‘An egregious act of racism’ Muscatine Independence Day costume offends Indigenous Iowans

Video and pictures show a woman dressed as a Native American bound and being pulled by a person on a horse during a Fourth of July Parade in Muscatine.
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 6:10 PM CDT
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MUSCATINE, Iowa (KCRG) - Independence Day is supposed to be a time where everyone comes together and celebrates the nation’s history. But one entry in Muscatine’s Independence Day parade is bringing up memories of an uglier part of US heritage.

Groups and individuals are responding to the display and costume as both shocking and sickening to Indigenous Iowans. A woman is seen dressed in a Native American costume, with her hands bound by a rope, being pulled by a woman on a horse.

Sikowis Nobiss, Executive Director at the Great Plains Action Society, says there’s no excuse for playing what she calls “Pretendian”.

“So, this is absolutely an act of racism. I don’t know how anybody could see it any way else. Excuses don’t change what happened and what everybody saw,” Nobiss said.

Nobiss says the costume was not just offensive because of deep wounds caused by colonization, but modern-day problems that still affect Native Americans.

“We also have a very high rate of being sold and taken into the sex trafficking industry. And so this really reminded me of like how, you know, settlers view us still. Like less than human.”

Nobiss says if you want to celebrate Indigenous heritage, costumes are off the table, but there are still ways to celebrate.

“Go to a powwow, buy from our indigenous-owned stores, support these indigenous-owned businesses. Find your local tribe or organization and ask them if there are ways you can volunteer or help out with any issues or causes they’re working on, Nobiss said.

Nobiss says the Muscatine Chamber of Commerce, which organized the parade, should’ve stopped the entry immediately.

In a statement, the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce said:

“It was brought to the attention of the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GMCCI), that there was a parade entry consisting of a woman dressed in Native American attire with a rope around her hands walking alongside a horseback rider holding the rope.

GMCCI does not condone this behavior and this entry does not represent our community.

GMCCI President & CEO Brad Bark spoke to the group following the parade, and we can assure the community this will not happen again. The group stated that their intention was to pay homage to the Cherokee Nation on how unjustly they were treated.

The 4th of July Parade is intended to be a celebration for the community, and going forward we are going to approve parade participants that reflect the goals and values of GMCCI and the Muscatine community.”