SKOWHEGAN, Maine – Members of the Penobscot Indian Nation will meet with school board members Monday at the Skowhegan Area Middle School to discuss changing the school sports teams’ nickname and mascot from “Indians” to something else, a tribal member said.
Representatives of the Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes are expected to attend the meeting as well, according to media reports.
The school board and superintendent will continue a dialogue that began in late December. Skowhegan is the last public high school in the state to retain a nickname that the nation finds offensive, said Barry Dana, a former chief of the Penobscots.
“It is a classic example of institutionalized racism, and we are offended by it. We see no reason to see our race singled out to be used in this fashion,” Dana said Monday. “This is part of a national movement from east to west and north to south. We don’t want to be used as mascots.
“To me it is more of a primordial, very innate and deep-seated thing, almost a religious thing. It’s like being a Christian and seeing a cross portrayed in a way that you didn’t find comfortable,” he added.
A resident of Solon, Dana said he has found school officials to be very receptive to the tribe’s point of view.
They have “conveyed that the school board is very interested in starting a process and continuing that process of education on this whole issue,” Dana said. “This is a controversial issue, for sure, and when reasonable people representing both sides of the debate can sit down in conversation and light out a process where they can have conversations, I think that speaks highly of both parties.”
Dana said he is hopeful that both sides can benefit from a nickname change, that the high school can come up with a team nickname more reflective of the Skowhegan area’s people and culture.
The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the middle school.
Husson University and Wiscasset, Old Town and Nokomis high schools have changed their team nicknames or the illustrations around them to eliminate derogatory references to American Indians, Dana said.