This can’t be real. Well- we are talking about a rodeo, in the Northern Plains where social evolution is seemingly 30 years behind. On Thursday, August 22nd, 2013, at the Central State’s Fair Rodeo, White people dressed as rodeo clowns, cops and an Indian performed a skit in front of a largely White audience in an attempt at slapstick spoof comedy. I am not unaccustomed to the jackassery of a rodeo clown performance, but this one showcased the level of intelligence (or lack thereof) and ignorance of those who authorized the performance.
To give you an idea of the skit: a rodeo clown enters the arena in an old car making off-hand funny remarks about the rodeo event, soon a cop appears and it is made known that they are in “hot pursuit” of a “lost prisoner” and “the prisoner is now disguised as an Indian” and that they haven’t seen anyone “dressed as an Indian” [around the 2minute mark]; the clown and the cop mimicking searching gestures, accidentally ignite the car in an explosion at which point a caricatured Indian explodes out of the trunk of the car and the hunt for the Indian is on [at 6:20 of video]. Then the announcer exclaims “LOOK! IT’S THE INDIAN; GET HIM!; GET HIM!” and it doesn’t end there, as everyone breaks into a pop performance of Village People’s YMCA.
WTF. That was all I could think as the cops chased the Indian! Wait, let me preface that WTF with a quick reference to the State of Indian-White relations, specifically between the cops and Indians in Rapid City, SD.
Rapid City is a time bomb, a boiling point that flashes violence between police and Indians resulting in the deaths of officers and Indians on a seemingly regular and personal basis. Daniel Tiger (Native American) shot 3 Rapid City cops, killing two; Daniel was also killed in the gun-battle just 24 months ago. It is not a safe environment for Indians in our Treaty Territory and I personally feel for the officers families who ensure public safety for all. This skit was a disgrace to the deceased officers families and the families of all Indians who’ve been killed by the Rapid City cops. I have personal friends who have family that have been killed by the Rapid City Police Department over the years. To my knowledge, every killing of Indians by the Rapid City cops has been “justified” after investigations by the Rapid City Police Dept. If this is not so, we invite rebuttal from anyone. Rapid City is not a safe place for us but it has been our home for 10s of thousands of years, and we will stay. There have been several marches on Rapid City amassing as much as 700 people who still feel the same way.
Additionally, there has been anonymous literature disseminated that labels and portrays traditional Indian worldviews and practices as Devil worship. Indians, transients and otherwise, are found dead along Rapid Creek (which runs through the heart of Rapid City) on a regular basis. It seems no one is ever charged in any of the deaths; Indians lament the lack of investigation. Again, we invite rebuttal from any source. Indians notice the spike in checkpoints, patrols and profiling when the Black Hills Powwow and Lakota Nation Invitational are in town, not to mention every 1st of the month and employee payday when we perpetuate economic apartheid by dumping all of our economic impact into this city that treats us in this manner. We are stabbing ourselves in our own backs.
With this context as the backdrop I think the reasonable person would conclude that the subject matter of the skit, a white cop chasing a whiteman in red face (there are whole articles addressing this playing Indian phenomenon- just google “Native Cultural Appropriation and have at it) is inappropriate. Additionally insulting and infuriating is the portrayal of the Indian as an escaped prisoner. I think any person would conclude that this choice of content for the skit should never happen again given the relations between the Rapid City PD and the Indian population in Rapid City.
I assume the Rapid City police department would condemn the Rodeo skit as an inflammatory, insensitive, ill-advised entertainment choice. I know the Indian population of Rapid City and the Police Department do not need any further reasons to polarize each other. We should all be concerned about making Rapid City safe for our children. Maybe they will be more successful in establishing a meaningful mutual respect among each other because we seem to be failing miserably at it.
The Rodeo Committee, President or whoever is responsible for this atrocious act should apologize to the smarter, evolving, mutual understanding and respect seeking people of all phenotypes of the area. We are trying to change for the better, not take a step back to making enemies out of each other.