Friday, 10 November 2017 18:07

Heritage Not For Sale: Part 1 Featured

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SKOWHEGAN - People who drive through Skowhegan can tell right away there's a deep history of the presence and culture of Native American tribes.

But recently, a well-intentioned promotional stunt for the town missed the mark by a long shot.

 

the area's Chamber of Commerce created an event meant to boost local business shopping. The plan was to hide an Indian figurine in stores, and shoppers would get discounts if they found it.

 

"We talked about it at the board, and really developed it at the board, and as a whole chamber," Executive director Jason Gayne said. "We had several businesses that had signed up for it."

 

The problem is, the event was called "Hunt for the Indian," and that didn't sit well with hundreds of people who posted online and called in to the chamber.

 

Within hours of the first wave of angry responses, the chamber changed the name to "Search for the Indian," and then canceled it altogether.

 

"I really don't think it was malicious on their part," Penobscot Nation ambassador Maulian Dana said. "I just think it was really poor judgment, and it stems from the mascot."

 

The figurine was one of many sold in gift shops in the area, and represents the statue at the center of town. Working to correct the problem, the chamber immediately stopped selling souvenirs, and Gayne says they're ready to have a discussion as a community.

 

"We've heard loud and clear, and deeply apologize for the way we came across," Gayne added. "We are talking, we have a couple event centers we're taking with now to hold a community forum so we can have an open community dialogue, both with the Native Americans and Skowhegan residents."

 

"I would like to say that I'm appreciative that they saw the outcry and hopefully recognized that it was a problem," Dana added. "And I noticed in the apology statement they said that they want to start having discussions with the town about the mascot. I think that is really strong leadership on their part."

 

Still, this is far from the first time this town has faced controversy like this. Dana hopes this might be the push Skowhegan needs to make a change.

 

"You look at the post and when it says, 'hunt the Indian,' that's shocking and offensive, and i think a lot of people got upset about it," Dana said. "But it can be a very teachable moment. I think it's gonna shock people enough to say, 'yeah that is wrong.'"

 

 

David Guildford

Weekend Anchor/Reporter
[email protected]

David joined the news team in March of 2017. First and foremost he is a proud Mainer. Before reporting for ABC7 and FOX22, he interned at WLBZ2 in Bangor, and attended the University of Maine's journalism program.

David was raised in the western Maine foothills, and has been a lifelong viewer of local Maine news. He hopes to bring this perspective to telling the stories of folks in the community.

When not on the job, David enjoys skiing, snowmobiling, spending time at the family camp on Branch Lake, and playing slow-pitch softball with the other Bangor gym class heroes.