Native Village Youth and Education News

April 1, 2009 Issue 196 Volume 1

American Indian Movement plans to protest Chasco Fiesta "mockery"
By Lisa Buie
Condensed by Native Village


New Port Richie, Florida:  Every year members of the American Indian Movement protest the 11-day Chasco Fiesta Festival, saying it demeans their culture. The most offensive part of the parade is the Chasco Krewe float which features community members wearing feathers and Indian garb.

"We have protested every year for I don't know how long," said Ruby Beaulieu, AIM's area executive director.

While Krewe members and festival organizers claims they are paying tribute to American Indians and educating people about their culture, Beaulieu's group sees things differently.

"AIM contends that desecrating Native American culture with headdresses, whooping and hollering, wearing buckskin, feathers and beads is nothing but a mockery," she said. The feathers are to be used in spiritual ceremonies, not 'fun and games.' "

Beaulier compared the float to desecration of Christian sacraments. "We would never see a float with a pope on in which they were throwing out communion wafers," she said.

The AIM group has made some inroads. Children no longer re-enact the fictitious story of Queen Chasco and her consort, Pithla.

"It made Native Americans look savage and pagan," she said.

Also, the festival is featuring more American Indian vendors and artists. "It's 100 percent better than what it was," Beaulieu said.

Festival organizers say protestors are welcome as long as they don't disrupt the events.

"It's a free country," said Wendy Brenner, the festival's executive director. She said organizers are also extending their efforts to help non-profit agencies in a time when more people are turning to them for help. This year's event includes a drive for food pantries "because they are all empty."

http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/tourism/article983881.ece

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