Julianne Jennings: Italian carnival an insult to Native peoples

"While strolling with friends through the busy streets of Spoleto, an ancient Italian city in the province of Umbria, we stepped into the start of celebrations or carnivals called, Quaresima. This is the time that precedes the celebration of Easter or the Great Feast, and according to the Roman Rite, had 44 days (starting from Ash Wednesday), while, according to the Ambrosian practice, it lasts 40, from the Sunday after Shrove Tuesday. This period is characterized by the call to conversion to God with typical practices of Lent fasting, ecclesiastical and other forms of penance, more intense prayer and the practice of charity. It is a journey of preparation to celebrate Easter, which is the culmination of the Christian holidays.

This year’s carnival theme happened to be Cowboys and Indians. Italian actors wearing cowboy hats and bandanas, shooting shiny silver toy guns loaded with confetti into the air. While other performers were decked out in face paint, brightly colored headdresses, beads and offering war cries to on-lookers, seemed like the equivalent to blackface in minstrel shows; gives this pre-Easter holiday season an entirely new platform for immature, morally depraved, suburbanite and ignorant individuals to get away with obvious hatred and bigotry towards American Indians.

When trying to explain to the actors and my friends how disrespectful the carnival is in perpetuating Indian stereotypes, they told me I was being overly sensitive and that it was just entertainment as a means of making ME look stupid for calling them on their foolishness, when you know I was completely in the right for doing so. A few minutes later, a comment was made based on my appearance, “You don’t look Indian,” as I stood there in my wool Calvin Kline red winter coat, sneakers and short black hair."

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Julianne Jennings: Pre-Easter Celebrations an Insult to American Indians (Indian Country Today 2/24)

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