The City Council will seek other locations to hold future elections after City Manager Joe Slocum announced that Red Men Hall, also known as Tarratine Hall, isn’t available on Election Day.


The announcement came after a heated discussion two weeks ago among city councilors and Mayor Samantha Paradis about using a location that includes a Native American reference. At the previous council meeting, Paradis asked that a discussion be opened with local Native American tribes before the issue was voted upon.


Paradis began the meeting June 4 with an email statement by Penobscot Tribal Ambassador Maulian Dana about how the name is interpreted to indigenous people she represents.


“ … In the realm of Indian mascots, we see our people, who have suffered historic intergenerational trauma through attempted genocide and decimations of land, resources, culture and people reduced to stereotypes and caricatures. Then, to add salt to the wound, we have to witness nonindigenous people assume our identity and make a mockery of it.” Dana continued to write “the Red Men name fits into the theme of mascot use nicely, a bit sadly. This is a group of non-indigenous people operating under the guise of protecting and promoting a lost culture, when we are not lost, we are still here. They are not actually affiliated with or working toward the benefit of any indigenous nation. They are engaging in theft of our identity to pursue their desired goals, none of which are aligned with indigenous rights in the past or present.”

She went on to mention that the women's chapter is named after the popular historic Native American figure known as Pocahontas.


Counselor Mike Hurley said he recognizes the historic trauma inflicted on Native Americans and other minority groups in the U.S. and thinks conversations centered around topics regarding stereotypes and other misrepresentation is important.  But he thought it was unfair to label people in The Improved Order of Red Men as racist.


“I’m remembering what we did to Japanese people in the 1940s, what we’ve done to people of color forever," he said. "It’s our history; this world history is fraught with truly terrible deeds done to many people by more powerful people and so I understand very deeply where Ambassador Dana is coming from and what she’s saying.


“But they’re (The Improved Order of Red Men) good people who are doing good work in Belfast, provide a lot of services, and whatever they may be, they are not racist and they are not running based on racism," he continued. "They may very well need a name change but I think that there’s a great difference between that. I think when you want to start a conversation about stuff, starting it by identifying a group as racist or practicing racism is a really bad way to start that conversation. It almost ensures hardening of positions. So, I know these people as good members of our community. Better members than lots of other people in this community. So, I think it’s an important continuing discussion to have.”

Counselor Neal Harkness, who previously supported using Tarratine Hall, said he is concerned about how some citizens might feel voting in a building with a name that makes them feel uncomfortable.


“It’s in no way in our purview to tell any citizens in this city what they can or cannot call themselves or an association they belong to or a property they own," Harkness said. "It is within our purview to decide how we will interact with those entities. And as (Councilor) Eric (Sanders) said … you look at something every day and don’t see it.  And if a handful of people in this city would be uncomfortable with any particular polling place for a reason such as the name offends them, then that takes it off the table for me."


The council went on to discuss other possible locations like the Crosby Center on Church Street and the gym at Troy Howard Middle School, but they all agreed it needs to be a permanent polling place to reduce voter confusion.


The discussion was tabled.