THUMBS UP to the School Administrative District 54 school board for inviting representatives of Maine’s Native American tribes for a discussion about the use of “Indians” as the team name for Skowhegan Area High School.

A decade ago, dozens of Maine schools used nicknames like Indians, Redskins and Warriors along with American Indian imagery. By 2010, however, there were only nine. Now, with both Nokomis and Wells seeking to downplay the connection of their “Warriors” name to Native Americans, Skowhegan is the only school not making any accommodations for critics, including Maine tribal representatives, who say the mascots are offensive.

The planned meeting, likely to occur sometime early next year, is a good first step in removing Skowhegan as the last, lone member of that list.

Many Skowhegan residents and high school alumni are justifiably protective of the school’s longtime mascot. To them, it is used in honor of the Native Americans who called that area home for centuries. It is also the name they wore on uniforms and sweatshirts, and yelled out with pride while cheering on the hometown team.

But many American Indians in Maine have a different point of view, and that view should be heard, face to face, in a way that is understanding and respectful of both sides. Only then can the community and school board make an informed decision about the future of the school’s nickname.

SAD 54 Superintendent Brent Colbry articulated well the friction at the heart of this debate: “This isn’t just a school issue. This community, the name of the town, the Langlais sculpture — the town identifies itself that way as a municipality,” he said. “It’s very deep here in the culture of the community. We see it as honoring the heritage of our community, but Native Americans don’t always see it that way.”

Those appear to be opposing viewpoints, but they don’t have to be. This doesn’t have to be antagonistic debate. There is a middle ground, where Skowhegan can celebrate its history without raising the bad feelings of the people the town means to honor.

THUMBS DOWN to FBI data showing tens of thousands of background checks on gun sales are falling through the cracks, as the group tasked with researching the sales struggles to complete the checks in the time mandated by law.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, now handles 21 million background checks a year, up from the more than 9 million checks the system performed in its first year, 1999. By federal law, the NICS has three business days to determine whether a buyer is eligible to own a firearm, or the buyer can legally obtain the firearm, whether or not the check has been done. In about 2 percent of the cases — 186,000 last year, or 512 gun sales per day — NICS does not come through in time.

NICS does an initial scan of the buyer to see if there are any red flags, such as signs of a felony conviction, arrest warrant or a history of domestic violence. A red flag then triggers further investigation.

However, according to NICS, the records the system then has to dig into, maintained by the states, are often missing information.

That’s a problem, even among U.S. gun laws that are filled with loopholes. It’s disconcerting to find out that even the meager laws now in the books are not being used as they should be.


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