I can only imagine how Maine’s indigenous people felt when in 1755 they became aware of a proclamation written by Spencer Phips, lieutenant governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which included Maine. The proclamation established a bounty on members of the Penobscot Nation. The bounty was 50 pounds for living captives and between 20 and 40 pounds for the scalps of men, women and children.

That the recent decision of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce overlooked this historical fact when they considered a promotion they called “Hunt for the Indian” is a measure of how little regard there is for the feelings of a nation that far preceded the presence of any whites in the area we now call Maine.

That tradition overrules decorum is wrong. It was wrong to put bounties on members of the Penobscot Nation; it is wrong to memorialize anything repugnant to the very people it symbolizes.

In many, many instances we have changed how we viewed things or how we portrayed them from 20 years ago because we learned that it offended people. There is good reason now, more than ever, to reconsider the value of those among us who are offended by what some feel is a tradition. The decision of the chamber to abandon a poorly thought-out promotion should be reason enough for further consideration of the use of Indian as a nickname when it continues to be a source of pain to the people it represents.

Charles Sawyer