For someone who should have a great deal of insight, Gregory Domareki (Another View, “We really are Skowhegan Indians,” March 4) sadly has none.

I am a Penobscot woman who grew up and still lives and works on Indian Island. I am a graduate of University of Maine in Orono and work for the tribe’s business corporation. I raise my family here and have chosen to make a life for us on the reservation. I am 30 years old and have been Indian for all of them.

Indian is not something I can wash off after a basketball game. Indian is not a costume I can wear, then hide when the going gets tough. Indian is not a mascot.

As a result of the genocidal policies on our people by the first immigrants from Europe and later the United States, Native Americans endured generations of cultural loss, stealing of land and resources, diseases that decimated whole nations, torture, war, forced sterilizations, children stolen for “re-education,” broken treaties, and more raping and pillaging than the mind can handle.

Domareki would lead us to believe that the natives of Skowhegan gracefully and peacefully taught the settlers about the land, then gave it all to them under the promise that they would be honored for years to come with signage in a gym and a big statue. Having some “Indian blood,” as Domareki so eloquently put it, does not mean they know what it is like to live in the reality of being an indigenous person. Not having this knowledge and life experience means he has no right to speak for those of us who do.

Native indigenous people are not mascots. We are real living and breathing humans that are still in the modern world. Mascots place us in a metaphorical glass case of history and do damage to us because we can’t exist as equals in a world that sees us as an exhibit. Those feathers, clothing, customs and implements all have sacred and religious meaning and purpose to us. A purpose much higher than as symbols of a sports team of a small town high school. When they are mocked and misused, it takes our very identity, not only stealing it, but also disrespecting it.

I’d like to think that the people of Skowhegan with all their good intentions and pride in their hometown would want to do what is right, and now they have a great chance to do so. Honor all of us by changing the name. I want my kids to grow up in a world that doesn’t marginalize and misappropriate their culture, the very essence of who they are.

Could anyone imagine a mascot with a caricature of an African American or a Catholic priest? I would like to think there would be an outrage if a mascot was a white man in blackface or a person dressed in robes came out at half time to bless the crowd with holy water. Using the name “Indian” as a school mascot is equally as offensive.

Skowhegan and its residents can absolutely respect and cherish their history without being racist. And we would love it if they started doing so.

Maulian Smith is a member of the Penobscot Nation, Indian Island.


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