July 29, 2010

Half-naked "chief" in Mass. parade

Debate renews over 'Indian' in Needham's parade

By Katrina BallardWhen a couple new to Needham attended the town’s annual Fourth of July parade for the first time this year, they were shocked to see Fred Muzi, retired owner of Muzi Ford, dressed in a feather headdress with his skin painted red, riding bareback on a horse.

“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.”
And:Rothman also contacted Linda Morceau, chief of the Chappiquiddic tribe based in Cape Cod.

“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.”
Comment:  So much wrong here:

  • Wearing a Plains headdress in a Massachusetts parade.

  • Buying the headdress in a non-Native national park. Even if it's Indian-made, I doubt the maker intended Muzi to wear it like a Halloween costume.

  • I cant tell how red Muzi is in the video, but he's wearing facepaint and he's almost naked. Neither of these came from an Indian-made headdress in a national park. Muzi is presenting a pure stereotype so viewers can "enjoy" the idea of a savage Indian chief.

    For more on the subject, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief, Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay, and A Brief History of Redface.

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