October 01, 2015

Pocahontas float stereotypes Indians

Utah school's ‘Pocahontas’ parade float has some calling for cultural education

By Benjamin WoodAdministrators at Copper Hills High School are getting a lesson in cultural sensitivity after a Disney-themed homecoming parade last week resulted in accusations of disrespect for American Indian history.

In addition to little mermaids, Caribbean pirates, and beauties and beasts, Thursday's parade included a "Pocahontas" float complete with a tepee and cheerleaders dressed as American Indians as portrayed in the animated film.

The next night, during the school's homecoming football game, members of the Copper Hills American Indian Student Association collected more than 190 signatures on a petition calling for cultural awareness and tolerance.

"Our culture is not your costume," said Shelby Snyder, a Copper Hills junior and the association's president. "When people dress up as Pocahontas, it just makes it seem like they're mocking our culture and making fun of our culture."
Pocahontas float at high school homecoming parade sparks outrage from Native American students

By Tamara VaifanuaMatt Hunsaker was surprised when his daughter told him about the backlash over her costume and float. He says it was all in good fun.

“I don’t believe in any sense that these girls would have intentionally try to hurt anybody,” Hunsaker said.

James Singer, a blogger, and Native American activist wrote an article blasting the school for perpetuating stereotypes.

“Racism today looks like this. This is 21st century racism. It’s different than looking at something like Chip and Dale or Mickey Mouse dressing up as that. It’s not the same as someone’s culture. We’re looking at all the natives throughout all the Americas and saying, ‘look we can boil you down and centralize you to this costume and make you look like a fool,’” Singer said.
'Our culture is not your costume!' Native American students slam Utah high school for letting cheerleading squad dress up as Pocahontas for the homecoming parade

Comment:  For more on Pocahontas, see Sorority Performs Pocahontas Dance in Costumes and Miss NC's Pocahontas Photo Shoot.

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