Thanksgiving stereotypes

Well I certainly received a nice round of Native stereotypes this past weekend.  First, let me just say, I do promote a positive holiday, it is about remembering our people, our survival for 500 years plus, and just remembering what we are all about.  Our Native people have always been generous and hospitable to visitors.  It is that same generosity that should be bestowed upon all people, not just those in the past that made it over to this land before laws could be enacted to keep them out.

So, here I was perusing the latest blogs and threads, when I see a comment about an ad for a bar in St. Paul, Minnesota.  “Drink like an Indian, Party like a Pilgrim” was the slogan, with a woman dressed up in one of those sexy “Pocahontas” type outfits serving a pitcher of beer.

The poster to the thread asked everyone to call the bar and complain. On my Facebook, my friend, Kathy Dickerson  (the same poster) asked for us to repost the link and ask for people to contact Facebook about the ad.  I reposted, I called, I did whatever it took, to get this taken down.  To my surprise by that afternoon, the ad was pulled, and the bar was going to make a comment on the situation regarding the ad.  They later posted an apology and said they would be making a charitable contribution to a Native American charity.  Wow, all in one day, thanks to the internet and social media.

I went into Thanksgiving day feeling good, yeah it was nice for a bit.  I was out the door early to help with a local 5k.  I usually direct people where to run, that’s my job for the race and I go home.  And the 5k was going as planned, many people showing up, one lady had a fake turkey on her head and I remembered the year before a bunch of guys dressed as bananas ran together.  As I am walking out to my station, I notice two ladies dressed as Native Americans.  My heart sank, I didn’t know what to think, I was so very saddened by this site, thinking, “why oh why are you doing this in Lawrence, Kansas.”

I paused as I pondered my next move and I found myself in front of them as they were smiling at me.  I said very calmly, ” I know you are probably just dressing up for fun, but dressing up as Native Americans of all days today, is offensive to me.” All they did was look at me and say, they didn’t mean to offend anyone.  I told them that there were many Native Americans running in the 5k and for them to have to see this would be very awkward.  They just stated again, “that they didn’t mean to offend anyone”.

I continued onto my station, thinking of all the education Native Americans do to get rid of this stereotype why is it not taking seriously.  You don’t see anyone celebrating Martin Luther King day dressing up in blackface.  Why don’t people see the correlation? Are we not serious enough? Are we not human enough?

As the race started, I saw those two ladies run by, and after the race I saw them again.  I walked to where they were and asked again, “why they did this?” I just wanted to know. One replied, “We did it in the spirit of the holiday.  We are sorry, we won’t do it again.”

I smiled at them and said, “thank you.”

I went home thinking about the stereotypes that are still around us: on food packages, on automobiles, and as sports mascots.  We have a long way to go, but as long as we keep pushing, something has to give.


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