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Maine Senate Endorses Ban On Native American Mascots

The Maine Senate approved legislation on Tuesday to ban the use of Native American names, imagery and mascots in public schools and at public colleges and universities.

Last week the House approved the measure 88-49. The Senate vote was 23-10. Supporters argue that Maine needs to go on the record opposing language offensive to its native tribes.

Lewiston Democratic state Sen. Nate Libby, who supported the bill, cited a 1724 attack in which he says the Norridgewock tribe was virtually wiped out by an English militia.

“I know that many of the folks that are supporting preservation of the mascot have no idea of the slaughter that occurred in Norridgewock and Skowhegan just a few hundred years ago,” he says.

But opponents see the proposal as an erosion of local control.

“I believe passage of this legislation will hold up the state of Maine to legal challenges down the road. While concerned about those aspects, my greatest concern is that this bill will take away local control,” says Republican state Sen. Brad Farrin of Norridgewock.

The legislation was introduced as a response to a longstanding controversy in Skowhegan, where school sports teams have used the “Indians” as their mascot. School officials there voted earlier this year to stop using the word and the imagery, but there is an effort locally to override that decision.

The bill faces further votes in the House and Senate.