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Claremont school Thanksgiving costumes create a commotion

Nearly two dozen protesters were stationed this morning in front of Condit Elementary School in Claremont, the site of a decades-old Thanksgiving tradition that is under fire because kindergartners dress up in handmade pilgrim and Native American costumes.

After a handful of parents complained that the Native American headdresses and vests were demeaning, cartoonish stereotypes, the Claremont Unified School District eliminated the costumes from this year's festivities, but allowed the turkey feast to go forward.

The protesters were evenly split between parents who supported the costumes and parents who opposed the outfits, and their discussion grew so heated that school officials called police, who separated the protesters on separate sidewalks, said Lt. Dennis Smith of the Claremont Police Department.

Police are also paying extra attention to Claremont schools Supt. David Cash's home, after he called police to report he was receiving hate e-mails and feared for his safety, Smith said. The e-mails did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution.

Cash and Condit principal Tim Northrop did not return phone calls seeking comment, but school employees reported that the commotion in front of the school was heated.

"It's been wild," said one woman who declined to give her name. Meanwhile, the kindergartners -- some of whom showed up wearing their banned costumes -- frolicked on the playground, eating, running and chattering with friends, Smith said. "The kids were oblivious," he added, "as they should be."

--Seema Mehta

Read the original story here.

Comments () | Archives (143)

This is why I homeschool. Historical accuracy is being replaced with PC revisionism. The Pilgrims, Puritans and Strangers (non-religious members of the group) were losing members rapidly and would have lost everyone if the Native Americans hadn't helped them conquer the weather, planting issues etc... They had a treaty for over 50 years that maintained peace and trade. Whay shouldn't that be celebrated?

Wow. Discussion boards really bring out the worst in people, don't they?

Buffalo Bil is a myth? I thought his name was William Fredrick Cody. He was born in La Clair Iowa. His date of birth was Feb, 29,1842. He is buried on Look Out Mountain, Golden Colorado. He also starred in Buffalo Bill's WIld West Show. Paul Bunyan may be a myth but Buffalo Bill is not.

Maybe we can stop the suburban white teens from wearing sagging pants,
and listening to rap and hip hop. Surely this must be insulting to the inner city black culture?
Wait, we can't draw lines, we are all the same, there are no differences ???
John Lennon asked us to "Imagine". I have, and it would be a boring world. If everyone was like me, the world would suck, and if everyone was like you the world would also suck. I like that the world has different cultures, foods, and traditiions.

I wish I could have replied to this yesterday. But better late than never. First, based on these posts, there is no consensus between posters about whether or not there ever was peace at all between "Indians" and Pilgrims. Where are the posts that have links supporting one or the other's version of the "facts?"

And even if there is was peace for some time then, apparently some people think that it no longer matters due to later transgressions by the American settler. Oh, but by that reasoning, all democrats are guilty of everything the republicans did (or vice versa.)

Ok, that stretches it a bit. But this is PC run amuck. The professor simply didn't want to really address the issues. That would be too much work. It is far easier to complain. What do you PC people intend to teach your children about anything?

Did the protestors actually have signs as one poster wrote? If so, the arguments against the parents really hold no water. But maybe that is not PC reporting.

PC people are ruining their children. I don't consider someone who wants to teach the truth to their children and instill a sense of always seeking knowledge to be PC. What you PC people are is nothing less than mental and cultural terrorists. And you are the real reason the school administrators are under fire. Don't blame the parents. And lets be real. If you don't like the celebration, where is your drive to get the national holiday repealed?

The PC people should take some time and help integrate the age appropriate facts about Native Americans into the Thanksgiving celebration and the build up to it. Get off your rears, shut your mouth and be part of the solution - not the problem.

The PC people are the same kind of people who screamed about the reservation policies (yes, there were Native American supports even in the "barbaric old days of colonial America" ) and then sat around and did absolutely nothing.

