Thursday, August 2, 2012

"How" we have changed

Not so long ago, when I was a child (how long ago could that be?), we played cowboys and Indians without paying any attention to how we portrayed the Indians.
We didn't think about whether or not we were insulting an entire culture as we whooped and hollered, sometimes hopping around like we were doing a rain dance.
We took for granted that Indians were the enemy and it was okay to make fun of them.
We somehow thought all Indians were the same.
I remember that it seemed a little silly, an overreaction of sorts, when these people we were mocking started to object to being called Redskins and the like.
So, when Marc and I attended the Castle Valley Pageant in Castle Dale in Emery County the other night, it came as sort of a shock to hear the Indian chief talk like we used to talk for Indians back then.
"How!" and "Ugh!" sounded so wrong.
Though the Indians in the story were portrayed as friendly, they were portrayed stereotypically.
As the chief spoke to the settlers in broken English, trying to tell them they were welcome, it seemed to be an undignified address.
He wore a feather headress and fringed leather and he lived with his family in a couple of teepees just outside the White man's camp.
There was no mention of which tribe these Indians belonged to. As near as I can tell they were from the Uintah and Ouray tribes.
And I realize Montell Seeley — who wrote the script for the pageant — didn't mean any harm. It was simply the way we as a society viewed Indians back then.
In my lifetime Indians have become Native Americans with rights, privileges and feelings. They matter. Their lives and their histories matter.
I thought about the lady on the bus on our recent Pioneer Heritage History Tour, the one with an important government job and responsibilities in the tourism office. She now is more representative of the "Indians" I know.
As a society, we've come a ways.
We needed to do so.

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