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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Published July, 30, 2006

Leader of American Indian Movement blasts Fiesta

Polyana da Costa

Like many other Pensacola residents, Helen Hudson had attended the Fiesta of Five Flags each year.

But she stopped attending a few years ago, she said, when she learned how offensive the celebration is to some American Indians.

Hudson was part of a small audience at the Lucia M. Tryon Branch Library on Saturday that listened to a presentation by Sheridan Murphy, state executive director of The American Indian Movement of Florida.

Murphy said the Pensacola festival that thousands celebrate honors Don Tristan de Luna, whom he described as a "genocidal maniac" for the massacre of thousands of Mixtepec people in Oaxaca, Mexico.

After Luna committed the massacre in the 1500s, he led an army to colonize Florida, Murphy told the audience.

"When you read history books, it says he discovered it," Murphy said. "How can you discover a place that was inhabited by thousands already? The Indians didn't leave here because they thought it was time to move somewhere else. The fled from mass murder. They knew they would die if they stayed."

Murphy said his organization's efforts to bring awareness to the public go beyond uncovering history. Indigenous people are disrespected and stereotyped during the Fiesta of Five Flags, he said.

"There is a group that made up this name, the Mayokis. At the festival, they dress up like what they think looks like Indian and they goof around drunk."

Murphy said the feathers and the face-paint have important meanings to Native Americans.

"Not only is it an insult to our race, but to our spirituality," he said.

The stereotypes and disrespectful celebrations are not specific to Pensacola, Murphy said. Nationwide, there are statues of people responsible for the killings of Native Americans and celebrations the Indians find offensive.

Hudson, who also is a member of a local organization called NATIVE, said she plans to join efforts with the American Indian Movement Group to change Pensacola's Fiesta of Five Flags celebrations.

The groups claimed they have sent letters to festival organizers and soon will contact the Pensacola City Council to discuss the matter.

Related links
The trouble with face-painting
Indian wannabes and imitators

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