Letter to the Editor

What ‘Redskin’ really means

Posted:  Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 8:00am
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Dear Editor:

Here in Maine we are the first state in the country to have a truth and reconciliation commission about our history with native children in the child welfare system. Not only is that historic, but it has also been eye opening for me, as a Mainer of European descent.

As all of us begin to learn the truth about our history with the Wabanaki tribes in Maine, and why we've come to this juncture of needing a truth commission, we non-native Mainers are starting to get some context for the things that, before now, we might have taken for granted or just didn't know.

When I read that Ashley Gagnon said "yay" and was happy that the town of Wiscasset approved her naming her private road "Redskin's Drive,” I wondered if perhaps she just didn't know the deeper background for why this is so painful for native people in our state.

In 1755 the Spencer Phips Proclamation put a bounty on the heads of native people in what is now the territory of Maine. Fifty pounds (a year's salary for clergy at the time) would be given to anyone who killed an adult male Indian. And it didn't stop there. You got 35 pounds for a woman, and 20 pounds for a child under 12.

And you didn't have to bring the dead body to Boston; you could bring their scalps to a station in Augusta or Wiscasset the clerk would say: “How many redskins you got for me today?”

This was just one of many bounties around the country.

Even if we didn’t have this piece of evidence, just on skin color alone, consider if we would tolerate a team called the “Blackskins” or the “Whiteskins.”

It is time we stop associating that name with a mascot, and use that to minimize the meaning behind it. If native people tell us this is painful, exclusionary, and a chilling reminder of the fact that they were targeted for destruction, why doesn’t that mean anything to all of us who enjoy this beautiful land we live on, and took from them.

Arla Patch

Teacher and Community Engagement Coordinator

Maine-Wabanaki REACH

Bryant Pond