MSAD 54 board holds public forum on Skowhegan's use of Indian as mascot

SKOWHEGAN, Maine (WABI) - MSAD 54 held a special meeting Tuesday night to allow the public to weigh in on the use of the Indian as the Skowhegan mascot.

It's a topic that drew a large passionate crowd on a snowy night with opinions on each side..

"Our Indian represents our town, " said Skowhegan resident Judi York.

"It's the last high school using this kind of mascot in the state and it's been proven to be harmful and disrespectful to indigenous peoples," said Maulian Dana, Penobscot Nation Ambassador.

"It represents who we are," said York. "We are trying to honor the past the people who lived here before us."

Skowhegan Middle School's gym filled on Tuesday night. A public forum for school board members to listen as people answered the question...

Why should the district support or not support a change to the use of the Indian name and seal?

"This is hurtful, it's demeaning," said Dwayne Tomah. "As an indigenous person I am not feeling honored at all."

"Skowhegan Indians to me is that teacher who convinced me that I could do better," said Joel Stetkis. "The coach who taught me to never give up. To me, Skowhegan Indians is much more than a painting or sculpture. It is being a part of a community that is bigger than yourself. It taught me to work and to serve with others."

"I ask for all of you to ask yourselves why you accept the mascot," said Skowhegan Area High School Senior Adele Belanger. "You know that the mascot is not respectful to Native Americans."

No decisions or votes made Tuesday, so the question is what's next?

"It's an educational experience for the board and then the board has a lot to consider... What it heard, they may ask for more information, I really don't know, but it won't just be dropped, it will be considered." said MSAD 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry.

Maulian Dana said that if the board does not vote to change she will pursue other avenues.

"It's a bill sponsored by a Representative Ben Collings out of Portland," she said. "I worked with him to get it as a placeholder in the next session and then will work out language and stuff as we go."

And what would the bill be?

"It would be a state wide ban on Indian mascots."