We are Not a Party Theme

In March 2009, Visionary Village and Burners (those who attend Burning man) planned a "Go Native" party at the Bordello in Oakland California. Visionary Village offered a discount to those who came dressed up as Natives, promoted a theme that meshed various tribes that actually have no relation, exposing extensive ignorance, and also promoted that the Bordello also sits on Ohlone land as well as false claims that proceeds would be donated to the Native American Church. There was an immediate up roar by Natives nationwide when they got word of the party. Requests, petitions and meetings occurred with the intent to convince the Visionary Village to cancel this event that represented one of the infinite amounts of instances of cultural genocide that Native people continue to face. Visionary Village began to backtrack, claiming that the theme was misunderstood and that it was referring to their however one might represent their native state, such as dressing up as an alien or cartoon, and that the Native community was misguiding opinions of the party.
When meeting with Natives at the Inter Tribal Friendship house and seeing first hand the pain that this "Go Native" party caused, they agreed to cancel the party. Still, 50 Native activists decided to go to the venue on the party date to find that the party was still on and attendees came dressed in their Native American costumes. The activist then proceeded to educate the party goers on the act of cultural genocide that they were taking part in.
Media then portrayed these Native activists as hyper sensitive and accused them of over reacting. In addition to disqualifying the pain caused by this party, many suggested that Native people should "go easy" on these kids just looking for a good time.
This is a clear instance of how Natives not only try to rebuild from genocide but must also, on a regular basis, persevere through relocation, defacing sacred land, displacement of sacred remains, destruction of culturally significant ruins and having their culture reduced to a party theme. With instances like this, the misuse of Native items and mascots like the Redskins in professional sports it is clear that the idea of Natives is romanticized and people don't realize that Native and their pride and rich culture are still very much real and here.

Cite this Page:

Ashlyn Warny, “We are Not a Party Theme,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 12, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/196.

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