SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A group calling itself Not Your Mascot, Maine has presented a petition to the Skowhegan school board and superintendent asking that Skowhegan High School officially retire its Indian mascot — the last Indian mascot in Maine.
The school board has taken the matter under advisement. But supporters are also hoping state officials might intervene.
After gathering nearly 1,000 signatures online, Maulian Smith said she hopes the school board will follow the lead of so many other schools around the country and abandon what she says are “racist, outdated and derogatory” mascots.
A member of the Penobscot Nation and the daughter of former Chief Barry Dana, Smith read from a 2005 American Psychological Association report that found that Indian mascots “establish an unwelcome and often times hostile learning environment for American Indian students and affirm negative images and stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society.”
“It is a form of discrimination against American Indian nations that leads to negative relations between groups,” she said.
The American Psychological Association, along with its Maine chapter, recommend that such mascots be removed. Last year, the Skowhegan school board voted to continue using the Indian mascot.
The board did not take a vote Thursday night but did allow several people to speak, including high school junior David Grace, who said he is Native American and has felt nothing but pride in his school and the mascot.
“I have never been scared, and no one’s been making racist comments or any names with me being a Native American,” he said. “One of the best memories I have from playing football is recovering a fumble and everybody cheered and everybody was happy, and that made me proud to be a Skowhegan Indian.”
But Cecil Gray, who grew up the racially turbulent south in the 1960s before moving to Skowhegan 40 years ago, said he can’t understand the school district’s reluctance to make the change.
“In 2016, I am actually bewildered and dumbfounded — actually dumbfounded — that a simple cultural request like this has not been honored,” Gray said. Gray said he still has hope that Skowhegan will do the right thing. But he said if the school board can’t retire the mascot, he hopes that a higher state power will intervene.
The petition is also being presented to the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine Principals’ Association.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.