Selectmen in Wiscasset, Maine, have voted to allow a private road to be named Redskins Drive, much to the displeasure of Maine Indian tribes (Photo courtesy of ICTMN).
In Washington D.C. an NFL owner won’t change his team’s longstanding nickname that many Native Americans find offensive, but in one community in Maine, selectmen are voting to put the same name on a previously unnamed road.
Indian Country Today reports that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis and former Chief James Sappier have asked the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen to rescind their vote that OK’d the naming of a private road as “Redskins Drive.”
The offensive word has been a contentious issue in Wiscasset for years. In 2012 after a bitter yearlong battle, the school committee voted 4-1 to change the Wiscasset High School’s mascot from Redskins to Wolverines.
Francis told the selectmen that Nation citizens appreciated sharing their history and perspectives on the use of the Redskins name with the people of Wiscasset during that battle. “We remain grateful for the understanding and good will those leaders demonstrated by changing the name of their mascot. We understand that change is difficult and that people may feel nostalgic about certain aspects of their past, but we cannot quietly accept a sentimentality that hurts our people.”
The word is so offensive to American Indians generally and particularly to Maine’s Wabanaki nations – the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac tribal nations—because it reminds them of a time when they were hunted by settlers and their bodies and scalps sold to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Frances wrote. “The 1755 Spencer Phips Proclamation placed a bounty specifically on my people, the Penobscot, offering payment up to 50 pounds for each man, woman and child. When scalps were brought in for payment, they were referred to as ‘redskins,’” Francis wrote.
In her ICTMN story, reporter Gale Courey Toensing interviewed one of the selectmen who voted to allow the name change, Bill Barnes.
Barnes told Toensing he did not think the name was either bad or offensive. When Toensing asked Barnes if he was Indian, he replied, “Nah, but I think what needs to be done is remember the Indians so they don’t get forgotten because if it hadn’t been for the Indians in this country the white man would have never survived.”