SKOWHEGAN — A public forum will be held sometime in early May to debate use of the word “Indians” as Skowhegan Area High School’s sports nickname and mascot.

A date, time and location have not been set, SAD 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry said Friday.

The full school board heard from members of the education policy program committee on the topic Thursday night, he said. The committee hosted a meeting Monday with members of four tribes that make up Maine’s Wabanaki Federation, who said they find the mascot name offensive and want it replaced.

School board members agreed to hold a forum “where people could come in, sign up and they would have an opportunity to speak for some kind of limited amount of time for each person,” Colbry said. “We still have to work that out.”

The six towns of SAD 54 are Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan.

Subcommittee member Jenifer Poirier said the forum would give both sides a chance to debate whether to change the name.

“I proposed a controlled environment where people can sign up to speak for or against a name change,” Poirier said. “There will be time limitations for speaking. The board will be there to answer questions and the Native Americans will be invited.”

Poirier said Thursday’s school board meeting was a “fairly quick discussion, and feelings seemed mixed.”

“The sense of urgency to do something one way or the other seemed highly evident,” she said. “A community forum should get things started.”


Representatives of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac tribes told subcommittee members Monday night that the use of the word Indians is an insult to Native Americans, who long have suffered racial prejudice.

The tribes say Indians should not be a sports mascot, a nickname or good luck charm.

The tribes have no issue with the town seal – an Indian spearing fish on the Kennebec River – or the image of an Indian painted on the wall of the high school gymnasium, Barry Dana of Solon, former chief of the Penobscot Nation, said Monday night.

Defenders of the Indians name say it is an important school tradition that shows respect for Maine’s Indian tribes.

Before the meeting, a group of about 40 local people dressed in the orange and black of the Skowhegan high school sports teams assembled in a silent protest outside the middle school. They carried placards, banners and pennants saying “Skowhegan Indian Strong” and “Skowhegan Indians – Our Heritage.”

Discontent over the Indian mascot is not new for Skowhegan schools.

The school board’s Educational Policy and Program Committee voted in 2001 to keep the Indian name and propose a single American Indian symbol to represent the teams. The SAD 54 board had debated the issue for two years after receiving a letter from the American Indian Movement in 1999 saying the use of an Indian for the high school’s mascot offensive.