Calls to remove the Native American imagery from the Wells High School mascot garnered further support last week when Superintendent Jim Daly and football coach Tim Roche told the Mascot Advisory Committee they support the change.
Rick Coyne, chair of the committee and former Wells High School teacher, said he feels the same way, but the committee has not come to a decision on a recommendation to the school board just yet.
“We’re not there yet as a committee. I’m all for the Warriors, but I think we need to take a serious look at the imagery, and I wouldn’t mind if the imagery was retired, so to speak, so that’s where I’m at,” Coyne said.
The advisory committee was formed in November to evaluate the use of the Warrior mascot after Lisbon parent Amelia Tuplin, a Mi’kmaq, accused fans of demonstrating racist behavior toward her and her son, a player for the Lisbon Greyhounds, during an October football game. WHS officials conducted an investigation and did not find evidence of racist behavior, but the event served as the catalyst for the advisory committee, which will bring a recommendation back to the WOCSD School Committee this spring.
At a committee meeting earlier in the month a panel of Native Americans shared personal stories and answered questions regarding the use of Native American symbols as sports mascots.
Barry Dana, the former chief of the Penobscot Nation, told members of the committee that Wells school pride does not come from the Warriors mascot.
“I don’t think your pride is based in your mascot. I think it’s in your work ethic, and your community,” he said. “Would you all as a community like not to have controversy around your school spirit?”
At last week’s meeting, Coyne invited Harry Tomah, a Native American of the Maliseet tribe and former Wells teacher, to speak to the committee.
“He was very, very good. He talked about it being time to get rid of the imagery, and keep the Warrior name,” Coyne said.
Coyne said the 26-member committee has been transparent and thorough in the process. Committee members include graduates of Wells High School, parents of Wells students, current Wells students, coaches and former athletics administrators, along with Roche,serving as a representative for the Wells Board of Selectmen, and Daly.
Coyne said the advisory committee will meet next on March 7 to finalize plans for a public forum and discuss plans for a student survey.
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