WELLS — Five of nine speakers at a public meeting Thursday night said they want Wells High to stop using Native American imagery with its Warriors mascot, and the Wells Ogunquit Community School District will form an advisory committee to study the issue and make a recommendation next spring.

“In order to educate your community you need to know about the stereotypes of your mascot and the harm that it’s putting onto a community, to a nation of people. It’s dehumanizing and it’s disgraceful and it lacks racial sensitivity,” said Barbara Giammarino, a Penobscot and the granddaughter of Leslie and Valentine Ranco, who opened the Indian Moccasin Shop on Route 1 in 1949.

But Wells resident Dave Cilley said the term Warriors was first used after World War II to honor the Abenakis and all the returning veterans.

“It is a term of reverence for all brave soldiers alike,” Cilley said. “I really think what we have here is a case of you’re inferring that because you have a warrior on the logo and a mascot, it’s a racist thing. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The kids at Wells, they work together to accomplish something and it’s only done in the most noble way.

“Wells is filled with good people,” he said. “It’s not racist. It’s not in any way detrimental to the well-being of a larger community.”

Wells’ “Warrior” is represented by a stoic Native American in profile in many areas in and around the high school. The high school also uses a block W with a feather attached.

The mascot came into question after a Lisbon woman, Amelia Tuplin, a Micmac, charged that the environment at the Oct. 13 football game in Wells was “distasteful and downright racist.”

The committee will include student athletes, coaches, administrators including the high school principal and athletic director, and members of the public. The committee is expected to start work in December and issue its recommendation by April.

Superintendent James P. Daly said Thursday that the committee will need to hear from both sides of the issue “to get an education,” and that the process needs to be thorough, thoughtful and “honor all groups and understand that different groups have opposite views.”

The six-member school board heard Thursday from several residents who asked that at least the logo be changed.

“I’m here to ask that as a community we see this as a time of reflection and growth,” said resident Janet Martel. “Even though there may be many who support the current mascot, we have to remember its history. Wells is a proud community that supports public education. It’s time to insist on a new mascot.”

Using stereotypical images of native peoples has been done to “justify oppressive practices and it’s not something to be proud of that you carry on like that,” said Giammarino, who lives in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“I think we all really need to think about what a mascot is and what the purpose is,” said Giammarino’s daughter, Jocelyn Giammarino of Scarborough. “A mascot is to rally unity in a community and if a mascot excludes a segment of that community, then the mascot is not serving its purpose.”

Wells resident Deborah Shipp, 68, noted that, “This is one of those issues that we need to be educating (students) on and how something that maybe we’ve grown up with is really racist and how the mascot that we presently have in this town is a racist emblem.”

Peter Moody, a 1952 Wells High graduate, said he supports the current mascot.

He noted that his family lineage dates back so far that “people in my family got killed by Indians but we’re willing to honor them because they were here before us and I think we should keep our Warriors name.”

Two other residents spoke of the process going forward.

Chris Marquia, 41, has lived in Wells since 1979 and asked for the advisory committee to take a Camelot-style approach.

“What we’re looking for is to create a committee where we can sit down without heads of the table but a round table where both sides of this issue can … be honest, discuss facts, and share each others’ perspectives (without) finger-pointing and name calling.”

John Massaro, a resident since 2009, stressed the importance of keeping the discussion of the mascot separate from Tuplin’s allegations.

“What happened at the football game is somewhat irrelevant to the issue of whether the logo disparages Native Americans,” Massaro said. “That’s a separate issue. If that did not happen, we still should be having this discussion.”

The exact makeup of the committee is to be decided by December. From January through March 2018, the committee will meet with community groups and individuals to learn about the issue and to solicit public opinion.

Then the committee will recommend whether to keep the mascot. The public will have opportunities to comment at committee meetings and after the recommendation is made, prior to the school committee voting on the recommendation.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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