SKOWHEGAN – Members of the Skowhegan school board — and the state legislature — believed the issue of Native American mascots was settled.
But some people in Skowhegan are clinging to the Indian as the high school’s unofficial mascot.
In March, the Skowhegan school board voted to retire the high school’s Indian mascot.
“Immediately after the board voted to remove the mascot, there was some resistance that was formed,” said Penobscot Nation Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana.
In May, Gov. Janet Mills signed a law banning the use of Native American mascots in public schools statewide.
During the past couple of days, images of Native Americans on T-shirts and hoodies have appeared on the Facebook page for Maine Fire Equipment.
Todd Smith — who operates Maine Fire Equipment — also owns a screen printing company.
“We’re not out there to try to break the law. If the law says we couldn’t do it, we wouldn’t do it. But the bottom line is inside the law that goes into effect in a few days doesn’t have any consequences.
Dana said this should be a time for healing and teaching.
“And he doesn’t care that these mascots are proven to be harmful to children of all ages,” she said.
One of the images on the Facebook page shows a Native American warrior head in the middle of a marshal’s badge with the word “Outlaw” printed on it.
Smith said that is a reference to a country song called “Indian Outlaw.”
Dana and other members of the Penobscot Nation disagree.
“So by attaching that to images of indigenous people, it’s even more insulting because they’re trying to play on that stereotype that we’re all savages,” she said.
Smith said he believes the issue has been distorted. People posting on Facebook have called him a racist and white supremacist.
“Right off the bat, I think it’s unfair to call somebody out for something when you don’t even know those people. And if feel like I’m a victim of that,” he said.
Attempts to get a comment from the Skowhegan school department superintendent were unsuccessful.
So far, the school board has yet to set a date or procedure for selecting a new mascot.
“So they’re trying to capitalize on that, the Skowhegan Indian pride,” Dana said.
Smith is a member of the school board and consistently opposed changing the mascot.
He also sells school spirit clothing to other schools throughout the region.
“When the school board decides on a new mascot, then we’ll shift gears and we’ll start producing that stuff,” he said.