Maine is stepping up to be the first state to ban the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery in public schools.
Using mascots and other caricatures of Native American symbols and imagery has long been seen as offensive to cultures that were largely destroyed by white settlers.
The bill was initially proposed by Democratic state Rep. Benjamin Collings. It was hotly contested on the floor of the legislature and passed along party lines. Not surprisingly, Maine Republicans didn’t care about whether or not using the imagery offended the very culture they were appropriated from and were more worried about the bill depriving local school board’s autonomy in choosing mascots.
“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,” Rena Newell, a nonvoting tribal representative for the Passamaquoddy Tribe from Pleasant Point, told the Washington Examiner.
Newell said the law is the “start of a higher trust of promoting cultural diversity and awareness.”
Mill also signed a bill replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in Maine last month.
Maine is the first state to entirely ban the imagery in public schools but it’s part of a widespread trend that started several years ago and has been picking up speed as schools willingly drop their mascots over worries that the mascots are “racist” or “offensive” to certain minority groups, especially Native Americans.
California State University in Long Beach also took a step forward and voted on a replacement for its “Prospector Pete” mascot. The mascot was an ode to white people who came to California during the Gold Rush, which the university publicly described as “a time in history when the indigenous peoples of California endured subjugation, violence and threats of genocide.”