School officials in Skowhegan have chosen a new high school mascot — the River Hawks — after years of controversy over its former name.
The district had faced pushback from some local residents and tribal officials over the use of the “Indians” mascot. It was the last district in the state to use the name and voted to retire it in May of last year.
The school board approved the name at a meeting Thursday night. Principal Bruce Mochamer describes river hawks as “powerful and stealthy,” and an apt representation of a community seated along the Kennebec River. He says that he hopes the community will rally behind the River Hawks but acknowledges it will take time for many residents.
“Obviously, the more we get out there, the more we start to be proud of, and actually come up with a physical mascot, where kids can rally behind that, that can be out at the presence of games and activities and get the crowd wound up. That’s when that school spirit, hopefully we’ll gather and support our new mascot,” he says.
Mochamer says he’s yet to hear from students about the new mascot because the school is currently operating remotely. The River Hawks name was the second-most popular amongst students in a survey distributed earlier this year.
The announcement comes only a few days after the district moved to remote learning following an outbreak at a local charter school. Mochamer says he hopes the new mascot can be a positive distraction in a tumultuous time.
“We have some digital graphic students, as well — allowing them to create this imagery, stuff that we can put on T-shirts, get those students involved, as well. So we’re hoping to really start to make this into a positive experience for all,” he says.
Last year, legislators passed a law making Maine one of the first states in the country to prohibit the use of Native American mascots.