On Thursday, my partner and our son participated in Austin’s Turkey Trot. I had my camera with me to document our son running his first 1K. I ended up using it to also document some of the people who chose to “celebrate” Thanksgiving by running in a race while wearing a “costume” that was supposed to represent Native Americans and/or their culture (I guess).
This is not okay.
When Native people wear feathers, paint their faces, wear particular clothes, it is often for religious and spiritual reasons and is certainly important to them culturally. If you wear a Native “costume”, not only are you choosing to be culturally insensitive on a day when USians purposefully ignore the long tragic history of Indian people in this country BUT you are also mocking Native religion, spirituality, and culture.
Native people are not costumes to be worn. Their culture does not exist for you to consume it on a specific day and discard it on all others. They are not a commodity or a novelty.
Native Americans are people. They are PEOPLE. People, people, people, people. PEOPLE.
In case you need a reminder of that tragic history I mentioned above, here’s a very short list:
- Pequot War (1630s)
- Trail of Tears (early 1830s)
- Sand Creek Massacre (1864)
- The Long Walk and Internment (1864)
- The Dawes Act (1887)
- Wounded Knee (1890)
- Indian Termination Policy (mid 20th c)
- Bugs Bunny racist cartoon (1960 – go to 2:15)
- Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder (1972)
- Happening today, right now: South Dakota removing Native children from homes
I also suggest you read Simon Moya-Smith’s piece “Thanksgiving and the Relentless Indian Will to Survive,” as well as this post from Feministing, “No thanks: A little historical truth-telling about Thanksgiving.”
AND THEN look at these photos and tell me they aren’t insensitive and racist:
Final note: worse thing I saw but didn’t get a picture of – little boy, probably about 6, wearing a head dress with feathers that said across the front, “Walks With Two Legs.” No, parents. NO NO NO NO NO.