In the wake of a Cowboys and Indians Party put on by seniors graduating from Lethbridge Chinook High School in Alberta, Canada—in which partygoers were yelling stereotypical chants by a bonfire and wearing costumes of feathers and headdresses, and imitation war paint—Chief Stanley Grier of the Piikani Nation said the event was “deeply concerning” and he and the tribe want to know what actions the school will take.
When photos from the event hit social media, the students were pounded; many called the Cowboys and Indians Party racist.
“In 2017, our people across North America are standing up against cultural misappropriation of our sacred items and names during concerts, art, stories, holidays, parties and sports teams. Our culture and traditions; more than ever, need to be protected and respected,” said Chief Stanley Grier to the Calgary Herald.
“It is deeply concerning and sad that we need to continually defend and protect what is sacred to us as Blackfoot people.”
Chief Grier said the event is a demonstration of racial intolerance and that those involved should be held to a higher standard “if they are learning about other peoples, other belief systems and other cultural ways,” he said.
To initially address the issue, the Lethbridge School District 51 said the Cowboys and Indians party was not supported by the school nor were school officials aware of it beforehand. Lethbridge Chinook High School held an assembly on May 25 to address the issue after the Cowboys and Indians party took place and the images of the students went viral. [text_ad]
In addition to Chief Stanley Grier’s comments, the Piikani Nation also shared a statement which was widely shared on social media. The letter commended Native graduating student Tieja Medicine Crane, who drew public attention to the Cowboys and Indians party by calling out partygoers.
In the statement, Grier said he fully supported Medicine Crane and applauded her “for the courage she has shown in taking steps to address these wrongs with her peers and the broader community.”
Chief Stanley Grier also said in the statement in part: “In 2017, our people across North America are standing up against cultural misappropriation of our sacred items and names during concerts, art, stories, holidays, parties and sports teams. Our culture and traditions, more than ever, need to be protected and respected,” said Grier.
Tweet by Lowa Beebe on Twitter of the official statement from the Piikani Nation Chief has been widely shared.
“It is deeply concerning and sad that we need to continually defend and protect what is sacred to us as Blackfoot people.” Lethbridge is situated on original traditional Blackfoot Confederacy territory, which predates Canada’s 150th birthday by centuries, reads the statement. The Lethbridge school district 51 has more than 800 First Nation, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) students in their school district. Going forward, the Piikani Nation Chief would like to ask the Lethbridge School District No. 51 and Chinook High School what action they will take in the 94 ‘Calls to Action’ by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada?” Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) - ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor - Follow @VinceSchilling