March 24, 2019
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Wiscasset High releases poll on proposals to replace controversial ‘Redskins’ moniker

WISCASSET, Maine — A committee charged with recommending a new mascot to replace Wiscasset High School’s controversial “Redskins” moniker has arrived at the choice of “Wolverines” after a public vote on name possibilities earlier this month.

Wiscasset High School Principal Matt Carlson, who also serves as chairman of the mascot committee, confirmed Thursday that Wolverines garnered 144 votes in the online balloting. Carlson said Wolverines beat out “Red Hawks” (118 votes) and “Rebels” (89) to claim the most public support to be the school’s next mascot.

The principal said that, because of the vote, the committee will recommend that name to the Regional School Unit 12 board of directors when it meets May 12. Before that school board meeting, Carlson said, the committee will narrow a group of logo options to two finalists, then hold a schoolwide vote on which image to present to the school board next month along with the recommended mascot name.

Carlson said that he was encouraged by the number of people who took the time to vote on a new mascot name, but that he hasn’t noticed a big change in the atmosphere at the school since the early April polling.

An RSU 12 board decision in January to cease use of the Redskins mascot, in response to a September request by the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission, spurred a student walkout protest and petition against the move.

“What was nice was that there were a few hundred people voting,” Carlson said. “But we’re still going through the process. Maybe next year, we’ll see a difference.”

A nonbinding March 1 referendum in Wiscasset showed that the vast majority of those who cast ballots that day favored continued use of Redskins as Wiscasset High School’s mascot. During the next RSU 12 board meeting, on March 17, the board narrowly approved a motion that would allow the mascot to stay in place until the end of the current school year — but reaffirmed that it must be replaced after that.

The timetable the board set into place last month gave the Wiscasset-based mascot committee until May 12 to settle on a new name, and set an Aug. 1 deadline for the school to remove the Redskins name and logo from the property, with the exception of historic photos and awards.

Some dissenting members of the school board and mascot committee — which formed after the MITSC representatives called for the mascot change last fall, initially charged with studying the name and returning with a recommendation on whether to keep Redskins in place — have argued against the committee’s new mission, as ordered by the RSU 12 board on March 17.

Supporters of the nearly 70-year-old Redskins name argue that the term is used respectfully and honorably, and have countered historical references cited to prove the word’s “racist” origins with texts suggesting Indians once embraced the term.

Those who support the change argue that, regardless of whether advocates for keeping the name do so in a respectful manner, Maine’s tribes have made clear their perspective that continued use of Redskins would be disrespectful to them and their heritage.

By changing its mascot name, Wiscasset High School joins a growing list of schools and colleges around the country that have switched sports team names in deference to tribal concerns. In Maine, Scarborough High School in 2000 replaced its Redskins nickname with Red Storm, while Old Town High School in 2005 dropped Indians as its mascot.

The only other schools in Maine to use the wolverine for a mascot are Schenck High School in East Millinocket and the post-graduate college preparatory school Bridgton Academy.

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