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Maine School Forms Panel To Review Use Of Native American Logo, Nickname

Abukar Adan
Maine Public
Barbara Giammarino, a Penobscot whose family has been in Wells for decades, speaks at a meeting on Wells High's use of Native American imagery.

The Wells-Ogunquit Community School District decided Thursday night to form an advisory committee to look into concerns about Wells High School's use of the "Warriors" nickname and Native American imagery.

The move came after the panel heard from residents at a public discussion about the issue. 

More than half of the nine speakers favored getting rid of the current mascot. Barbara Giammarino, a Penobscot and the grandaughter of Leslie and Valentine Ranco, the couple in 1949 who opened the Indian Moccasin Shop, was one of them.

Giammarino said the mascot's stereotypical image is harmful, especially for the kids in the school. "It's dehumanizing and disgraceful. And it lacks racial sensitivity. Being continually surrounded by stereotypical types of Native Americans such as the cases in schools with mascots - it's a form of racial harassment."

But some residents want the Warrior nickname preserved, including Peter Moody, a 1952 Wells High graduate. The way Moody sees it, keeping the current mascot is an act of kindness.

"We're willing to honor them because they were here before we were and I think it's great and we should be keeping it," he said. "By honoring this and honoring the Indians, I think we're doing justice to them we're not hurting them, we're helping them."

Superintendent James Daly emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind. "We need to do our job to make sure we find both sides and we listen to all sides, with no value judgment," he said. "We have the right, as a group, to hear both sides and to ask questions, to gain an education."

Following the public discussion, the Wells-Ogunquit Committee School District moved forward with its plan to form an advisory committee to study and make recommendation.

The committee will be made up of student athletes, coaches, community members and administrators. It's set to start work in December and issue a recommendation by April.