A law signed by Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) on Thursday makes the state the first in the nation to ban the use of Native American mascots at public schools.
Mills signed the bill while surrounded by local tribal communities who had pushed for the legislation, according to CBS 13 WGME.
“While Indian mascots were often originally chosen to recognize and honor a school’s unique connection to Native American communities in Maine, we have heard clearly and unequivocally from Maine tribes that they are a source of pain and anguish,” Mills said at the bill’s signing.
“A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride,” she added. “Our people, communities and understanding and respect for one another are Maine’s source of pride, and it is time our symbols reflect that.
Rena Newell, a non-voting representative for the Passamaquoddy Tribe, praised the new law as the “start of a higher trust of promoting cultural diversity and awareness.”
“Today and [from] now on, it is our collective responsibility to the next generations to promote each other as equals, as individuals, and most importantly, as neighbors,” Newell said.
The signing of the bill into law comes months after a local school district made the decision to stop using the nickname “Indians” at a high school, eliminating the last use of the controversial nickname in the state.
The new law will go into effect later this year.
Last month, Maine officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day as a way to honor Native American Communities in the state.