Native Americans should be proud and should be able to be proud. Where is the vast media coverage for Nation American Heritage Month - November - like we see in February for another dedicated month? Protest about that.

Use what opportunities exist to promote positive feelings between peoples at the earliest age possible. Save the poison for later.

You PC people are like Hollywood sets - you have no substance. You are just shallow facades.

This is a ridiculous story... people are outraged that children are dressing up like "indians"? Really. The parents think it's "demeaning" and "stereotyping" for native americans... why is there's no beef about dressing as pilgrims (even though - in my humble opinion THAT too is a stereotype portrayal)? WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO? I mean talk about ignorance! the WHOLE idea is to "give credit where credit is due" - Honey, if it weren't for the "indians" none of the pilgrims would have made it through the winter... but if you want to delete that bit of history - go ahead - I think it's amazing how people just shoot themselves in the foot (!)... Depicting the "indians" is so RIGHT! Native American's should be SO PROUD of their honorable ancestors for the way they gave unselfishly to saves lives!! But, no. these people would prefer us all just dress up like "pilgrims" and pretend there were no indians... would THAT really make them feel better?

What non-stereotypical outfit do they think they should wear instead? Casino owner?

What you had was about 8 people trying to impose their will on over a hundred. I'm glad parents let their children dress up and hope they kept them out of school today to make the school suffer for bowing to the will of a few miscreants.

This is what is wrong with America! Any and ALL small protestors or organizations are granted thier wishes, as our system rewards the action of the few over the will of the many. This is how America is rotting from within!

We have lost our sense of identity and purpose. Just because America is the one country in the world made up entirely of foreigners doesn't mean that we don't have a history to be proud of. Nationalism and pride in our nation is no longer taught in our PUBLIC schools and most people are too frightened to speak up.

Theses protestors of the Thanksgiving celebrations will be rewarded as this has become the norm in our once great nation. We are failing ourselves and, our children and soon enough America will be like Rome....Vanished!

Virtually everyone on both sides of this issue are idiots. The initial complainers, the people sending threatening emails, the school board that caved in cowardly fear, the anti-PC people who see no harm in objectifying a race of people, the pro-PC people who preach tolerance and diversity, as long as it is done their way.

Seriously, all of them, and most of the people who have commented above, need to get a life. Don't we have more significant things to be concerned about, and more importantly, other things to be thankful for?

Seems like if your strategy for raising a concern is to launch a full frontal assault on a beloved tradition and to call those who participate in it Nazi's and Slaveholders, you've pretty much flushed your chance of getting a fair hearing down the toilet.

This reminds me of all the school Halloween costume celebrations that have been axed because right wing Christian parents call them Satanic.

Paraphrasing what was told to Jack Nicholson in the final scene of Chinatown, "Forget it, Jake, it's Claremont..." I lived and worked in Claremont in the 1960s and 1970s (and a student at Condit, too). This story doesn't surprise me in the slightest: Claremont has always been run by those who are over-educated and under-smart. I am waiting to hear when the offended, esteemed UCR professor will be volunteering to assist teachers in classroom sessions on her heritage. Surely HELPING our teachers is a more valuable use of time than whining to the school board.

As a Canadian following this story, I am incredulous at how much the average American despises those who are well-educated and who have enough courage and selflessness to question meaningless, factually inaccurate and often offensive traditions. This mother who started the protest had nothing to gain. She simply didn't like the fact that young children are being taught to perpetuate (with public tax dollars) an inaccurate, silly myth. Thanksgiving can easily be celebrated without the moronic stereotypes.
Mr. Obama forgot one thing:...Americans cling to their guns and religion AND TRADITION!

No matter what, people who violently reacted and tried to hurt the school and the "complaining kid" are wrong. First, the complaint was peaceful commenting, and second, no violence is ever justified as a response.

