Sunday night I watched the movie “Woman in Gold,” a true story of the restitution of art to a Jewish refugee from Nazi Austria. This is a story of war, massacre, theft, courage and single-minded pursuit of justice.

In spite of post-war Austria claiming this piece of stolen art as an important part of their heritage, Austrians themselves ultimately made the decision it should be returned to its rightful owner. We sat in the theater stunned by power of this film.

Monday night I sat in the cafeteria of Skowhegan Area Middle School and listened to a panel of Wabanaki, of multiple generations, speak to the issue of the Skowhegan Indian mascot. The final speaker, Maulian Smith, told the same story we saw in the movie. The only difference is the span of time. The massacres were centuries ago, one in Norridgewock, the thefts ongoing. The struggle of her life reflect the persistent ripples of these actions.

If you were not there last night, I would urge you to turn to Channel 11 to observe these remarkable stories. We were again stunned by the power of the story we heard.

The newspaper headline Tuesday got it exactly right. The portrayal of Indians as mascots is wrong.

Austria ultimately surrendered $135 million worth of paintings. We are simply asked to surrender a mascot. “Indians” represents a stolen heritage.

As I spoke before, this is a matter of justice. At the end of the day it is a test of who we really are. Are we that Austrian museum director, fighting bitterly to maintain the stolen art, or are we better than that?

After 35 years of practicing medicine I have faith in the people of this community. It is time to do the right thing.

Roger Renfrew


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