January 03, 2010

Phony "Mayokis" in Pensacola fiesta

I came across this controversy in a recent article. The articles below are a few years old, but apparently the problem goes on.

Mayokis to make usual presence at Beach parade

By Franklin HayesOne of the most recognized and highly regarded Krewes to participate in the Pensacola Beach Mardi Gras Parade are the Mayoki Indians. The group boasts a membership of over 300 people, which includes area neurosurgeons, attorneys, contractors and educators. The Mayokis always inhabit their stucco brown, temple float adorned in the finest Native American inspired costumes. The Chief, a member who is elected by popular vote, and his wife the queen dove, are dressed in pure white robes with matching headdresses. The runner-up is dubbed Medicine Man and his wife becomes Witch Woman and both are very visible during the parade accompanying the Chief and his court.

The infamous krewe, that claims everything they do is all in the name of fun, actually came into being as an attempt to lighten things up many years ago. Gulf Breeze business owner Alan Davis and other prominent men from Pensacola created the Mayokis in 1961. Their main focus in the beginning was to compliment the Fiesta of Five Flags. The moniker “Mayoki” is claimed to be entirely fictitious. According to popular Mayoki lore, Davis and his group wanted to add a little more excitement to the banal Festival of Five Flags. They did so by taking a lead from the historical Boston Tea Party celebration, and dressed up as Indians to greet the De Luna court as they commenced their landing ceremony on Pensacola Beach. The event soon turned into tradition, and the Mayokis greet the court during the fiesta to this day. The Mayoki Ball takes place in June, on the night of De Luna’s landing and is used as a stage to present the Chief and his court. On the same day the Indians also hold their Mayoki pow wow, at which they elect their new board of directors.

Viewpoint:  We need a new image of Native Americans

By Lauren AnzaldoI recently became aware of a local organization that has built a more than 40-year tradition of lampooning Native Americans. The organization is the Mayoki Indian krewe, a participant in the annual Fiesta of Five Flags celebrations. The krewe may be best known for its wild antics during the Fiesta parade each summer in downtown Pensacola.

Upon witnessing the Mayokis' feather-and-face-painted, sequin-clad, booty-dancing performance, I was shocked at the flippant use of sacred things as props. Feathers, holy and special to Native people, were tossed about like candy. The regalia of the Plains Indians had become showy, skimpy costumes. One man wore a rhinestone pin shaped in the words "Bad Indian."

Whether or not the Mayoki krewe realizes it, their costumes and performance mock actual Native Americans. They've turned a culture into a burlesque show.

Furthermore, the Mayoki program misinforms. It teaches that Native Americans dressed and acted like that. Children seeing the Mayokis for the first time responded with, "Cool! Look at the Indians." It is very difficult to explain to a child (and some adults, for that matter) that the strangely dressed person handing out beads and feathers is not an Indian at all but someone pretending to be an Indian--and not doing a very good job of it. "The Mayokis promote miseducation to non-Indians with ignorant insensitivity to Native Americans," says Creek hip-hop artist Shadowyze, aka Shawn Enfinger, a Pensacola resident and one-time Grammy nominee. "They hop around mouth-patting (in some cases in bars) in replica native regalia symbolic of sacred spiritual connections, with no regard to the centuries-old social degradation they employ with heart-crushing impact on our people."

The Mayokis claim to honor Native peoples, who existed in this area thousands of years before Columbus and were all but annihilated after his arrival. But none of the Native people I've spoken with feel honored.

"I would be honored if these community leaders would take off their costumes and present themselves as friends of the descendants of the most recent Muscogee Creek people," said Mikko Bobby Johns Bearheart, chief of the Perdido Bay Tribe. "They mean well, I'm sure, but it is disturbing that a mythical representation is used to identify the first people that lived and died protecting their home and families."

Shadowyze slams Mayoki Indians"We're not just feathers and beads," explains Shadowyze, a.k.a. Shawn Enfinger. "If some of the members claim to have Native blood, they should want to put an end to the degrading and stereotypical image they're putting out there," he continues.

"They dance their way into popular tourists bars in the local area and drink beer and strong liquors in these outfits until they can only stagger out drunk and wasted," says Shadowyze in his e-mail plea. "This has got to stop ASAP...The outfits they wear are cheap cartoon-like insults and geographically mixed matched embarrassments."
Comment:  As with the vast majority of fakes in Mardi Gras-style events, these "Indians" are stereotypical wannabes.