This violent response from pro-costume people tells us how deeply ingrained these stereotyped and demeaning beliefs are and how detrimental they are. Did any Native American help make accurate costumes, did any Native American talk about their version of Thanksgiving? Why was it ok to violently attack the Native kid today? Modern Americans need to get into the habit of giving full credit and respect to the Native culture, land and people. We live on their land that we took away.

Modern Americans do need to accept that fact that their ancestors committed genocide on Native Americans, and that abuse and subjugation are still continuing.

Native territories have the most evidence of HIV, addiction problems, diabetes, poverty, and such; Natives are still persecuted and their land is still being taken away - for it contains uranium, gold, and other "goodies".

The best thing that modern Americans can do is acknowledge that this is going on within the very boundaries of this country and deal with it. It is very hypocritical to go around the world "fixing democracy and eradicating persecution" when this very country is doing that very same thing within its own boundaries... even to the kids in school.

Rather shameful portrayal of modern Americans, isn't it. Paints a very self centered, ignorant, and violent picture. Since in other ways this country is moving on, like gay marriages and not-lilly-white president, perhaps it is time that we mature and start paying attention to other matters that require honesty and consideration and respect, and live up to it.

I am always surprised (and honestly, disgusted) when I see people protest the principle of politcal correctness. How, in our great tradition of progressive minds and heralded thinkers, have we landed on the conclusion that ignorance is the "wave of the future?"
America can't always be what it WAS. That is its beauty; the ability to change once the err of our ways is shown to us.
Its interesting that no one has mentioned that the video featured WHITE parents in poorly configured and hugely stereotypical indian get-ups yelling their white point of views about native american history AT native americans!!!

The obvious fact needed to quell this debate is that those protesting the costumes were speaking against the true offenses to their unique cultural perspective. In contrast, the opposition of defiant parents threw their efforts behind silencing the truth and halting a narrative that is not theirs to halt (instead of taking the opportunity to further educate their children about the truth of american history).
Its not about any "pc" campiagn or liberal agenda. Its about doing the right thing. Its about the truth. Its about not accepting MISINFORMATION when the correct information is accessible.
IMHO, I think its a disgrace that we are actually debating the validity of primary source education versus costumes and hackneyed stereotypes.

p.s. why is it bad to be smart?
(Posted by: Uh Ooo. | November 25, 2008 at 12:11 PM
Why does it not surprise me that the only parents opposed to this are college professors?)

someone? anyone?... bueller?

Despite the disdain for historians expressed here, this op-ed piece talks about our Thanksgiving tradition. Apparently, it dates from the mid-19th C., around the time of the Civil War.


Im Native American, and I know who some of these people are , they are young minds eager to make a statement, and they have that professor leading the way, its really sad because I have always felt that the silly little paper indian head dress & Pilgrim outfit was hilarious, and it showed that Non-Native American people are really naive, when it comes to respect, and it was and always should remind us that those kind of people are better off living in La-La land of happy Indians & Pilgrims, because they're not worthy of being taught respect for us I'd rather have them as an enemy that cant be trusted. Now you young natives need to wake up and realize that this sort of protest only helps who?...no one is free, land isn't returned to us, we still have reservation poverty, some children are cold and freezing, elders need help, and you guys are all off on this pointless crusade and in the middle are 5 year old children who dont understand. Michelle you need to stop your embarrassing us real Natives...If you can remember AIM of the seventies, then you should fight the fights they did...stop this petty attack on children, maybe you should protest those morons at KFI 640am .....

My sincere thanks to Prof. Raheja for addressing this sensitive subject. Several years ago I participated in a parents multi-cultural advisory committee to the School Board and Superintendent of Schools in a State Capitol. I became aware of how insensitive some of us citizens can be to others. We just don't think or we mistakenly think that we have the right. Thanksgiving is not a Native American celebration for it means the taking away of their land and life style. For schools to portray this as a positive occurance is extremely insensitive and dishonest. The same can be said about the Christmas focus which doesn't belong in schools or government. Schools, teachers, and parents would do better with their energies to focus on respect for others, non-violent conflict resolution, and learning about appreciating other cultures. Perhaps then we can live in a peaceful society.

