The foyer to Wells High School’s athletic center prominently displays the school’s mascot. The Wells-Ogunquit school committee voted Wednesday to remove Native American imagery from all schools in the district.

WELLS — The Wells-Ogunquit school committee voted unanimously Wednesday to remove Native American imagery associated with school mascots.

The vote ended a seven-month study and discussion of the Wells High “Warriors” nickname and its associated “Warrior head” logo, along with other Native American-themed imagery. The discussion pitted those who considered the imagery offensive or insensitive against some residents who viewed it as a proud part of the school’s tradition.

“I’m really glad that we came to this conclusion,” said school committee chair Helena Ackerson.

The vote leaves Skowhegan as the only high school in Maine that associates either a Native American image or name (Indians) to its school mascot.

The mascot review process in Wells began after allegations made by Amelia Tuplin, a Micmac from Lisbon, that the use of the imagery – along with behavior of fans at an Oct. 13 football game at Wells High – mocked Native American culture.

Following Tuplin’s charges, a mascot advisory committee was appointed by the school board to study the issue and then recommend what to do about the mascot and the Warriors nickname. The mascot advisory committee’s recommendation emphasized four points:

To remove Native American imagery across the school district.

To retain the use of the Warrior name.

To incorporate the use of the Warriors name at all Wells-Ogunquit schools (the current junior high nickname is Raiders).

To retire the “Warrior head” imagery in the Wells High School Hall of Fame.

Reached Wednesday night, Tuplin said the vote had “stirred up a lot of raw emotions from that night eight months ago,” leaving her more somber than excited.

“But I am proud of the (Wells) community for listening to us, inviting us to their community, and allowing us to speak to them,” Tuplin added. “They’re on the right side of this.

“I hope they can get past that imagery that has been implanted in their school system for so long. That’s not who we are as Native Americans. We’re not mascots.”

Superintendent James Daly said most of the imagery in signs and flags will be removed over the summer. The imagery on the recently refinished high school gym floor – the alternative logo of a “W” with a feather attached – will take longer to remove because of cost concerns.

“To refinish that gym floor will take thousands of dollars so that transition will be slower than the transitions that we can take care of right away,” Daly said. “The plan is, we’ll budget for that as we move into next year. This year do not plan on having the gym floor redone. To go to the taxpayer and ask for another ($10,000 to) $20,000 would be unfair.

“The committee and the community have done the right thing, it’s just going to take time for the transition and I want people to know that.”

In the lobby entrance to the athletic facility above the school’s Hall of Fame plaques is a large painted Native American. A similar image is painted on the wall inside the newly redone gym.

“That should go, let’s face it, that’s one of the things this is all about,” said Harry Tomah, a retired social studies teacher and former coach at Wells who is also Native American.

Tomah tried to quietly address the possibility of removing the Native American imagery while still a teacher in the 1990s.

“So in that sense, it’s been a long time. But this latest move, this serious attempt, seemd kind of long but I guess it had to be to get it done properly and correctly so in that sense it was worth it.”

Several Maine high schools have eliminated Native American nicknames, including Scarborough (2001), Old Town (2006), Wiscasset (2011) and Sanford (2012).

Of the six school committee members, Karen MacNeill was the slowest to raise her hand in agreement with the motion. MacNeill said she was representative of other members of the community who did not want to see the images be removed.

“Clearly this is the right thing to do. I don’t even hesitate to acknowledge that but for me I guess it’s personal,” MacNeill said. “My sons both went to Wells High School. I was a Sanford Redskin back in the day. I understand the respect thing. I just, I guess I’m sad to see it go.”

Daly said he’s glad that the school district will be making a “clean break,” from all Native American imagery and the associated issues and unwanted publicity the community has dealt with this school year.

“It came up in 2014 and it came up in 2010 and we didn’t do anything,” Daly said. “I don’t think that makes problems go away, I think that compounds it and it gets harder and harder to address.

“Hopefully we can let our kids celebrate the games when they’re on a Friday night, they’re Wells Warriors kids enjoying a Friday night game.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.