Published October 13, 2017
GRAND RAPIDS — Reacting to a local bar’s marketed pub crawl with a “cowboys and Indians” theme, the City of Grand Rapids’ Community Relations Commission (CRC) issued a news release to remind residents that sovereign tribal nations and their citizens are not and should never be considered subjects of “costume” opportunities.
On Thursday, October 12, 2017, the nine-member commission denounced and discouraged the stereotyping of any individual in our community.
“The City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission opposes stereotyping and urges all residents to equally oppose the discriminatory and offensive stereotyping of sovereign Tribal nations and their citizens,” said CRC chair Tommy Allen.
“Grand Rapids strives to be an open, welcome and inclusive community with no tolerance for incidents of bigotry and hate,” he said. “The Grand Valley area is one of the gathering places of the Three Fires, recognizing the tribal nations of Michigan including the Ojibwa, Odawa & Potawatomi nations. The rich history of the Indigenous People of the area includes the Norton Mounds in the City of Grand Rapids. We honor and celebrate the ancestors who populated our great City. The Tribes nations and native people within Michigan and Grand Rapids contribute significantly to regional, community and economic development in our state and City.”
Earlier this week the Flamingo Lounge publicized a Bicycle Pub Crawl utilizing the theme “Cowboys and Indians.” The event post read, “Cowboys and Indians theme! Either you’re one or the other!” A variety of media outlets, including Facebook, publicized the event.
“The event and premise of the event was extremely offensive, insensitive and discriminatory,” Allen said. “We have reached out to the management of this establishment. We also invited them to discuss the issue at our meeting this evening at 5:30 p.m. at Migrant Legal Aid.”
According to Patti Caudill, the City’s diversity and inclusion manager, social media reaction to this event post was swift. Current and former members of the CRC also contacted the office about this event. Since the event caught the attention of the Community Relations Commission, the Flamingo Lounge decided against the “Cowboys and Indians” theme for their event and changed its theme to “Halloween.”
“We encourage those attending this event or other upcoming Halloween parties to use cultural sensitivity when selecting costumes,” Caudill said. “The CRC also encourages Flamingo management to issue an official apology to all citizens for the disrespect shown to our Native American community. We also ask management to discourage its clientele from disrespecting the Native American community.”
Since 1953, the Community Relations Commission has worked to develop a mutual understanding among all. It does this without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, disability, source of lawful income, sexual orientation or gender identity. As an advisory, operational and quasi-judicial body to the City Commission, the CRC strives to make Grand Rapids a welcoming and inclusive community. Among its many civil rights related duties is a responsibility to investigate complaints of discrimination and related concerns.
The CRC encouraged citizens to learn more about the Native American culture in Grand Rapids by visiting: the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s “Anishinabek: The People of This Place” exhibit or visit the website the following websites: http://www.grpm.org/current-exhibits/anishinabek-the-people-of-this-place/, www.gvsu.edu/nativeamericangr or https://nativenewsonline.net/ .