Complaint Centred On Culturally Offensive Caricatures Brings About Illumination Review

A long-established tableau colourfully depicting six axe-wielding Native Americans dancing wildly around a totem pole has given rise to a review of the appropriateness of such displays following a complaint by two people of Native American origin.

In a letter on this issue shared with The Blackpool Gazette, a Chickasaw Nation man, who met with Council officials yesterday (Thursday 23rd September) to discuss the appropriateness of the tableau, included this paragraph:  ‘Caricatures such as these reinforce racial stereotypes of Native Americans as being primitive people who have no place in modern society. Research has shown that caricatures like these have harmed Native youth by lowering self-esteem and increasing depression and rates of self-harm and substance abuse. It has also increased discrimination against Native students. This is not the approach I would expect from a community whose Council unanimously supported a resolution to ‘confirm support for the anti-racist aims of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism campaigns.’

A Blackpool Council spokesman told the Blackpool Gazette, ‘Our officers have been in constructive discussion with two people of Native American origin who raised concerns about the tableau. We have explained the background to the historic elements of the Illuminations display and assured them that these were designed and created many years ago and intended to be a celebration of different cultures. Both have accepted that assurance. The Illuminations are one of the UK’s most enduring family attractions and we would never do anything intended to cause offence. We will, as a matter of course, take on board the comments received and review which features are appropriate for inclusion in next year’s display. We have also agreed to explore options for a new tableau that celebrates Native American culture with input from the network based in the UK.’

Councillor Tony Williams, who was one of the councillors contacted by the Native Americans, added, ‘Some of these displays go back to the 60s when attitudes and perspectives were much different and the writer has raised some valid points. Several Western-themed films have been banned in the US for the very reasons stated. Whilst in themselves the displays may not be offensive they certainly portray a distorted view of Native Americans and their culture.’

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