hearing Native people testify to the harms done by dehumanizing them and appropriating sacred aspects of their culture.

My sister Hope Savage's November speech to the school board about her own transformation from thinking it was ok to dress her little boy in an "Indian" costume for Halloween has been shared and viewed 7,600+ times on this blog. Her theme: I once thought it was harmless to appropriate Native culture -- but then, I listened.

I was just invited to share Hope's powerful words at an MLK weekend event in a nearby town as she will be away on that date.

Lots of people want to hear about the power of listening to effect positive changes in our own lives.

So, what have I learned so far in my education? How can we persuade acquaintances, friends and loved ones to stop belonging to hate groups?

One major point seems to be avoid dehumanizing language, insults, or derogatory remarks.  We all have the three Ns at work within us. Recognize our common ground in our common humanity. And keep listening.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Mercenaries With Extra Sets Of Teeth To Descend On Afghanistan?

From the career website WiseStep "How to become a mercenary -- a complete guide"
Are mercenaries with extra sets of teeth about to descend on Afghanistan?

Ok, I'm kidding about the extra sets of teeth, an urban legend associated with the Hessian mercenaries hired in the 1700's by the British empire to help lose a war on a distant continent.

The real mercenaries hired as personnel needed to "privatize" the war inAfghanistan will be ordinary humans endowed with killer robots instead of surplus dentation.

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince is a good buddy of the demagogue with bad hair in the White House. Heir to an Amway fortune -- along with his sister, the odious Secretary of "Education" Betsy DeVos -- Prince can shrug off lawsuits against his minions. Recently one of those who slaughtered civilians in Baghdad found some belated justice, but that won't bring any of his victims back to life.

One of the biggest changes to the military in my lifetime has been the retirement of Beetle Bailey in favor of contractors who employ people to peel the potatoes.

This has had several effects.

  • It has caused the cost of military operations to skyrocket. This has been compounded by the exorbitant cost of flying killer robots, mechanized engines of death that have steadily replaced humans who have inconveniently soft bodies and emotions like compassion.
  • It has indemnified the Pentagon from being held legally or financially responsible for the war crimes it funds, plans, sets in motion, and then disavows.
  • His boss's decision to go with the mercenary option also may have caused General "Mad Dog" Mattis to quit his government position as Secretary of "Defense" earlier this month.

Aftermath of a suicide bomb last month in Kabul. Such attacks were unknown before the U.S./NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo: Getty)
The war on Afghanistan has dragged on for 17 years, and the people of Afghanistan are currently less secure than ever.

But hey, yes, let's send in even more expensive killers for hire. They are vetted soldiers who've found a way to make a living out of killing while churning out enormous profits for their CEOs. That's the American way!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Ranked Choice Voting Will Be Associated With Defeating Poliquin, Who Chose The Racist Wall As His Last Stand

Photo credit: Jim Anderberg

I'm no Democrat and I don't expect much from Jared Golden who unseated incumbent Bruce Poliquin because Maine voters got to use Ranked Choice Voting. The Maine constitution has language that will need to be amended for RCV to work for state elections, but nothing in the U.S. constitution stood in the way of using RCV to choose who would represent the 2nd district in the House of Representatives.

RCV allowed me to vote my conscience rather than hold my nose and vote for Democrats I believe are just as warlike as the other corporate party's candidates.

Last month I got a phone call from a nice woman at the League of Women Voters. She was responding to my affirming that I had ranked independent candidates in slots #1 and #2. She wondered if I would be interested in being party to the lawsuit the League will conduct to uphold RCV.

Yes, please! (Turns out they probably don't need me after all but that is ok because they won!!!)

Told the League of Women Voters person that I created the spybook page Where's Bruce Poliquin? in response to a request from my friend Ridgely Fuller. We used to be able to meet with our former representative Mike Michaud and share our concerns as his constituents, but Poliquin's Wall Street handlers put a stop to that sort of thing. He's best known for ducking into a women's bathroom to avoid reporters asking questions about his votes against health care coverage for the multitude of poor people in Maine's 2nd district.

Now he's being a sore loser and challenging RCV with a lawsuit. Which was thrown out of court but is now being appealed.

The Green Party, of which I am a member, fought for RCV for years before Maine voters passed it by referendum on November 8, 2016.

It was pretty clear that the Republican Party feared RCV as they fought it every step of the way.

When the oligarchs are united against a voting method, you can be pretty sure that it favors democracy rather than kleptocracy. 

Finally, we see some poetic justice in the end of Poliquin's term. He chose to make his last stand slavish obedience to The Wall.

You know, the pet project of the demagogue with bad hair in the White House. The one who shut down the federal government at midnight last night in a hissy fit over congressional opposition to the racist artifact he insists will be built. The one who tweeted his support for the losing candidate back in October.

