Autumn Fest: Bismarck, North Dakota (ND); Sept. 20, 2014.
As part of an annual parade we are told is organized by a man named Scott Johnson in the capitol city of the State of North Dakota, a float full of White guys all in Red Face, donning fake headdresses -in the present day- actually made it all the way through with out being booed, pelted with eggs or confronted to have their mock head-dresses removed. Seriously. This is 2014 and in this part of the USA, Native Americans and forward thinking, socially conscious people are subjected yearly to this annual Parade. The parade float was sponsored by the Bismarck Masons and the Bismarck-Mandan Shriners. The Shriners are known throughout the country as people who usually dress up as clowns and do good will wherever they are, but in North Dakota I guess they also think they can dress up as Indians, Orientals, and Arabs. They seem to have fit in perfectly with the annual racially charged themes in which White appropriation of non-White cultures and/or Peoples is encouraged and celebrated. The Mandan Indian Shriners (who apparently were on the float) have units in their organization with names such as the Arab Patrol, Oriental Band, and maybe other 1950s White privilege influenced unit names and practices of their El Zagal Shriner organization, founded in 1942 by A.B. Welch. From the links below it is clear that White people have been playing Indian in North Dakota since the early 1900s.
The men in the video remind us of a time when White people dominated the social-cultural scene in the United States; a time of little Black Sambo, Speedy Gonzalez, the Washington Redskins…oh wait, that’s present day and the men mocking our children seem to think Indians know their place: in silence with head bowed. White people think they can still get away with this shit right in our back yards. A lot of Natives live in Bismarck, ND and we bring unquantified significant business to their economy and this is how we are treated. The Northern plains are about 30 years behind the curve of socio-cultural evolution stemming from the struggles of the civil rights movement and the American Indian Movement. White people still own all the businesses, comprise almost all the judges, cops, and most of the professionals making it feel like South Africa. Yet, I used to live in Bismarck and not once was subjected to a racially charged encounter and always felt safe with my children playing about. So I know there are “White people” -a term I use for effect- in Bismarck who are as appalled as we Natives are to see this kind of thing. I don’t expect an apology from the Shriners or the Masons or even a change in the organizer’s game plan; it’s clear they think we will not stand up for ourselves and for our children’s, all children’s, right to be raised in a respectful environment without the psychological attack we Natives are subjected to by White people objectifying, appropriating and treating us like we are not right here in 2014, evolving with the rest of the world. I don’t really want their apology anyhow but I want them to know that the world is changing around them and this practice is not going to continue. Chase Iron Eyes
Shriner’s main site – describing little “groups” eg. “Mandan Indians” etc…
Some of the original shriners dressing up “Indian”