On Thursday, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed a bill to prohibit the use of Native American mascots in all public schools—including colleges and universities. The bill was passed unanimously in the state legislature. Maine is the first state to enact such a law.
“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,” Governor Mills said in a statement.
While Maine is the first state to enact such a law, states across the U.S., from Wisconsin to California, have begun to implement similar bans. Rena Newell, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe from Pleasant Point, Maine, told the press this week, “Today and [from] now on, it is our collective responsibility to the next generations to promote each other as equals, as individuals, and most importantly, as neighbors.”
In 2005, the American Psychological Association put out a report calling for the immediate retirement of native mascots, saying the images have, “harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.”
Skowhegan Area High School is reportedly the last high school in Maine to have a Native American name and mascot, and the school decided earlier this year to ditch both in the near future.
The issue of Native American mascots has been on the cultural consciousness for a long time, and though many organizations are opting to do away with these images and monikers, others (like the Washington Red Skins) are keeping their names, for now.
Maine, however, is moving forward. In addition to the Native American mascot ban, earlier this year, Governor Mills replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“Our tribal communities laid the foundation of our state,” Rep. Benjamin Collings, who sponsored the Maine legislation, said. “They are people, not mascots.”
“A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride,” Mills said in a statement this week. “Our people, communities, and understanding and respect for one another are Maine’s source of pride and it is time our symbols reflect that.”
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