June 20, 2018
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Symposium continues conversation about Indian nicknames, mascots

BANGOR, Maine — Representatives from three of the four active Native American tribes in Maine said the practice of schools using potentially offensive nicknames and mascots does little to honor tribes, despite the arguments of some.

Instead, according to one tribal representative, the issue only serves to “fuel the fire of classism.”

Overall, though, officials from the Penobscot Nation, the Houlton Band of Maliseets and the Passamaquoddys of Pleasant Point agreed that while the practice is offensive, Maine has made a lot of progress.

The Native American representatives were among several participants in a symposium held Saturday at the Bangor Public Library. The event, organized by local author and instructor Ed Rice and John Dieffenbacher-Krall with the Maine Indian Tribal State Council, was meant to continue the discussion of whether schools should use Native American names or logos.

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Chief Rick Phillips-Doyle of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point said the name “Redskins” is particularly offensive to him because it conjures up images of scalping. Brian Reynolds of the Houlton Band of Maliseets said he’s still bothered by the fact that some schools seem unwilling to change. James Francis, a Penobscot tribal historian, said if people really looked at the history of tribes they would understand that there is not a lot to cheer about.

According to Rice, the nine schools in Maine that continue to use Native American nicknames or mascots are: Athens Elementary School (Apaches); Strong Elementary School (Indians); Beatrice Rafferty Elementary School of Perry (Indians): Nokomis High School of Newport (Warriors); Sanford High School (Redskins); Skowhegan High School (Indians); Southern Aroostook High School of Dyer Brook (Warriors); Wells High School (Warriors); and Wiscasset High School (Redskins).

Only one of those schools, Nokomis, was represented at Saturday’s symposium.

Nokomis Principal Mary Nadeau said the discussion of her school’s name and mascot is ongoing within the community, but she suggested it might be time to revisit the matter further.

“I’m not advocating a change, but that wouldn’t be mine to make. It would be the school board’s,” she said.

Wayne Newell with the Passamaquoddys of Indian Township, who worried that the continued use of names would “fuel the fire of classism,” said the issue rises well above political correctness. Still, he was encouraged by the evolution and the number of schools that have discontinued the use of certain names.

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