Native American Wants Caricature With 'Racial Stereotypes' Removed From Tourist Attraction

A Chickasaw Nation citizen has said a historic English tourist attraction is reinforcing racial stereotypes.

Anthony Perry, who is originally from Oklahoma but has lived in the U.K. for 18 years, described a "Wild West" tableau in Lancashire county's Blackpool Illuminations display as showing a caricature of Native Americans.

In a letter recently obtained by Lancs Live, Perry called on Blackpool councilors to replace the display and bring in a new design.

Perry said: "Caricatures such as these reinforce racial stereotypes of Native Americans being primitive people who can have no place in modern society.

"There is a long history of attempts to erase our culture, redefine our history and assimilate us with Euro-centric ideals. These attempts continue to this day in North America and abroad.

"Much of it is so insidious that those who do it don't even know, and some believe that what they are doing honors people like me."

Perry continued: "Sometimes, it's very much treated as 'these are the ways we're going to celebrate you so just accept it."

The display, which shows Native Americans in headdresses dancing around a totem pole near cacti, has been on display as part of the Illuminations since the 1960s.

Perry said the display was harmful and did not reflect the reality of the diverse culture Indigenous groups have.

In his letter, Perry continued: "Research has shown that caricatures like these have harmed Native youth by lowering self-esteem and increasing depression and rates of self-harm and substance abuse.

"Geographically that particular tableau is all over the place too. You have stereotypes of Native Americans depicted with cacti, which are more associated with the South West, and totem poles which are typically associated with the Pacific North West.

"It'd be like casually putting together Germans, English, the Spanish perhaps with a Celtic cross, it just doesn't fit right!"

But Perry would like a Native American display to have a home at the Blackpool Illuminations, one that represents the culture.

According to Lancs Live, Perry said: "This isn't about being 'woke' and I'm not doing it just because I'm bored. Trust me, I have a very busy life! I'm not out to 'take down' Blackpool Illuminations or the town either. I'm just trying to fix something that is wrong.

"For me, this is just about recognizing that Native American people are still here. We want to be treated in the same way as black and other minority people with the same respect and representation."

In response, Blackpool Conservative councilor Tony Williams said Perry had made a strong argument.

He told The Daily Mirror: "Some of these displays go back to the 60s when attitudes and perspectives were much different and the writer has raised some valid points.

"Several Western-themed films have been banned in the US for the very reasons stated. Whilst in themselves the displays may not be offensive they certainly portray a distorted view of Native Americans and their culture."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Blackpool Council said: "Our officers have been in constructive discussion with two people of Native American origin who raised concerns about the tableau.

"We have explained the background to the historic elements of the Illuminations display and assured them that these were designed and created many years ago and intended to be a celebration of different cultures. Both have accepted that assurance.

"The Illuminations are one of the UK's most enduring family attractions and we would never do anything intended to cause offense. We will, as a matter of course, take on board the comments received and review which features are appropriate for inclusion in next year's display.

"We have also agreed to explore options for a new tableau that celebrates Native American culture with input from the network based in the UK."

Newsweek has contacted Perry for comment.

Blackpool is known for its illuminations
Blackpool is known for its historic illuminations. In this photo, lights and illuminations along the Golden Mile in the seaside resort of Blackpool, Lancashire, 1987. Epics / Contributor/Getty