The mother of a Micmac Indian who plays football for Lisbon High School alleges that fans and players mocked Native Americans with offensive stereotypes throughout Friday’s game at Wells High School.

Wells fans — both students and adults — were “running around with hands over their mouths,” making whooping sounds, and banging on drums and 5-gallon buckets with offensive chants, said Amelia Tuplin, whose 16-year-old son Lucas Francis, is Lisbon’s quarterback.

Some fans had faces painted with “war paint,” she said. At the end of the game, the Wells football team gathered and did what Tuplin termed “a mock dance, putting their helmets up and down, and doing a mock chant.”

Tuplin’s allegations come at a time when school districts across Maine have wrestled with keeping Native American mascots and school nicknames.

The press box at Memorial Field, where the Wells Warriors play, has a logo of a Native American wearing a feathered headdress.

Wells High’s mascot name is Warriors. The press box at Memorial Field, where the football team plays its games, features a logo of a Native American wearing feathers.

“When I went down to Wells, I didn’t find the logo distasteful, it’s how they represented it,” Tuplin said. “They just made a mockery of my culture and my heritage.”

Tuplin, 35, and her husband are parents of five children ranging in age from 8 to 18.

“I have never seen anything like the magnitude of this and for it to be encouraged by the staff, the coaches, and the superintendent,” Tuplin said. “At what point, Mr. Superintendent, did you not think this was wrong? He is the highest educator and basically he is endorsing it.”

Tuplin sent a letter to Wells Superintendent James P. Daly on Monday, asking for a public apology.

Daly said he and his staff are actively investigating Tuplin’s allegations.

“Allegations were made toward the Wells community and fan base,” Daly said. “That’s a lot of people. It’s going to be a very thoughtful and prudent investigation. There’s no quick answer to this. We want to make sure we’re doing due diligence and taking time.”

Several Maine high schools have eliminated Native American nicknames, including Scarborough in 2001, Old Town (2006) Wiscasset (2011) and Sanford (2012). Husson University in Bangor changed its nickname from Braves to Eagles in 2004.

Wells and Nokomis of Newport are the two Maine high schools that use the nickname Warriors with Indian imagery.

Skowhegan High has come under fire for use of the nickname Indians. In 2015, its school board decided to keep the nickname after public forums with the four tribes of the Wabanaki confederation and residents who support and oppose changing the name.

Wells is known as a town that exuberantly supports its high school athletic teams, particularly its football program.

Daly said it is common for students to bang drums at football games.

“Banging on 5-gallon drums, yes,” he said. “Is it racial? I do not believe so, but we are in middle of investigating that.”

Friday’s game pitted two unbeaten teams. Wells beat Lisbon, 36-6.

“I think the banging on the drums and stuff just shows spirit we have for our school because we’re honoring them,” said Jade Petrie, a senior at Wells High.

“I just feel like it’s the culture of high school football and something that comes along with football,” said Delaney O’Brien, a Wells junior. “I don’t associate it with Native Americans.”

But even portrayals of Indians perceived as positive still have a negative impact, said Jordan LaBouff, an assistant professor of psychology and honors at the University of Maine.

LaBouff said several studies have shown that Native American students perform worse academically and imagine fewer future possibilities for themselves in schools that use Native American imagery.

“I don’t think anyone in that community is explicitly trying to harm but the fact is, they are, and the data demonstrates that,” LaBouff said.

Tuplin said she initially felt the fans’ behavior and mock chants were targeted specifically toward her son, the only Native American on the Lisbon team. She expressed those feelings on her Twitter account late Friday evening.

Over the weekend, Tuplin said she was told that what she witnessed Friday is typical at a Wells’ football game. She now believes her son was not specifically targeted for abuse “which made it worse, made it hurt more,” because it showed a disregard toward Native American culture.

“If you do this all the time, if that’s the response I’m going to get from somebody, then we have a bigger issue,” Tuplin said. “If you’re allowing this to happen and instilling these values, if this is how you’re teaching your students how Indians act and behave, (that is) instilling racism in your kids for a long time.”

Daly acknowledged that Wells’ use of the Warrior mascot will also be addressed.

“The first issue is there were allegations of inappropriate behavior and the second issue is the mascot and that is an issue that will be brought to the school committee and the community,” Daly said. “Those two issues are very different in the way we deal with them.”

Wells senior Megan Schneider thinks it is time for the Native American imagery to be removed from the Wells High logo.

“The name is OK, that we go by Warriors,” said Schneider, a three-sport athlete. “That’s like we’re hard fighters. But I think it’s not hard to just get rid of that mascot because that’s not needed. That is just exploitation. The mascot part is just unnecessary.

“We don’t have black people’s heads as a mascot. Should we have the Indian head as our mascot?”

Tuplin emphasized that Wells’ students aren’t to blame.

“I hold the superintendent accountable for all of this,” she said.

Daly said he wants have a dialog with Amelia Tuplin.

“I’ll definitely reach out,” he said. “I plan on emailing her and inviting her to have an open discussion about what happened, and how we can all move forward from this.”

Lisbon Superintendent Richard Green said he made sure Wells’ school officials were aware of Tuplin’s complaint.

“I don’t believe (Tuplin) is overreacting,” Green said. “She’s upset and she’s going through the process and making people aware and I think that’s what people do nowadays.”

Green noted that Sugg Middle School in Lisbon had an Indian mascot that was changed “16 or 17 years ago” to Huskies. Now, all Lisbon school teams are called Greyhounds. The Lisbon town seal bears the likeness of a Native American leader.

– Justin Pelletier of the Sun Journal and Bill Stewart of Central Maine Newspapers contributed to this story.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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