School Committee Meets Tonight to Hear Input from Native American Leaders

Wells – The ACLU of Maine is urging the Wells-Ogunquit School Committee to retire the Wells High School mascot. In a letter to the committee, the ACLU points out that the team name and logo perpetuate damaging Native American stereotypes. The committee will meet tonight to review the mascot.

“There is no room in 2018 for school-sponsored racial mockery,” said Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine and author of the letter. “It’s time for Wells to let go of this harmful tradition.”

The ACLU decided to weigh in on the issue after being contacted by Amelia Tuplin. Tuplin, a Micmac Indian, attended a football game in October between Wells and Lisbon High School, where her son plays. She was dismayed to see Wells students wearing feather headdresses and “war paint” and conducting mock Native American chants and dances. Although Tuplin originally believed that the fans were targeting her son, she later learned that the fans’ behavior was typical of a Wells football game – which, she says, bothered her even more.

In the letter, the ACLU writes that retiring the mascot would help ensure the school is in compliance with federal and state laws that protect students from discrimination at school, including protection against a hostile environment on the basis of race.

The ACLU points out that studies have shown using Native American mascots lowers the self-esteem of native students and teach students that racial stereotyping is acceptable. In 2005, the American Psychiatric Association publicly called for “the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots” because they teach “misleading, and too often, insulting images of American Indians.” More than 100 civil rights, educational, athletic and scientific organizations have made similar statements.

Wells is one of only three Maine schools, along with Skowhegan Area High School and Nokomis Regional High School, that still use a Native American mascot. Almost all Maine schools that once used Native American mascots have retired them following community campaigns and input from native people. Just this week, the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball announced they will stop using their “Chief Wahoo” logo in 2019. 

“A growing number of institutions have said they no longer want to perpetuate this harm,” said Bond. “All Maine schools should do the same.”

The letter is available here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/letter_to_wells_school_district_1.31.2018_final.pdf

 

 

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