May 18, 2017
As organizations who work tirelessly to combat racial discrimination in Montana, we share the concerns of the Indigenous community regarding the racially inflammatory costumes and behavior displayed during the Helena Vigilante Day Parade. The perpetuation of Native American stereotypes exemplified by the Buffalo Jump float in the parade is unacceptable. We are calling on the Helena Public Schools administration to review and update their approval policy for floats in order to provide for adequate vetting.
While student participation in a tradition that is meant to honor Montana’s history is laudable, it is the responsibility of the school district to ensure that the parade does not marginalize or misrepresent Native communities, heritage, or contributions to this state. Most importantly, the controversy that has erupted illustrates the need for a dedicated community conversation about race, discrimination, and what honoring the history of our Indigenous friends and neighbors actually means. We encourage Helena Public Schools to begin facilitating these conversations with the community and to join us in taking responsibility for providing and seeking further education regarding racial equity, Indigenous history, and the appropriate way to honor both.