What a fitting end for Poliquin. His defeat via ranked choice voting will historically be associated with cruel and injust immigration policy on our border with Mexico. 

He must be licking his chops in anticipation of the cash rewards headed his way.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Maine's Long, Sad History Of Racism: Charlottesville, And Skowhegan

Source: KKK newspaper Maine Klansman Weekly, Dec. 6, 1923 shared by The Activist History Review

What do the fight to keep Skowhegan's team name "Indians" and the fight to keep the statue of a Confederate general in Charlottesville have in common? A lot, actually.

On the surface: claims about honor, heritage and "Pride" abound among those clinging to emblems of racism past.

On the underbelly: demeaning language, threats of violence (veiled and unveiled), and especially sexual violence aimed at non-white women.

Every white person in the USA probably has a racist Uncle Joe. A distinguishing feature of the civil war that produced Confederate generals was that it tore families and neighbors apart. The facebook comments I've shared here pitted someone I'm distantly related to by marriage plus the family member of a neighbor and close friend of mine against another neighbor's family member: Maulian Dana, Penboscot Tribal Ambassador.

Dana has drawn Skowhegan "Indian Pride" members Joe Dionne and Robert Graf's wrath by asking, politely, for the local high school to stop using an offensive Native nickname and imagery for sports.

Results of a poll that accompanied a "retire the name" op-ed in the Bangor Daily News last week

Here is how blogger Shay Stewart-Bouley described our state in a post about the outgoing of an openly racist governor and the incoming of Janet Mills, who says she wants to mend fences:

As a Black person living in Maine, the LePage years have been difficult; throw in the first two years under the Trump Administration and there are pockets of Maine that are downright hostile to Black bodies. Truthfully, there are parts of Maine that I would be hard-pressed to take my Black ass.

Would it surprise you to know that the Ku Klux Klan was once a major force in Maine politics?

While black men and boys were being lynched across the nation, the KKK in Maine was marching openly through the streets stirring up hatred at Catholics and labor union members. In such a predominately white state, the KKK had to pick a much bigger group to hate than blacks. Conveniently, French Canadian labor organizers fit the bill.

Source: Maine Memory Network
Investigative journalists have shown the KKK tend to be respected businessmen by day. Why do you think they need to wear hoods when they terrorize families by night?

Do oligarchs like mill owners actually care which religion or skin color their workers are? As long as they work for minimum wage without demanding more or organizing themselves, any color or religion will do.

"The Face of the Ruling Class" by George Grosz, Germany, 1923

When the discontented, chronically unemployed masses of Germany between world wars threatened the established order, the wealthy capitalists saw an opportunity: turn existing prejudice against Jewish people into a rallying cry to distract the poor. Get the downtrodden to think that Jews were the problem rather than the wealthy Protestant industrialists. Promise workers they could feed their own children if they looked the other way while the Jewish children were starved in ghettos before being marched off to death camps.

The current demagogue with bad hair in the White House didn't invent racism, but he did ride it to power. 

Economic desperation and humiliation fuel the emotions of struggling white people clinging to symbols of a time when they believed their skin color or religion alone made them better than others. The taxes theme will emerge again and again as people who work for a living face up to the inability to make ends meet at the end of each month. (What do you think the Yellow Vest uprisings in France are about?)

All working people are being strangled by the hold of the massively wealthy military-industrial complex. All are being sold the lie that more bombs and warships make us in any way safer.

Did you know the U.S. military has more operations going in Africa at this point than in the Middle East? 

The powers that be don't want you to know. The media conspire to keep you from knowing. They hope you'll get distracted by a local issue like retiring an offensive team name, or taking down a statue glorifying someone who used violence to defend slavery.

Anything to distract you from the fact that your teeth need work, but you can't afford to go to the dentist.

That's why there's so much emotion that often seems hard to fathom wrapped up in a high school team name. That's why you'll hear those resisting the inevitable change say things like "It's all we have and you're trying to take it away" in a desperate tone of voice and with tears in their eyes.

That's what they still say about the Confederate flag, too. Even in Maine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Refusal To Retire Skowhegan Indian Mascot 'Tearing Families Apart'

Professor Charlene Teters, Spokane, a founding mother of the movement to retire Native sports mascots.

The greatest benefit of working to help retire Skowhegan Area High School's team name "Indians" has been furthering my own education. Today I learned about Charlene Teters, an artist/activist who has been leading this work for decades. Later in this post I'll share some of the resources coming my way, mostly shared by people I've gotten to know as a result of doing white people's work to address our systemic racism.

But first a word about that work, and why so many people who could don't join in the call to dismantle white supremacy.