No more fun of ANY KIND!

Dean Wormer

It's time for those of us who have any integrity at all to take stand in unity. The intimidating & bashing going on is not about the dress anymore....it's about the CHILDREN! We are all related. Creator made us all, not just us injuns.

We've already lived our lives. It's time we stand up for all the children & make indigenous studies in grades K-12 a reality in every state. Contact your state's rep at: www.congress.org.

Are some of you waiting until the children start dying again!? Come on sisters & brothers! I plead to you to please unite for the safety of our youth & for truth in education before more end up massacred over ignorance, & the feeling as though what happens to one does not affect us all. It truly does. We are intertwined in this web of life.

Thanks for all you do in the name of the children!

Well it appears we are at it again. So when do we get rid of all the holidays because they offend someone! Lincoln already got axed and now it's presidents day, Easter got axed in the 70's because it was a religious holiday, next will be Columbus day and Thanksgiving because they offend the Native Americans, and Christmas will be soon to follow because it's too secular or because of the pedifile figurehead (Santa having the kids sit on his lap - just wait I'm sure it's coming).
What happened to the nation of tolerance? What happened to just letting things be fun and not making it out as a "Disgracing us" campaign, what happened to letting children be children and keeping these protests out of Kindergarten?
I think we all need to take a chill pill and get along (instead of being so divisive) and let the children play - maybe we should all take our lesson from them.

It is clear to me that the less somebody knows about something, the more confident they feel talking about it. Those on this blog are obviously not teachers, have no idea the way curriculum is written and delivered, and no knowledge of what children today need as far as education goes. Parading around in nonsensical, ridiculous, and babyish costumes sends those children back to toddlerhood. Young people today are not as foolish as their own poor misguided parents. They are 21st Century individuals whose greatest challenge will definitely be facing the ignorance of their parents as they try to become technologically advanced, internationally -attuned, and creative solution-makers. Those parents need to get out of the way of their poor children's education: they are foolish for dressing themselves up like fanatics and idiots degrading the dignity of their own poor minor children who have no choice but to love and admire these clowns. It is no small thing that a Doctor of Education and many educated leaders--the people who run our schools thankfully and not parents who think a costume is an education--know state curriculum better than any of those posting. All of you who want to stop their children from becoming civil, intelligent, and prosperous--you will answer to them as they grow up and remember the day you embarrassed them with paper costumes like some overgrown bully. It is so sad that those parents resist and resist their own children's betterment. It makes me sad imagining the way these kids feel when they ask their parents, "why can't we dress up?" Instead of teaching those children that life is complex and that we can learn new information from discussions like this they probably told them, "don't pay any attention to that at all." Lesson 1 to their children: don't think. Lesson 2: thinking is a waste of time. Lesson 3: professors and teachers and superintendents are all worthless. Lesson 4: you are just a child and cannot think for yourself. What the child gains from this. Outcome 1: instead of thinking, I wear a paper cut out costume. Outcome 2: I should never use my mind to think about problems Outcome 3: Thinking and asking questions is a waste of time and upsets my parents. Outcome 4: Teachers and schools are wrong; why listen to them?.
Costumed parents--when your child begins to have difficulties with reading comprehension, critical analysis, writing, algebra (all the skills that require cognitive growth), what will you do? Tell them to dress up in costumes.
THINK AGAIN. Let that become a family tradition. Don't consider yourselves experts on early childhood education. Love your children and let that parental love help you to overcome your ignorance and pave the way for your poor offspring. Just because you are ignorant, you don't have to force your children to defy educational leaders, professors, and historical findings. After all, don't you want your children to get college degrees and respect learned people such as professors? Reading and learning are not dangerous activities. Sadly enough, children have to rely for food, clothing, shelter, and love on adults who care nothing for their children's cognitive development, critical thinking, and decision-making in light of new information. When you costumed parents need us educators to help your children become educated, what hypocrisies you will have to swallow after conducting yourselves the way you have. You all need a time out. I also grew up in a small town and know the type of people these costumed fools are....they never quite got enough of their own childhood fun so they use their children as conduits to get more self-satisfying attention for themselves. Take your children to libraries, museums, expose them to research, professors, history. They will grow to appreciate that and forgive your temporary lapse of maturity. Perhaps seeing you READ once in a while will redeem the day you wore a foolish outfit when you took them to school. Ouch, poor little boys and girls. That must be painful.

