Even as controversy swirls on nearly a daily basis over the name of the Washington Redskins, residents of Wiscasset, Maine, succeeded in getting a street renamed “Redskin’s Drive” even after local schools were forced to abandon the name.
Four years ago schools in Wiscasset bowed to pressure to remake the district’s mascot. They jettisoned the “Redskins” and took on the name “Wolverines” instead. But residents of a private lane in the town as well as members of their town council were not ready to wipe the name from the town’s history.
A group living on the private drive submitted a list of names for the street to the town council, one of which was “Redskin’s Drive” and when the matter of selecting the name of the street came before the council, Selectmen Vice Chairman Ben Rines, Jr. asked, “What’s wrong with Redskin’s Drive?”
Town Manager Marian Anderson erred on the safe side of the matter saying, “I have no opinion on that.”
But Rines wasn’t done and went on noting that he was educated in Wiscasset schools that proudly featured the Redskins name. “I graduated a Redskin, and I will always be a Redskin,” he exclaimed.
When the issue came to a vote, Rines and Selectman Barnes and Merry voted to approve the new street name. Only one board member voted no, Selectwoman Pam Dunning. Selectman Jeff Slack abstained.
Explaining her “no” vote, Dunning claimed that many Native Americans do not like the use of the name. “They consider it very bigoted,” she huffed.
Resident Ashley Gagnon, who will now be living on the newly minted Redskin’s Drive, said she was overjoyed about the name. “We should be proud,” she insisted. Gagnon went to the local schools when they were “Redskins” and also says she has Native American ancestry but isn’t offended at all by the use of the name. She told the Wiscasset Newspaper that she hoped to lessen controversy by using the singular “Redskin” for the street name in that she believes it refers to any former “Redskin” who participated on the town’s teams.
After the meeting, Selectman Rines spoke more about his reasoning on adopting the new street name.
“As I said in the meeting Tuesday night, I am a native of Wiscasset and went through the Wiscasset schools and was a Wiscasset Redskin all my life, and I don’t see it as a disparaging word whatsoever,” Rines told the media. “Our heritage should be respected as much as any others.”
The school system in Wiscasset was more or less forced to abandon the name under threat of lawsuits when the schools joined RSU district 12 in 2010.
But Rines opposes the change at his schools.
“I didn’t grow up knowing or even thinking that redskin is a bad word. It’s only since the politically correct police come along has it been a bad word. To me, redskin is synonymous with Wiscasset,” Rines said.
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