Georgina Sappier-Richardson testifying at a Maine Wabanki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearing. Photo: Ben Pender-Cudlip, courtesy Upstander Project.

For one thing, the controversy is tearing families apart. While Harold Bigelow sits on the MSAD#54 school board and obstructs change, the younger members of his family cringe at being associated with what they perceive as antiquated racist practices.

At the board meeting in my own school district, which is near Skowhegan, they spent nearly an hour debating sports programs this month. This is not unusual. In my experience in Maine, school boards are about sports. They cleverly hide the true cost of sports programs funded entirely by local property taxes; budget line items such as administration, maintenance and transportation have tens of thousand of dollars in sports-related costs. 

Teaching positions are routinely eliminated without debate, but try and cut a sports program and watch board members sit up and start paying attention.

Heck, just try and postpone getting new uniforms by a year and then sit back and watch the fireworks.

At the MSAD#54 school board meeting on December 6, there were no speakers from then ranks of school staff or students. No coaches, no teachers, no civil rights team advisers. Nor did the assistant superintendent, Jon Moody, who is charged with compliance in non-discrimination practices, weigh in. The superintendent, Brent Colbry, felt free to school board members on correct use of Roberts Rules of Order, but then stumbled his way through a complete disavowal of agency or influence on the team name controversy. This is disingenuous of him, and he knows it.

Two school board members are actively leading an online group which has in the past posted threats of violence against Penboscot leader Maulian Dana and her children. Here are some recent posts:

In the very limited worldview of board members like Ring and Poirier, this is a local issue.  The national scope and significance of retiring white claims on Native culture and heritage is lost on them.

Their status as alumna is of paramount importance in their own minds, and it trumps concerns about adverse effects on the children they were elected to educate.

I believe that the root of this problem of cultural blindness is lack of education. So in the spirit of life-long learning, I offer a few resources.

First and foremost, this short video on the historic work of Professor Teters and the forces of opposition she met in her struggle to retire "Chief Illiniki" of the University of Illinois, "In Whose Honor?"

Next, very exciting to this history major, a recording in the Library of Congress of an Ancestral Voices Roundtable on Passamoquoddy culture and language. It was shared with me by one of the participants, Dwayne Tomah, who recommended it as a good source. Part of the description of this recording for researchers notes:

This panel discussion highlights a collaborative initiative to digitally restore, provide access to and curate the oldest recordings in the Library of Congress collections, the 1890s wax cylinder recordings of the Passamaquoddy tribal nation of Maine... Passamaquoddy elders have been reviewing the sonically restored recordings, transcribing songs and stories in their language...
The discussion focuses on several aspects of the initiative, ranging from control of indigenous intellectual property to digital repatriation to emerging digital technologies to ethical curation and community outreach. 
In particular, Passamaquoddy community members describe the critical importance of ethnographic field recordings for sustaining cultural memory, preserving native identity and stemming the loss of language. 
They perform songs learned through listening to the recordings, including the first public performance of a song not heard since its documentation 128 years ago.

Father and child on Penobscot ancestral territory. Photo: Ben Pender-Cudlip, courtesy Upstander Project.

My final offering for today is this excellent teaching guide created to accompany the documentary Dawnland. Passamoquoddy and other Native children were removed from the rich culture documented by the Library of Congress and punished for speaking their languages. In the 1970's. By the State of Maine.

Read this sorry history of white supremacy, weep, and then resolve to help undo these harms.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Tide Turns Against Native Mascot As Governor-Elect, Skowhegan Fire Chief Join In Calling For Retirement

The retirement of the racist "Indian" mascot wasn't on the agenda, but 100+ people showed up to discuss it anyway.
(Photo: Kevin Couture)

Media descended on the small town of Skowhegan, Maine for the school board meeting held December 6.  Some of the coverage was great; notably, local photographers contributed their skills to documenting an impressive turnout by Native people, many of whom drove hours each way to be on hand.

In the run-up to the meeting the board received a letter from the ACLU detailing why they need to drop this discriminatory practice; a letter from Governor-elect Janet Mills calling for the mascot's retirement; and a statement from Skowhegan's Fire Chief Shawn Howard making a particularly good point.

Maulian Dana, Penobscot Tribal Ambassador, had urged the Penobscot Youth Council to come and help educate us about the impact the mascot has on them. Seeing them enter just as the meeting was getting underway was exciting to this old teacher, because they represent the future. 

(Photo: Jeff Kirlin)

Many wore wore red in solidarity with Native women who experience disproportionate levels of violence including rape and murder. One young woman held a sign that said: "We are not your mascots. We are people, sacred, beautiful and strong. Respect Us."

