Governor Janet Mills signed “An Act to Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools.” The legislation states, “A public school, the University of Maine System or any college within the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System….may not have or adopt 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.”
In explaining the need for the change, Maulian Dana, the tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation in Maine states, “It is part of a big picture of historical oppression of Indigenous people. When you see people as less than people, you treat them accordingly. That actually points to the very core of it, is that they make us invisible and turn us into stereotypes.”
Two decades ago, about 20 public schools and colleges in Maine had Native American themed mascots, including some with the name R-skins. This year, the school board in Skowhegan ended their Native American mascot, becoming the last school district to shed the stereotypical mascots.
Other states have taken action against Native American mascots, but have not gone as far as Maine. Oregon, for example, has banned these mascots unless a school district gets permission from a tribe to continue using a Native American mascots. California bans the use of R-skins as a name.
Mr. Snyder, owner of the Washington R-skins, would be in a hot seat if one of the states in the DC region took similar action.
Meanwhile, other recent actions across the country against racial slur mascots include:
- A group of students in Manchester CT have gathered 600 petition signatures calling on the school district to eliminate their Native American name and logo. The school district had recently commissioned a study about the mascots.
- The school newspaper of Teton High School in Idaho says it is dropping the R-skins name and wrote an editorial asking the high school to shed its Native American imagery. “We want a paper that welcomes students from all backgrounds, cultures, and identities, and we were concerned that our previous name did not reflect those values,” the staff editorial declares.
- Two junior high schools Fayetteville, Arkansas will replace their cowboys and Indian mascots. They have formed committees composed of administrators and students that will come up with new mascots by the end of the year. The school board had determined that the stereotypical mascots did not align with its mission, which includes striving towards a safe and inclusive environment.
- The Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida is ordering the replacement of Native American themed mascots in 6 schools. The District states that the mascots “easily reduce living human beings to the level of a cartoon." Students and staff will come up with replacement mascots, and then students will vote by ballot for the new mascots.