I'm also a resident of Claremont. What annoys me are the complaints from people who claim to be disgusted by the---GASP!! HORROR! --liberal professor types in Claremont.

For crying out loud, it's a college town. What did you expect--that there wouldn't be any liberal professors in a liberal college town? There are lots of other places in Southern California where there are no liberals or intellectuals as far as the eye can see. Why not move there?

If you're not from Claremont, frankly, this is none of your beeswax--you're just using this as an excuse to whine about so-called PC. If you are from Claremont, why doesn't everybody use the nice long weekend to cool down, and then resolve to handle this issue better next year?

What mext!!!!!!! Here we have another professor trying her darndest to tell other people what is or isn't their right as citizens... Salue the flag, pledge of allegiance, star spangled banner, god,...this teacher needs a lesson in tolerance. I am an old man, fought for my country in WWII, and maybe it would be wrong to admit as a boy I played cowboys & indians and yes, dressed in homemade costumes on Hallow'en, as indians and various other ethnic costumes...but it was people like us that made this country what it is...my advice to the teacher is simple..... teach your subject and forget about trying to impose your will on other....... if it wasn't for people like me, you wouldn't have the rights we fought for...Get a life!!!!!!!

Sometimes one of the most difficult things about being an Indian, is having an opinion, especially when it directly conflicts with those coming from your own people. This would be a good example.

Now, I don’t deny there is a sad, dark history that comes with Thanksgiving, and it was this history that protestors took issue with. There were also a number of concerns around the children’s tribal dress depicting Native Americans as cartoonish stereotypes. But like it or not, most times small children are first introduced to Native American history, through Thanksgiving. And at the tender ages of five or six, you don’t throw the genocide of that history at them unless you intend to give the poor darlings nightmares. That and one has to consider that as a teacher or parent, when you introduce a new culture to a child, you have to deliver it in a way a child will actually understand. This is where concepts like Big Bird, Sponge Bob and yes, the occasional Indian and Pilgrim costume comes into play. And it’s for this practical reason, that I thought allegations of racism and genocide on protesting banners, to be both overly harsh and terribly inappropriate.

Of course, I do know how a lot of us feel, because I’ve felt it too. As a Native Americans, we sometimes feel outside the window of American life, looking into a world where there doesn’t seem to be a place for us. And it hurts to be forgotten in such a way, for so long.

Considering this often painful reality, I’m not going have any objections, when teachers and parents attempt to devise various, perhaps mildly nefarious means, to introduce their children to our culture. We just need to NOT take such playful exercises, so personally. Besides, what’s the harm in letting some little kids have fun with a feather or two, especially if it means they learn a little something about us. Maybe a better solution to the controversy, would have been to invite a few Real Indians to the Claremont School Feast, so the children could see the difference between the real thing and dress up. Perhaps in doing so, they could’ve brought a deeper understanding to our various tribes and traditions.

After all, what we celebrate at Thanksgiving, IS NOT the dark history that saw the genocide of Native American peoples. Instead, we give honor to the hope that we can rise above that dark history, to share and express a genuine acceptance of all people, regardless of race, culture, religion or lifestyle. And if we can achieve that, then we really will have something to be thankful for.

With that in mind, Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving. TF

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