Maine Gov. Janet Mills has signed into law a bill that prohibits the use of Native American mascots in public schools.
The Bangor Daily News reports that when the bill takes effect later this year, Maine will become the first U.S. state with such a ban.
Mills signed the bill while being surrounded by members of Maine’s tribal communities. It comes two months after the last high school in Maine to use a Native American mascote name—Skowhegan Area High School—ended use of the nickname “Indians.”
“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 says.
“A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride. 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 tribal representative for the Passamaquoddy Tribe, says Mills’ gesture signified 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 says.