SKOWHEGAN — Penobscot Indian Nation organizers who want Skowhegan schools to stop using the Indian image as a sports mascot said Tuesday they want a small planning session with school officials before they agree to a larger community discussion.

Representatives of the state’s Wabanaki – the four tribes that make up Maine’s Indian population – said resistance in Skowhegan to changing the mascot comes from a misunderstanding of what the image means to the tribes and they hope to “foster a spirit of understanding.”

School Administrative District 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry said in an email Friday to former Penobscot chief and Wabanaki activist Barry Dana that a promised meeting had been postponed because of media attention.

“We are sorry to hear of your recent change of heart,” Dana and Maulian Lorraine Smith, human resources director for a company owned by the Penobscot Indian Nation, wrote in an email to Colbry on Monday. “We and the other native representatives had made plans and were very much looking forward to our informal, or some form of, get-together.”

Dana said a smaller meeting is necessary before a community meeting is held.

The board didn’t think that format would be useful at this point, Colbry said. Many people in the community are saying ‘we don’t want the board to make this decision or any decision in isolation’ without seeking input from them.”

Colbry said the SAD 54 school board will probably not make any decision on meeting with tribal leaders until its next meeting, on March 5. SAD 54 comprises Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

Dana and other tribal advocates in the state have said that the Indian image used by Skowhegan as a sports mascot should be removed. Such images and mascots have already been changed at many schools in Maine and across the nation.

Those in the Skowhegan area who support the mascot say it is a way of respecting the people who lived for centuries on the banks of the Kennebec River, which runs through Skowhegan. Many also say it is an important school tradition.

But Dana said the concept of native heritage celebrated by American people is not shared by native people.

“We are not mascots – native people are not mascots,” Dana said Feb. 9, after the Morning Sentinel reported that the Bangor chapter of the NAACP had called upon Skowhegan to stop the practice.

“I have heard from many people on this issue who agree that institutionalized racism needs to end,” Dana said.

The issue has been plaguing Skowhegan schools for years. In 2001, the school board rejected a move to change the name, but agreed to one American Indian symbol for the school.