(Photo: Jeff Kirlin)

Maulian's dad, past Penobscot Chief Barry Dana, was there. He looked every inch the proud father as Maulian told the board how frightening it is for her to address them. Threats from the Indian "Pride" group clinging to their outdated practice have included rape, and named her school age daughters as possible targets of violence and harassment. Some of these threats have been posted online and I've seen them. Real classy.

Maulian Dana at center addressing the board holding an eagle feather to illustrate one of the many aspects of Penobscot culture and ceremony that she said are not available for use by non-Natives. 

A benefit of ally work is the opportunity to meet so many people who enrich my life with their wisdom and compassion.

Amelia Tuplin, a mother who succeeded in getting the Wells, Maine native mascot retired, introduced herself. (We had only been facebook friends before and had never actually met.) Here she is on the right side of a photo that Maulian posted.

Native artist Dwayne Tomah thanked me for my advocacy and also thanked my sister, Hope, who was away visiting her grandchildren. He gifted us both with earrings to express his appreciation. (Photo: Mary Callan)

Mary Callan of Suit Up Maine was there and I had fun distributing the popular posters she helped create for the event. They are local versions of the Dawnland posters reminding white people of where we stand, literally.

This version of the poster depicts a former Skowhegan High School building,
nostalgic for me as my father attended school there. (Photo: Kevin Couture)

We are printing these in 11x17 size and asking local businesses to display them.

A teen leader in Maine's struggle against corporate control of our ground water couldn't be on hand for the meeting but he sent a letter shared on social media:

Dear Skowhegan School Board Members, 
My name is Luke Sekera-Flanders and I am a sophomore at Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine. I would like to begin by apologizing for being unable to attend in person this evening, as a four and a half hour drive on a school night wasn’t possible. This “Indian mascot” issue is important to me, despite the fact that I live and go to school in another part of the state, because I want to help terminate institutional support of racist ideology. I am concerned because the use of Native Americans as mascots, appropriating cultural aspects and relegating an entire people to the likes of a caricature or parody, is not a dignified way to show respect. 
For disclosure, in 2015, my mom took me to listen to the Skowhegan School Board meeting where about one dozen Wabanaki people assembled to educate the Board on this issue. I learned so much on that day, more than I ever had in school on the subject. I’ll also not forget how the student leader of the “Indian Pride” group made the decision to not take part in promoting the Indian mascot after that meeting. I still have admiration for his resolve. 
As you likely know, genocide against indigenous peoples of the Americas has been ongoing for about 500 years, with tens of millions of indigenous people being killed and displaced. Although the "Indian Wars" ended in 1890, the last century has seen continued violence in subtler forms motivated by the same deep racism upon which many of the United States' institutions were founded. Although we are generations removed from the soldiers and scalp hunters who were paid by the government to kill and count the bodies of Native American men, women, and children, we live in a society that remains pitted against indigenous people. With such sports teams as the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, we see a consistent appropriation of culture which derides the suffering of generations of native people and reduces it to a thing of entertainment. 
When I was a middle school student, I petitioned our school board and superintendent to have our new school complex named after a well respected local Abenaki woman, Molly Ockett. She was a legendary native healer of the Pequawket, the area that is now Fryeburg. Naming our school after her was a respectful reminder to the community of the important offerings that she, as a native woman, made to the people of her homeland. I wanted to honor her memory in this way so that our community’s children would always be connected with our local Native American history in a respectful way. With the help of my mom, the school's name was kept. However, we do not have an offensive imagery or mascots associated with our school. 
Today, Skowhegan High School has an amazing opportunity to make a similar decision. Keeping this mascot would only do more damage to the broken bonds between native and non-native communities. Skowhegan has the last Native American related mascot in the state of Maine. With the help of the school board, we can rid Maine of the last of its mascots that are dehumanizing and stand in solidarity with Maine's native people. 
I hope that my words resonate with you. As a Maine youth, it is extremely important to me that we work toward creating a healthy future for ALL of Maine's children. Can we work together for a future where indigenous people across the U.S. have their dignity restored, be respected as equal beings and as sovereign nations? By removing the current mascot, you can bring us one step closer to honoring the truth and reconciliation process. Your children and my (future!) children deserve this. 
Thank you for your time and best wishes,
Luke Sekera-Flanders

WFVX Bangor interviewed several of us and their coverage is here.

The Waterville Morning Sentinel's coverage is here.

Maine Public Radio's coverage is here.

The story was poorly covered by WGME which aired a segment showing only repeated clips of the offensive imagery plus an interview with one white man saying he has been bullied because he supports keeping the mascot.

Wow, and they call the ACLU of Maine snowflakes.

Video of the entire meeting can be seen here. (Much of what was said by the school officials and by the public was inaudible because the district provided no microphones.) Thanks, Somerset Community TV 11 !