The "Indian" mascot of Skowhegan area schools is once again stirring debate in town. Credit: CBS 13

A national Native American group came to Maine Sunday to urge people in Skowhegan to continue using the controversial “Indian” sports mascot for their high school, telling supporters they “depend on these names and images to keep us in the public eye,” the Morning Sentinel reported.

Four representatives of Native American Guardians Association — or NAGA — spoke to a crowd of about 20 people, including four members of the local school board, at the T&B Celebration Center in Skowhegan, according to the Morning Sentinel.

The NAGA speakers said sports team names like the “Indians” preserve the legacy of native people in America.

[Debate over Skowhegan’s ‘Indians’ mascot pits neighbor against neighbor]

“Those in Maine who are part of ‘Not Your Mascot’ are attempting to revive the 1600s by trying to eradicate Native American culture where non-Natives have embraced it,” said NAGA speaker Breelyn Fay, a member of the Shawnee tribe from Illinois, the newspaper reported.

A small group of demonstrators turned out to protest the event. One demonstrator, Diana Owen of Milo, told the Morning Sentinel the members of out-of-state tribes should not be interfering in the business of Maine tribes.

“They do not belong to this nation and they do not belong here telling the Wabanaki people what to do with unsightly mascots. This is not their homeland. They need to go,” she said, adding: “You speak for your own nation. They have no right to be here to tell the Wabanaki what we should or shouldn’t have.”

[Tribal leaders again ask Skowhegan to drop ‘Indians’ mascot]

Skowhegan is the last high school in the state with sports teams called the “Indians” or “Redskins,” names Maine’s tribal leaders have called offensive.

More than 30 Maine schools over the past 15 years have either retired their Native-themed mascots altogether or changed the imagery to remove all references to Native peoples, including most recently Newport’s Nokomis High School, which is dropping the Native American imagery tied to its Warriors mascot.

The Skowhegan school board has voted multiple times to keep the team name, as recently as 2015.

BDN writer Emily Burnham contributed to this report.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.