PRESS RELEASE SUNDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2016
“The raising of issues by Christchurch residents Michelle and Derek Flores related to the inclusion of a float in the Christchurch Santa Parade that demeans Native American people are concerns that have been raised consistently in New Zealand and continue to be ignored due to both arrogance and racism” states Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato. The float is defended by parade organiser Pam Morris who stated in an interview with Morning Report the Native American float had been part of the parade for 20 years who would continue to be included. She is supported by the Chair of the Santa Parade’s trust, Anne Jamieson. What both Pam Morris and Anne Jamieson fail to understand is that for the past 20 years Native American people have been fighting against such racist and demeaning representation.
Dr Pihama was a part of a group of Māori academics and Phd scholars from the University of Waikato that recently met with the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribe of California who have been instrumental in challenging such degrading representation of Native American people, “It has been clearly voiced for many years that white people playing dress up and appropriating Native American symbols as costumes or mascots is totally unacceptable. The Christchurch parade organisers lack any insight into the racism inherent in such actions. ‘Cowboys and Indians’ is not a game, white colonial invasion was about the genocide of Native Americans” states Dr Pihama.
The expression by Parade organisers that they have permission to have the float is also dismissed by Dr Pihama as were the comments made by Māori academic Dr Rawiri Taonui. Stuff highlights Professor Taonui’s assertion that the float is acceptable, “ if they are dressing up in costume as a way of learning about that culture in a respectful way”, however Dr Pihama responds stating “he is clearly not up to date with where things are for Native American critique of such behaviour, firstly Native people are not ‘costumes’ and secondly having people who are not Native American ‘dressing up’ and ‘playing’ Indian is as offensive as when the Engineers students dressed up in grass skirts in the 70’s and actively demeaning our people. This is not respectful, this is not ok, not now, not ever.”
The call by Michelle and Derek Flores to have the float removed is supported by a range of Māori organisations such as Te Kotahi, and Māori women’s network Te Wharepora Hou. Spokesperson for Te Wharepora Hou Dr Mera Lee-Penehira believes the float needs to be removed “As a national network of Māori women were are in total support of the call for the float to be removed. It is offensive and culturally demeaning of Indigenous people and should not be supported in this country. We would not support a float that demeaning Māori and we do not support a float that demeans our Indigenous relations.”
Te Reo Māori Interviews: Dr Mera Lee-Penehira
English Interviews: Dr Leonie Pihama
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