WELLS — Two prominent members of the committee charged with studying Wells High School’s Native American-themed Warriors mascot called for the imagery to be retired.

“My recommendation, at 5 o’clock on the 14th of February, is to keep the name and retire the Indian imagery. We don’t even need a mascot. We’re the Warriors,” said Jim Daly, superintendent of the Wells-Ogunquit school district.

Wells High football coach Tim Roche said a year ago he would have steadfastly defended the current “Warrior head.” But after listening to comments made by Native Americans at the last committee meeting and reflecting on the ill-defined genesis and history of the mascot, Roche no longer sees the image as respectful.

“I’m not sure of Wells’ history anymore. I’m really skeptical,” Roche said. “If the Native Americans don’t want to be honored, I’m good with that, because that’s their choice not to be honored. We can’t hide behind the history of it. I love the Warriors. I grew up here. I spent most of my life right here in this town and I don’t want to honor people who don’t want to be honored, or find it insulting to be honored. I just can’t do that anymore.”

Daly and Roche spoke at Wednesday’s scheduled meeting of the 25-person Wells Mascot Advisory Committee.

It was formed in November to study whether Wells should keep its current mascot and then make a recommendation to the school committee, hopefully in April.

The issue of Wells’ mascot was brought to statewide attention after Amelia Tuplin, a Micmac from Lisbon, said Wells’ fans mocked Native Americans by wearing war paint and feathered headdresses, and by making chants and beating drums at the Oct. 13 football game against Lisbon.

Tuplin and other Native Americans from Maine met with the committee on Jan. 31, making it clear such images are offensive to their culture and called for Wells to remove the Warrior head.

Wells and Skowhegan are the two Maine high schools still actively using Native American imagery.

The Wells “Warrior” is depicted on signs, chair backs and in prominent wall locations as a Native American with feathers and a braid, shown in a stoic, profile pose.

‘LOSER IMAGE’

The original purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to determine how best to conduct a survey of high school students and to decide on a format for a community forum, planned to be held in March.

But once invited guest Harry Tomah, a Native American of the Maliseet tribe and former Wells teacher, calmly explained why Wells should keep the Warrior name and stop using Native American imagery – “It’s a loser image. The Indians never won,” Tomah said – several committee members voiced their own opinions on the core issue.

Daly said he came to his personal decision to keep future Wells students from continued scrutiny.

“To put my ninth-graders, my 10th-graders, into a forum at every game for the rest of the life of the Wells community is very irresponsible,” Daly said.

David Cilley disagreed that the current mascot is a burden for the town.

“What did people in this town do? It’s a false accusation I think,” Cilley said. “And I don’t see the connection between the Indian people in the country and anger against the people of Wells who have not participated in a hostility.”

Cilley added, “I agree that in the long term people will be cowed into changing, but I don’t think it’s right.”

Committee member Joe Searles attended Wells High in the 1960s. He said he was proud to be a Warrior while “playing all the sports,” but never thought about the Indian image. For Searles, the “Warriors” name is paramount.

“We were Warriors and that was what I was brought up to worship, honor and love,” Searles said. “If we retire the image, I think that’s a good idea. I can live with that. But I want to see the Warriors.”

CHANGE MAY COST

Chris Marquis, another former Wells High athlete, also spoke about his devotion to the Warriors. Marquis is adamant that the Warrior head image should be kept because it represents standing tall in the face of constant attack and adversity.

“It is an image that is something you should be proud of, the idea of someone being so spiritually, physically and mentally tough,” Marquis said. “Someone who gets back up no matter how many times they get kicked back down. That’s the image that I took with me as an athlete and as a student while I was here at Wells.”

Pierce Cole, the school’s director of activities, said it would cost an estimated $25,000 to remove the current images. That would include buying new boys’ lacrosse shorts, which Cole discovered include a small Warrior head logo.

The next meeting of the advisory committee is scheduled for March 7 at 4:30 p.m., with the purpose of making plans for a public forum and deciding when to survey the high school students.

Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

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