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Pretending to be Native Was Not Fairly in My Hometown


Visitor Opinion. Michigan is understood for its high trip spots with sandy seashores on the Nice Lakes, however a small city 50 miles inland, within the state, close to Grand Rapids, is making itself identified for one thing just a little totally different: racism. 

Lowell, Michigan is a city of simply over 4,000 individuals and was the setting of “The River Time Pageant” on Saturday. The ‘pageant’ is placed on by the small city’s Historic Museum and the Alto Neighborhood Achievers Membership. This ‘pageant’ is an try at a historic reenactment of the city’s native historical past. Sadly, with a aspect of racism. 

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Odawa individuals as soon as lived on the land now referred to as Lowell the place they’d interactions with the French fur merchants Madame LaFramboise and Daniel Marsac. This watered-down historical past is what the ‘pageant’ sought to painting. 

A pal despatched me greater than 400 images of the reenactment. The intention was to offer a traditionally correct portrayal, however to me, an Odawa girl, all I noticed was an enormous show of ignorance, racism, and cultural appropriation.

For the pageant, white individuals wearing what they assume to be ‘genuine Native outfits.’ They took to the fairgrounds to run round and faux to be Indian for a day. How enjoyable it could be to have the ability to simply ‘be Native’ for a single day.

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Reenactment reveals whites with flags with Native People. (Photograph/Fb)


I’m from this small city. My childhood house is in Lowell the place I grew up and attended the general public faculty system. So, my ties are on this group. This group describes itself as “welcoming,” however how welcoming is it in the event that they nonetheless have occasions that middle across the cultural appropriation of our Native traditions? 

Our household was the one Native household in Lowell that I knew of. As I grew up, my mom served on the tribal council for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. A lot of my early teachings I discovered from her and my group.

For me, this group was by no means totally welcoming. In second grade, I keep in mind studying about Native American historical past. In a single chapter I learn the historical past was inaccurate and used outdated language to confer with my individuals. I keep in mind elevating my hand and informing the category of this and getting scolded by the instructor for questioning the lesson. Who was I, a seven yr previous Native woman, to query the instructor on the white washed historical past of my very own individuals? 

I keep in mind in center faculty, an eighth-grade U.S. historical past class, attending to the chapter on Native historical past and having all the youngsters flip to take a look at me as quickly because the phrase “Indian” was learn aloud as in the event that they have been ready for me, daring me to talk up. 

I keep in mind in highschool we, as soon as once more, reached the only web page, on Native historical past. As soon as once more everybody turned to take a look at me, the one Native individual within the class. The instructor questioned why the opposite college students did this. I used to be compelled to talk up in opposition to the inaccuracies being taught, solely to have my information on this matter be questioned. 

I keep in mind getting ridiculed for being Native by my white friends. I keep in mind being informed that I used to be “pretending to be oppressed” and as soon as I bought accepted to attend Michigan State College I used to be informed “you solely made it into faculty since you’re brown” by whom I assumed have been shut mates. I keep in mind college students coming to me and claiming their grandmother was an ‘Indian Princess.” 

It doesn’t shock me that this city engages in blatant racism and enormous scale cultural appropriation as a result of the historical past being taught to the kids of this city in class is incomplete and inaccurate. Nevertheless, I’m no much less upset and indignant by what occurred on Saturday.


They declare that they’re solely attempting to tell the general public of the city’s historical past, however this ‘pageant’ is a racism fest masked as a historic instructing occasion. Seeing the images of my tradition, my individuals, being horribly portrayed jogged my memory simply how “welcoming” my hometown was and continues to be.

The start of the play featured three white youngsters, costumed as Natives, holding america flag whereas the Nationwide Anthem performed. This play couldn’t have made a much bigger mockery of the tried genocide and assimilation our individuals have confronted. There isn’t any manner that this play may be seen as respectful or honoring.  

The twelve federally acknowledged tribes of Michigan, and the 4 state acknowledged tribes, are usually not elusive entities. A part of the Lowell Space Historic Museum’s due diligence whereas planning this occasion ought to have been to contact each one in all these tribes. 

However why would they’ve achieved that when their solely aim was to applicable our tradition and proceed to push the parable that our persons are inferior? This nation tried to destroy our tradition and communities, and now they wish to faux to be us. 

Thanks Lowell, Michigan for reminding us that racism is alive and nicely.

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About The Writer

Neely Bardwell
Writer: Neely BardwellE-mail: This e-mail tackle is being shielded from spambots. You want JavaScript enabled to view it.

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indian), who started as an intern with Native Information On-line throughout the summer season of 2021, is a contract author. Bardwell is a pupil at Michigan State College the place she is majoring in coverage and minoring in Native American research.


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