For more on a related event, see Chasco Fiesta Mocks Indians. For more on Mardi Gras "Indians," see Mardi Gras Indian Stereotypes and Phony Indians "Honor" Real Indians.


Anonymous said...

Give me a break! During Fiesta you will see pirates, aliens, clowns, go go dancers, and explorers from the five flags all having fun and putting smiles on the faces of others! Why don't any of these articles mention that the Mayokis also visit nursing homes and pass out flowers and beads to the residents? They also visit ARC as well as purchase beads and flowers from their students to help the center raise money. Try to focus on the good and leave this harmless group alone!!

Anonymous said...

I have an idea. If the real indians want to be represented differently why don't they come out and represent themselves, instead of asking other groups to represent them in the way they feel appropriate. The way it stands now if the Mayokis weren't out representing the indians the whole Fiesta of Five Flags celebration would be about the settlers.

Rob said...

Stereotyping isn't harmless. See The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence for details.

Mixing "Indians" with pirates, aliens, clowns, and other cartoonish characters is part of the problem. See Indians, Wizards, Fairies, and Ghouls for more on the subject.

The Mayokis can help people with or without the phony Indian costumes. Therefore, their good works are irrelevant to this posting.

Has anyone tried inviting real Indians to the parade? With the Mayokis imitating them, I doubt they'd feel welcome there.

If I were an Indian, I'm not sure I'd want to compete with the over-the-top Mayokis. It might give the Mayokis some legitimacy they don't deserve.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the local native people were not only invited, they participated for many years in the Fiesta activities. During the DeLuna landing on Pansacola Beach, the Flying Eagle dancers would open the event with a snake dance using a live snake and dancers of all ages. When introducing the new court members, native drummers would play. Local native boys would participate in greeting the new DeLuna.

Also, for many years local native families worked on preparing bells, beading, leg and arm bands and other accessories. They attended our functions, were present at the parades and other activities and were proud to associate with the Mayokis. Unfortunately one family partiarch, a Chief and Medicine Man, died a few years ago. The families went different directions and, with newer members comimg into the group, relationships were lost. Not only did these people not take offense to the Mayokis, they took personal time with many members educating them as to the customs and ways of Native American people. In fact, almost every year there are members of the Mayokis who proudly share their own Native American heritage, myself included.

The sad thing is that this sudden concern over the Mayokis raised its ugly head a few years ago, not from a Native American, but from a white female self proclaimed activist. This same person has also been associated with many other activist movements, including being associated with Palestinian liberation. She continutued to stir the pot and eventually found a few local native people to join her.

Unfortunately, when engaging in talks with the media and some of these locals, the subject of "donations" constantly came up. This seemed to have more of an extortionist feel rather than concerns over who was offended. Seems that the local Florida Seminole Nation became much less concerned over FSU's portrayal of Indians once money was involved. While almost every member of the organization is involved in many charitible causes, and some directly impacting Native Americans (a local church that has a very large number of members that are Mayokis has sent for many years an annual truckload of items to the Lakota Sioux), this is a social organization and not a charitible one.

Unfortunately, while many local native people have been contacted and expressed interest in being involved in Fiesta activities, the negative expressions of the few have seemed to keep them away. No one really wants the negative publicity. However,if local native people wish to become involved "again", then I am sure that this would be well received and an accurate representation could be made of Native Americans, in addition to the ficticious Mayoki tribe.

Almost every native race and culture in the world has been concurred, enslaved or expelled by another at some point or another throughout history by some of our ancestors. This includes Native American tribes who would do this same thing to each other. In fact native "warriors" existed way before any outside culture ever arrived. Given the current attitudes, I guess if the Europeans had not arrived, one Native tribe, such the Sioux, might have been protesting and procailming insults if a Mohawk wore a Sioux headress.

It is time that we all took the time to look for the good in our fellow man and let go of the hate and resentment that drives much of this world. I'm really glad that the Irish don't mind if we are all "Irish" on St Patricks day.

Rob said...

You failed to address the core issue, Anonymous: that the Mayokis are perpetuating harmful stereotypes. For more on the subject, see Debating the Hokey Mayokis.

Anonymous said...

- It's repulsive, tone deaf, and stereotypical of Pensacola - a display of white privileged mocking Native Americans, and none of the participants can see how hideous and distasteful they look -

Anonymous said...

Seriously you are an idiot! They would never ask that group to represent them?

Anonymous said...

Further proof that southerners are the most racist people on this planet. Imagine if these people performed in blackface with brightly colored African garb and danced to African music. It's sickening.