By Katrina Ballard
“We enjoyed the parade a lot, but when our 4-year-old daughter turned to us and asked why that man had paint all over him, we felt really uncomfortable,” said Emily Rothman, who moved to Needham five months ago with her husband, Greg Banks.
Their concerns—expressed in a letter to a local newspaper and a phone call to a tribal chief on Cape Cod—have renewed an off-and-on debate within town over whether the half-century parade staple should continue.
“We do know this is a tradition many people in Needham enjoy and find harmless, and it does seem like Mr. Muzi has the best intention,” said Rothman. “However, when people paint their skin to look like individuals of another race for entertainment purposes, it’s off base.”
“There are no good reasons for someone that is not Native American to dress up as though they are Native American,” said Morceau, a substance abuse and family councilor at Peaceful Gathering Place in Wareham. “The only group of people that are still open season for being made fun of that way are Native Americans. We need to step up and say this is offensive.”
Morceau compared Muzi’s costume, which she says makes fun of her sacred dress, to putting on blackface.
“If you want to honor the Native American, you bring in a Native American,” she said. “You don’t bring in a white person, put on a black face, and say you’re honoring African Americans.”
For more on the subject, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief, Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay, and A Brief History of Redface.