As a proud Skowhegan native who now lives on the West Coast, I’ve seen a change in people when I tell them where I’m from.

No longer is Skowhegan, Maine, revered as the hometown of Sen. Margaret Chase Smith — a trailblazing, conscientious, considerate and diplomatic leader.

Sadly, our beautiful town’s reputation is tainted as being one of the nation’s last to ignore the request of Native Americans and cling to an Indian mascot — a position viewed as the opposite of the qualities that Sen. Smith embodied.

I still love Skowhegan, and always will. But the outdated and tone-deaf Indian mascot — and the local Chamber of Commerce’ “Hunt the Indian” contest it inspired last year — is a source of shame, not pride.

This stigma impacts Skowhegan business owners who make nationwide calls, Skowhegan workers who travel to other states, Skowhegan students who attend college and play sports throughout the region, and nobodies like me who used to be proud of the good reputation that Skowhegan used to have.

I care about how Native Americans feel about the mascot, and for me, that’s enough of a reason to change it. But for those who need more convincing, consider this: Every day that Skowhegan clings to the Indian mascot is a day that damages the town’s reputation in the eyes of the nation — possibly forever.

Jennifer Sargent Bokaie

San Rafael, California

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