November 27, 2008

Girl cries over Indian costume

Kids Told Not to Dress as 'Indians' at Plimoth PlantationA nine-year-old girl was recently asked to remove her “Indian” costume before entering the Wampanoag Homesite of the Plimoth Plantation, a historical site that allows visitors to experience Plymouth, Mass., as it was in the 17th century.

The outdoor museum features a 1627 English village beside a Wampanoag home site. The purpose of the museum is to educate visitors (school-children and adults) about what happened between the Native Americans and the colonists, especially during the first Thanksgiving.

The nine-year-old was one of thousands who flock to the colonial museum during the Thanksgiving season. She dressed as an Indian and her friend dressed as a pilgrim to celebrate the occasion.

Linda Coombs, associate director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, asked the girl to remove her homemade beaded costume before visiting the site, reducing the child to tears and upsetting her mother, the Boston Globe reported on Nov. 24.

“Native people find it offensive when they see a non-native person dressed up and playing Indian. It’s perceived as us being made fun of,” Coombs told
More on the problem:Coombs said good intentions do not matter because she and the other Native staff members perceive the costumes as mockery before the wearer has a chance to explain his or her intent.

“Costumes are offensive because of what has happened in history--the Hollywood pseudo Indians, the Italian actors playing Indians, the crappy dress they put them in, the Halloween costumes. When other people dress up as Native people it’s offensive, period,” Coombs said.

She compared people wearing Native American costumes to white entertainers who put on blackface in old minstrel shows.
Too much political correctness:The Web site also advises visitors not to refer to the Wampanoag people as either Indians or Native Americans. “The term Native American suggests that Native People were always American but this country was populated by Native People long before it was called America,” the site states.

Instead, they prefer to be called Native People or Indigenous People.
Comment:  For more on dressing up as Indians, see Playing Indian for Thanksgiving. For more on what to call Indians, see "American Indian" vs. "Native American."

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

Below:  Wampanoag Indians in a History Channel scene, filmed at Plimoth Plantation (AP Photo)

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