“Plimoth” Plantation advertises itself as portraying:
Plymouth as it was in the 17th century
Native Wampanoag and Colonial English men and women living their lives, as if it were the 1620s. It is living off the land. It is cooking over the fire. It is managing conflict and navigating political relations in an uncertain time. See it, smell it, hear it and experience it here.
That experience is complete with 21st century political correctness doled out by professional “Native Americans,” the kind of people who leave suburban split levels, not wikiyups, get into automobiles, not onto ponies, and go out to work as administrators in non-profit organizations equipped with degrees from state universities, rather than hoeing corn.
The guy who used to mow my yard in Connecticut also had three hundred year old New England descent, but he didn’t make his living on the strength of it or parade grievances about the cruel Episcopalians whose remote ancestors made England disagreeable enough for his Puritan forbears to feel obliged to emigrate to the New England wilderness.
A nine-year-old girl was recently asked to remove her “Indian” costume before entering the Wampanoag Homesite of the Plimoth Plantation, a historical site that allows visitors to experience Plymouth, Mass., as it was in the 17th century.
The outdoor museum features a 1627 English village beside a Wampanoag home site. The purpose of the museum is to educate visitors (school-children and adults) about what happened between the Native Americans and the colonists, especially during the first Thanksgiving.
The nine-year-old was one of thousands who flock to the colonial museum during the Thanksgiving season. She dressed as an Indian and her friend dressed as a pilgrim to celebrate the occasion.
Linda Coombs, associate director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, asked the girl to remove her homemade beaded costume before visiting the site, reducing the child to tears and upsetting her mother, the Boston Globe reported on Nov. 24.
“Native people find it offensive when they see a non-native person dressed up and playing Indian. It’s perceived as us being made fun of,” Coombs told CNSNews.com.
Coombs said she understands it was not the girl’s intention to be offensive – that she was only trying to “honor the Indians.”
“I could see that she’d put a lot of effort into making this dress and that it meant something to her … I could see by taking this dress off, I was dashing this whole thing that was going on in her mind,” Coombs said.
So she gave her a necklace from the gift shop in exchange.
“I wanted to acknowledge that she was giving up something that meant something to her and that I could appreciate everything she was feeling,” said Coombs. “Typically, in our culture, you give something away to show you appreciate what someone else has given up. And I wanted to mark that moment with her.”
Coombs said good intentions do not matter because she and the other Native staff members perceive the costumes as mockery before the wearer has a chance to explain his or her intent.
“Costumes are offensive because of what has happened in history – the Hollywood pseudo Indians, the Italian actors playing Indians, the crappy dress they put them in, the Halloween costumes. When other people dress up as Native people it’s offensive, period,” Coombs said.
She compared people wearing Native American costumes to white entertainers who put on blackface in old minstrel shows.