Regarding the use of the term “Indians” as an identifier by Skowhegan schools, the school board needs to recognize two things (“Gov.-elect Mills weighs in on Skowhegan schools’ Indians nickname,” Dec. 7),

First, the board is acting here in the role of a governmental body. This is important to note since throughout the 400-plus years since first colonial contact, non-Natives have used the imprimatur of government authority to justify their actions with regard to Natives.

Second, while this matter has come before the board formally only a few times previously, the issue perpetually roils beneath the surface. The board refused to fully comply with the Natives’ request years ago, and refused again in 2015. But it is coming up now, and until rectified will continue to come up again. And again. And again. Until the change is made. And the change will eventually be made.

Supporters rely on invoking “heritage,” as if that resolves the issue.

In truth, even if the board, in its role as a governmental body, was to formally stop using the term, anybody insisting on using the Indians mascot as a matter of “heritage” would (as individuals) be free to wave tomahawks and scalp towels, beat drums, wear war paint and do “Hunt the Indian” games. In short, they could exercise their “heritage” in any way that wasn’t a hate crime. They just wouldn’t have the backing of government approval and authority to bolster them. And they’d risk looking pretty foolish standing alone with headdress and scalp towel in hand.

As with other human and civil rights issues that society has grappled with over the decades, this issue won’t go away until the superior grievance, in this case the Natives’, is accommodated.

Once the change is made, the issue will never reappear again.

Ernie Hilton


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