Thursday, November 6, 2008
Cowboys and Indians, and Pilgrims, and Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!
Most of you know that I am fairly conservative in my thought patterns and not really "touchy" about much. There is one thing that bugs me a bit and just might throw me for a brief moment into a "radical category". Then I will go back to normal, I promise!
The whole "Cowboys and Indians" thing really annoys me. Being that my Dad's family is made up of a whole bunch of American Indians (that's as close as "PC" as I can go), it just gets under my skin.
That being said, the kids came home from AWANA last night with an assignment for Thanksgiving. They are going to participate with a bunch of other AWANA clubs to collect canned food for a local food pantry (yeah!) and they are going to dress up as either pilgrims or Indians that night. At first I looked at my sweet little C'sa who has her grandfather's copper skin (in just a lighter undertone) and thought, "Cool. She will look cute if I dress her in Cherokee style". But then I thought a bit longer and probably way over analyzed it, but I thought longer nonetheless.
Indians are broken up into many many tribes and they are all different. I know the characteristics of my own tribe and a couple others, but most Americans know only the "Cigar Store Indian", the "Hollywood Indian" or thanks to Disney, the ridiculously characterized, "Pocahontas" (I won't even get started). So I am anticipating seeing all various forms of pilgrims and Indians that night, all in cute little get-ups taken right from ideas found on the internet.
Here is my issue. If I told you to dress your kid as a black civil rights protester, would you do it? How about dressing up as an Irishman right off the boat, immigrating to New York to escape the Potato Famine? A Chinese Christian? That may sound extreme, but Indians are not just a group of people who interacted with some of the earliest settlers. We are still here, with families, taxes to pay and cultural differences.
I am sure that some of the families at AWANA will have little Pocahontases running around (should they choose to dress as Indians in leiu of pilgrims), and not the Pokanoket Indians the pilgrims encountered. Which technically, if they were really dressing up as Pocohontas, they would have to have their girls topless, which is how the Powhatan tribe dressed their young daughters. Not quite what you would expect for an AWANA setting!).
This whole hang up started for me for the most part when I was in the business world. I grew up in a multi-culteral world, but the only Indians I knew were my own family members. I was excited when I worked with another lady who was mixed like I was. Her mother was a different tribe than my father's, but we had something in common anyway. One Halloween she came to the office dressed in her mother's full tribal regalia, which is regulated to ceremonies and special occassions (weddings, pow-pows, etc.). I was annoyed and a little saddened that she would parade it around for a costume.
So now I have to decide if I want my kids to go along with the fun (which is what I know was intended by the leaders who thought this up) or stand firm in my belief that you do not try and dress up as a race of people for an event.
And just a note to the people involved in our AWANA club (if they read this); this is my hang-up, not a "wag of the finger" to you whatsoever. Just random thoughts from the point of view of the daughter of an Indian (who would probably tell me I am being too sensitive anyway...).