Native Community in Uproar Over Bridge Street Bar Hosting a “Cowboy & Indians” Bike Crawl in Grand Rapids

Published October 11, 2017


GRAND RAPIDS – Native News Online spoke with a bartender/manager of the Flamingo Lounge on Wednesday afternoon. The bartender/manager said there is no longer a theme for the bicycle crawl and said she attempted to apologize on the establishment’s Facebook page last night. She said she never intended to offend anyone.

The bicycle crawl is still on without a theme. The above marketing meme is no longer on the Flamingo’s Facebook page.

GRAND RAPIDS — The local Native American community is pushing back on a planned bicycle crawl with a cowboys and Indians theme that is scheduled this coming Saturday in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The “Flamingo Lounge (AKA Dirty Bird: Pub Bicycle Crawl” with the theme “Cowboys and Indians” was posted on the bar’s Facebook over the weekend. The event will take place this Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 930 Bridge Street on Grand Rapids’ near westside.

Participants of the bike crawl were encouraged to dress as cowboys and Indians, according to their marketing material.

The Flamingo Lounge’s Facebook reads;

“Cowboys and Indians theme!!! Either you’re one or the other!😉 $10.00 donation includes food and prizes! Kick stands up at 12:00pm. We will be riding through the beautiful West Side, ending back at the Flamingo for dinner. If you choose to donate a bicycle we will have them picked up here! Registration by Oct. 9th. Fun fun!!!”

The ire began on Tuesday afternoon on Facebook as the post was circulated among American Indians in Grand Rapids and other parts of Michigan.

Holly Bird, a Traverse City-based attorney, part of the Michigan Water Protectors Legal Task Force, posted the following comment on the Flamingo’s Facebook page:

“Smoke Signal to The Flamingo: Encouraging people to dress up as or act like Indians is encouraging racist appropriation. If you didn’t know it, Indians still exist and actually live in your city.”

“What upsets me about people, non-Native person, dressing up like Native people is that it negates all the sacrifices my ancestors made for us to still have our culture, our traditions and our language,” commented Belinda Bardwell, a former tribal council member of the Little Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and a current member of the City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission (CRC), who served as the most recent past chair of the CRC.

“People dress up in costumes to pretend to be something, we dress in our traditional dress because we ARE,” continued Bardwell.

According to sources in the American Indian community of Grand Rapids, local representatives will be contacting City Hall on Wednesday to have the Flamingo Lounger change the bike crawl’s theme.

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