The Wells-Ogunquit school district has begun the process of reviewing the use of Native American imagery connected with its “Warriors” mascot.

Next Wednesday, the 25-member Mascot Advisory Committee will hear from representatives of Maine’s indigenous tribes at a closed meeting.

“It’s mainly for the committee members to get information and the Native American perspective, and will be educational for our committee members,” said Rick Coyne, the chairperson.

Maulian Dana, the ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, said she previously met with school superintendent Jim Daly and was asked to participate in the process. Dana said six to eight people from different tribes, including her father Barry Dana, the Penobscot chief from 2000-04, plan to attend.

Coyne said the meeting is not open to the public because it is “designed to gather information as the committee works to make a recommendation to the school committee.”

The Mascot Advisory Committee was formed in early December to examine the district’s use of Native American imagery.

Wells’ mascot came into question after a Lisbon woman, Amelia Tuplin, a Micmac, charged that the environment at a Oct. 13, 2017, football game in Wells was “distasteful and downright racist.”

Wells is one of the two high schools in Maine still actively displaying Native American imagery. When a $27 million high school renovation was completed in 2017, the profile image of a stoic Native American with feathers in his braided hair had been added to the athletic facility entrance. The high school band has an equipment truck with the caricature of a shirtless Native American holding a tomahawk, an image long associated with the marching band.

Skowhegan residents have adamantly opposed attempts to change the high school’s “Indians” nickname but most of the state has stepped back from Native American names or images.

“The traditions and pride and history a community has for its school will still be there even if you remove the offensive images, and that’s what people really need to focus on,” said Maulian Dana.

The most recent school to change its logo is Nokomis in Newport, which kept its Warriors nickname but changed its logo from a stylized Native American to a capital “N” crossed by the word Warriors. Only a few remnants of past images remain within the school, said superintendent Mike Hammer.

Coyne said Wells’ 25-person advisory committee represents a mix of opinions. Committee members include Daly, high school principal Eileen Sheehy and Athletic Director Pierce Cole; school committee chair Helena Ackerson “and a mixed bag of community members,” all of whom live within the district.

Coyne is a real estate agent, and retired health and physical education teacher who taught and coached at both Wells and Brunswick high schools.

“As a committee we haven’t talked about our individual opinions,” Coyne said. “No one has stated what will happen. We want to gather information first.”

After meeting with the Native American leaders next week, the committee will survey the student body in February and set up a community forum that will be held in March. The advisory committee then will work through April to “come to a consensus” and make a recommendation for action to the school committee in May.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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