A Place Justice Event Hosted by Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations

Join us for a virtual screening of “Fighting Indians” followed by a conversation with filmmakers Mark Cooley and Derek Ellis and Passamaquoddy language-keeper Dwayne Tomah, moderated by Erika Arthur.

Tuesday, February 21 from 5:00 – 7:00

Register here

A New England community debates its “Indians” school mascot as local tribes push for change.

On May 16th, 2019, The State of Maine made history by passing LD 944 An Act to Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools, the first legislation of its kind in the country. For Maine’s tribal nations, the landmark legislation marked an end to a decades long struggle to educate the public on the harms of Native American mascotry. Fighting Indians chronicles the last and most contentious holdout in that struggle, the homogeneously white Skowhegan High School, known for decades as “The Home of the Indians.” This is the story of a small New England community forced to reckon with its identity, its sordid history, and future relationship with its indigenous neighbors. It is a story of a small town divided against the backdrop of a nation divided where the “mascot debate” exposes centuries old abuses while asking if reconciliation is possible.


Co-director and producer

Mark Cooley grew up in Maine and now lives in Virginia where he is a professor of new media and eco-art. Mark’s works as an artist, musician and filmmaker have been exhibited, screened, and performed internationally in venues such as Exit Art, NYC; FADO Performance Art Centre, Toronto; St. Louis Science Center; MediaLabMadrid, Spain; Anthology Film Archives, NYC; The Phillips, D.C; and The Institute of Contemporary Art, London.



A lifelong resident of central Maine, Derek Ellis is a Maine Guide, Local 349 Union member, and a former MSAD#54 school board member. Derek co-directed the short film 10 Mile Yard Sale, which was an official selection in the 2018 Maine International Film Festival and can be seen in rotation on Maine Public Television.


Dwayne Tomah is a Language Keeper, he is a teacher of the Passamaquoddy language and culture. He is the youngest fluent speaker of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and has served on the Tribal Council. He has also worked with Animal Planet on a segment called Winged Creatures, highlighting the history of the Thunderbird. His life has been dedicated to working on the language and culture preservation, he has edited the Passamaquoddy dictionary and worked to help create the Apple ~ Passamaquoddy Language App. He shares Native legends through song and dance. Dwayne is currently working with the Library of Congress on translating the Passamaquoddy Wax Cylinders. These recordings are the first recordings in the world of Native languages. They were recorded in 1890 by Jesse Walter Fewkes, who borrowed the device from the inventor Thomas Edison. Dwayne has also been involved in repatriation and Land Back issues. He shares historical truth regarding The Doctrine of Discovery by an Indigenous perspective.


Erika Arthur is a Policy Analyst at the University of Southern Maine’s Catherine Cutler Institute, working in the Justice Policy and Child Welfare program areas. She is a consultant on the Permanent Commission’s Place Justice Project. Erika holds an MA in U.S. History and a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her graduate research was located at the intersection of race, gender, rural political economy, and mass incarceration and utilized oral history, archival, and secondary sources. For more than two decades, Erika has engaged in community organizing and education on social and racial justice issues. Her current focus is embodied practice as a capacity-building tool for anti-racism and decolonization.

This is the second event in the Place Justice Event Series. The series features free, virtual and in-person panel discussions and film screenings to engage the public in considering the often complex and contentious issues related to offensive place names and other problematic commemorative practices in the place now known as Maine. Read more about The Permanent Commission’s Place Justice Initiative here.

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