Helena District in Hot Seat After Redface Reenactment - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Helena District in Hot Seat After Redface Reenactment

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For nearly a century, Helena’s Vigilante Parade has been celebrated every spring in the capitol city.

“It's the oldest high school parade in the nation. It’s 93 years old this year and they celebrate the historical components of the area around Montana and Helena specifically,” said Greg Upham, Assistant Superintendent of Helena Public Schools

But the tradition is under scrutiny because of what some are calling a culturally insensitive display. Some feel that the district missed the mark by allowing one float to display what is being called a “red face” and “racist” Native American buffalo jump reenaction.

Meg Singer is a Native activist and her Facebook post describes the offensive components of the float. The post has now been shared over a thousand times.

“It’s based on the idea of who native people should be, when really we are far from what is being represented. Native Montanans have contributed a lot more to the state of Montana than a stereotypical bison jump,” said Singer.

While many who commented on the post defended the intent of the students involved, Singer and others hold the district accountable for allowing the float.

Helena Public Schools says they took appropriate steps to vet parade floats and costumes leading up to the parade, and the day of.

“We have an Indian Education Director for the school district. That person went out and checked the floats. We had five floats that were in the American Indian category,” said Upham. “That person went out and checked the floats, vetted them, then went out and checked the floats out the day of the parade.”

That director supported the floats. However, Singer says that is not enough.

“It’s not just one persons responsibility, we are looking at a systemic issue,” said Singer. “How do we actually engage in what native contributions have been in the state of Montana.”

The district says while this was a learning experience, they plan to continue including Native American cultural history in the parade. They invite the community’s concerns as part of the parade’s future.

“We certainly do not want to offend anyone. I support our students. Our students have worked hard. Our staff has worked hard,” said Upham. “And we want to continue to offer a quality experience in being respectful of others. So we will look into this and through it we will work to improve the parade as we have for 93 years.”

Singer says she plans to share her own suggestions with the district and is hopeful for a positive outcome

“The conversation about representation is the most ideal situation going forward,” she says.

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