Maine appears to be the latest state set to join the movement against racist mascots.
The Maine Senate voted 23-10 on Tuesday to approve a bill to ban public schools from using derogative Native American imagery as mascots, according to the Portland Press Herald. Last week, the House voted 88-49 to pass a bill proposed by Democratic state Rep. Benjamin Collings that issued a similar ban, with an amendment being added to include the state’s public universities. The Senate version of the bill, which stipulates the discontinuation of racist Native mascots in all public schools, will now go to a procedural vote in both chambers.
The bill arrives just a month after the Skowhegan School Board voted to rid the district of the “Indian” nickname and mascots used by the schools. The vote marked a conclusion to a debate that lasted four years. While the GOP senators who voted against the bill decried it for stepping on the toes of local school boards, tribal leaders from Maine’s sovereign nations, including all four from the Wabanaki tribes, have long voiced their support for a mascot ban.
(Just because it is so stupendously stupid, here’s an example argument, via the Bangor Daily News, from a non-Native school employee who wanted to keep the “Indians” nickname and mascot: “Removing it, Skowhegan middle school tutor Gloria Gordon said, would take rights away from non-Native American students who want to keep the mascot.”)
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills touted her support for the ban as part of her campaign for governor, complete with a page on her website detailing the need to do away with Native-themed mascots. There, Mills wrote that she “will work to remove once and for all, offensive names for teams, schools and mascots that have no place in our modern-day society.” In December, following her election victory, Mills wrote a letter to the Skowhegan School Board calling for them to do the right thing and rid themselves of the racist mascot.
As long as a meteor doesn’t disintegrate either chamber, Mills will get the chance to deliver on her campaign promise and sign off on the ban in the coming weeks.