By Ed Rice (Centralmaine.com, Nov. 13, 2015)
Recent use of an alcohol reference is particularly harmful, considering how white people used it to control the native peoples.
Since the French, the British and colonial Americans invaded North America, the use of alcohol helped white people to subjugate Native Americans in all manner of nefarious ways and made the indigenous peoples subservient to their respective wills. They cheated them in basic trades for furs and goods, stole lands from them again and again in treaties they never intended to honor and robbed them of their self-respect and perverted their health.
At no point in the history of our Native Americans has alcohol and its use had anything but tragic consequences, and nothing is remotely amusing about this relationship.
Professional baseball’s first-known Native American player, Penobscot Louis Sockalexis from Indian Island, undoubtedly would have been recognized as one of the greatest players in the game’s history if it weren’t for his use of alcohol, which sadly reduced him merely to an historical footnote. These circumstances can be viewed only as heart-breaking and tragic.
So, to learn the Skowhegan “Indian Pride” Facebook page, which continues the sorrowful tradition of School Administrative District 54 using an inappropriate Native American nickname and mascot, posted a cartoon recently featuring a caricature of an Indian claiming “My Indian name is … Runs with Beer,” should leave all of us bewildered, angry and anything but amused.
This indignity, of course, follows an “Indian Pride” post between the school’s baseball coach and SAD 54 school board member Jennifer Pelotte Poirier (also the Skowhegan “Indian Pride” page manager) celebrating a vile entity known as “the scalp towel” that members of the site found “laugh out loud” funny.
So, hasn’t it, finally, reached the point where Poirier should be censured by the educational board for her continuing divisive, inflammatory behavior, or even be recalled by her community?
When our “Not Your Mascot” campaign first approached SAD 54, the last community in Maine where a public school employs an inappropriate nickname and mascot, Poirier contacted me directly and said she was interested in communicating with us and would, in her own words, “keep an open mind” about a possible nickname and mascot change. She even invited me to be Facebook “friends” with her to keep the lines of communication open.
But, in all honesty, I believe this elected public servant was two-faced and untruthful about this sensitive, controversial issue.
I have observed her closely during proceedings about the mascot. At the first session, involving 10 Native American speakers (representing all four Maine tribes) and SAD 54 school board representatives, she sat there, seeming cold and impassive, during deeply personal and fact-filled testimonials about how harmful these nicknames and mascots are.
Then came the public session for community residents and Native American state officials to speak for-or- against keeping the nickname. Poirier helped lead the charge to prevent testimony by Maulian Smith, who carried with her a mandate from Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis to speak on his behalf. In a shameful display for the SAD 54 community, a Native American speaker who should have been allowed to speak was escorted away from a microphone by a policeman.
A joyous surprise unfolded that evening, however, when those in the community favoring name change more than doubled the number of speakers opposed.
Finally, Poirier’s ruse was up, well before the SAD 54 school board took its vote. She took control of the “Indian Pride” page when student Zach Queenan had an extraordinary change of heart and could no longer support keeping the school’s nickname.
Poirier, I believe, does not serve in the best interests of all students, faculty and staff at Skowhegan Area High School. She should resign — or be removed — so SAD 54 can start the process to end its embarrassment and humiliation over a website that continuously is offensive and a movement that is going in the opposite direction of the rest of Maine and the country.