School Committee Expected to Hear Community Input Thursday

Skowhegan – The ACLU of Maine is urging the Skowhegan School Committee to listen to Maine’s tribal leaders and retire the Skowhegan Area High School mascot. Despite extensive efforts by tribal representatives to convince Skowhegan officials to drop the “Indians” mascot, the school board last voted in 2015 to keep it. The committee is expected to hear input from the community again at their meeting tomorrow, Thursday, December 6.

In a letter to the committee and the Superintendent, the ACLU asserts that the team name and logo perpetuate damaging stereotypes about indigenous people. 

“The very people whom the mascot’s proponents claim to be honoring are telling them to drop the mascot,” said Emma Bond, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine and author of the letter. “It’s time for Skowhegan to do some serious listening to the people who are being harmed by this painful tradition.”

The ACLU points out that studies have shown using indigenous 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.

As Penobscot Nation tribal ambassador Maulian Dana wrote in the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday, “We have said this does not honor us. We have said it is harmful. Experts have backed us up on both claims. Elders, tribal leaders, students, scientists, reformed Indian mascot lovers, politicians and people from every walk of life have made strong cases for dropping the Indian mascot.”

Skowhegan Area High School is the last high school in Maine to use an indigenous mascot. All other Maine schools who once used them have retired them following community campaigns and input from native people. 

“Every single school district in Maine has said they no longer want to perpetuate this harm, except Skowhegan,” said Bond. “Now Skowhegan has another opportunity to do the right thing.”

The letter is available here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/letter_skowheganschooldistrict_12052018.pdf

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