ANADARKO, Okla. – On June 14, Seminole Nation General Council member Dave Narcomey and his wife were returning home to Bristow, Okla., when they stopped to get gas in Longview, Texas.
They had been in Slidell, La. at Fort Pike with other general council members and Seminole Nation citizens at a commemoration and dedication of “a plaque to our ancestors that had been held at Fort Pike as Prisoners of War,” said Narcomey. When he went into the store, his wife met him at the front door and was “pretty perturbed and upset.”
Upon entering the Texas Best Smokehouse, he saw what upset his wife – “a ceramic figure of a Plains Indian – like the Lakota – with the male in a headdress, with the head tilted back and the mouth open. It has a ceramic hand, which is the right hand, as if he’s holding a container. In this particular situation, they had put an alcoholic beverage bottle and put the tip of the bottle inside the mouth of this figure.”
He decided the best approach was to document the statue and employees they found the image offensive.
“It was pretty disgusting,” Narcomey said. “I was pretty perturbed myself. But my second reaction was that I need to document this.”
They tried to speak with the owner, but were told he was not on the premises. Instead, they spoke to the general manager, Amer Khalousi. Narcomey said Khalousi was polite and listened to their grievances, though one of the store clerks was snickering while they explained how detrimental the statue was.
“This is something I really cannot allow to just stand by and not say anything, and we kind of left it at that,” Narcomey said. “I’m hoping that they have realized the error of their ways. I felt that once I left that store, my personal feeling was that ‘what’s to stop them?’ We took it off the shelf and handed it to the manager and told him not to put it back. Who’s to say that they didn’t once we left?”
Once home, he began an e-mail campaign, and soon received calls of support from Montana, New England and Florida as well as interviews from other publications and a radio station out of Houston, Texas.
Khalousi said the store had cowboy and Indian statues holding beverages, and that he had been told in person they were offensive.
“The minute we got attention of it, we took it down right away. We do sincerely apologize to anyone it may have offended.”
Similar ceramic statues have shown up in other parts of the country, including a store in the Rapid City, S.D. area.
Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney M. Bordeaux condemned the sale of these items and said items such as these are “… offensive, racially derogatory and depicts a stereotypical and prejudiced portrayal of Native Americans. … People may have the right to free speech, but there are limits to any right when it disparages and infringes on the rights of others. Anyone who thinks the item is ‘cute’ and ‘funny’ is a bigot and a racist.”
“It really perpetrated a very negative image of the stereotypes of how Indian people have always been portrayed,” Narcomey said. “It’s been something that I have always grown up with in Oklahoma – that we would never amount to much of anything except being a common laborer and an alcoholic. But I never bought into that.”