Public schools and universities will no longer be able to use Native American names or imagery in their mascots or nicknames, thanks to a bill that was signed Thursday by Maine Gov. Janet Mills.
“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 at the signing ceremony, where she was joined by state tribal leaders.
There technically wasn’t any school districts left in the state that still had a Native American mascot or nickname, according to WGME. The Skowhegan school district, the last one to have had such a nickname, voted two months ago to end its use of such imagery.
Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday signed into law a controversial bill banning the use of Native American mascots in all state public schools: https://t.co/1VLBFlZz4V
— CBS 13 News (@WGME) May 16, 2019
There was a chance, however, that some of the district’s citizenry could have pushed for a referendum on the subject, bringing the matter back before the school board to reconsider. However, the bill signed into law Thursday ensures that the matter is resolved once and for all.
Rena Newell, a representative from the Passamaquoddy tribe, explained the importance of the new law.
“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,” Newell said.
Mills concurred, adding that pride in a community needn’t be derived from Native American stereotypes.
“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,” the governor said.
Mills has taken other actions this year to address concerns of Native Americans in her state, Fox News reported. At the end of April, the Democratic governor signed a separate bill into law, officially changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in the state of Maine.
“Our history is by no means perfect,” Mills recognized at the time. “But, for too long, it has been written and presented in a way that fails to acknowledge our shortcomings. There is power in a name and in who we choose to honor.”