Maine has become the first state to ban Native American mascots at public schools, colleges, and universities,
Gov. Janet Mills — a Democrat who took office in January — signed the measure Thursday. It will go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, the governor’s office said.
“While Indian mascots were often originally chosen to recognize and honor a school’s unique connection to Native American communities in Maine, we have heard clearly and unequivocally from Maine tribes that they are a source of pain and anguish,” Mills said in a statement. “A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride. Our people, communities, and understanding and respect for one another are Maine’s source of pride and it is time our symbols reflect that.”
What does the law say?
The new law “prohibits all Maine public schools from adopting a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to a Native American tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school.”
How did others react?
“Our tribal communities laid the foundation of our state,” state Rep. Benjamin Collings, a Democrat, said in a statement. “They are people, not mascots.”
James Francis, the tribal historian for Penobscot Nation, noted that that “argument has always been that ‘we are honoring you.'” But he added that “by passing this legislation the State of Maine is truly honoring Native Americans.”
Darren Ranco, chair of Native American Programs at the University of Maine, said that “overwhelming research shows how harmful Naive mascots are to children, especially to Native children” and that the new law “ensures that our children will not be harmed by the kind of disrespectful representations of Native people that always come with these mascots.”
Ambassador Maulian Dana of Penobscot Nation said the new law “is a very personal issue for me. I have been educating and advocating for change of these mascots since I was a teenager, and it is very meaningful to have my daughter here at this signing ceremony along with our tribal leaders, allies and friends.”
Last Native American mascot in Maine retired
The Skowhegan school board voted in March to change its “Indian” mascot after years of debate. It was the last district in Maine to use a Native American mascot.
Here’s news report on the Skowhegan school board’s decision to change the mascot:
Skowhegan mascot changed