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A Sensitive Matter

Posted by: Lauren Cashman | April 24, 2012 | No Comment |

By Lauren Cashman

Last Saturday the Homer High School Lady Mariner soccer team hosted a dance and fundraiser at the Bidarka. While it was a success, raising over 1,000 dollars for the program, some students questioned the choice of theme, Cowboys and Indians, and the possible racial insensitivity surrounding it.

This question of insensitivity is in no way claiming that the soccer team or any of its members are racist; however, the time period in which this theme takes place in was not a pleasant one for America’s aboriginal people. During the 1800’s, which was the era of “Cowboys and Indians,” the American government placed the Native Americans on reservations, denying them rights as not only citizens of America, but also as independent nations. While none of the students were supporting this mistreatment by dressing up, there are potentially negative connotation that go with turning such a dark time into a light hearted theme.

One circumstance is the manner in which the students treated the theme. One student, when asked about the issue, said that people were not blatantly disrespectful of the Native culture or religion at the dance; and while face painting, which can add to the one dimensional view of Native culture was available, the allusions to this one dimensionality stopped there.

In the Continental U.S. there have been cases of “Cowboy and Indian” themed parties that raised similar concerns; the difference being Native alliances stepped in and, in the case of a University of Denver party, requested formal apologies from the students. Yet, when asked, many students had no issue with the theme, and some were even confused as to why the question was being asked in the first place.

Perhaps the manner in which themes such as these are received are affected by our location. As Alaskans, it is too easy to become secluded from issues such as mistreatment of people based on their race. Perhaps our lack of varying demographics and cultural awareness makes us numb to the sensitivities of social issues. This raises an important question: does our isolation as a community give us immunity to issues such as this?

under: News

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