Native American costumes pulled from parade

9:15 pm on 4 December 2016

There were no signs of Native American costumes at Christchurch's Santa Parade today, with the organisers saying they pulled them due to some abusive emails.

The Ojibwe costumes were removed from the float after complaints, but the cowboys and horses remained.

The Ojibwe costumes were removed from the float after complaints, but the cowboys and horses remained. Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

Up to 100,000 people attended the parade down Riccarton Road, lining the streets to watch the colourful floats and cultural demonstrations.

The organisers received one formal complaint about Native American costumes being included in the parade last year, but initially said they planned to keep them in the display.

That changed after publicity about the decision. The parade chairperson, Anna Jamieson, said while the parade still had a float with horses and children dressed up as cowboys, they had decided it was too risky to include people dressed in the Ojibwe tribal costumes.

She said they had received some nasty emails, and made the decision for the safety of the children.

The initial complaint came from Christchurch couple Michelle and Derek Flores, who said it was inappropriate for white children and adults to dress as First Nation Native Americans.

This view was backed up by Wellington woman Tyree Robertson, who said she contacted a Ojibwe group in Minnesota and was told the headdresses and traditional wear were usually worn in prayer.

"I explained it was for a Christmas parade and it was probably going to be children wearing the gear who may or may not have any education about who the Ojibwe people are and what their traditions are. He said 'when you put it like that it is pretty stink'.

"He said 'people always ask me if I'm a real Indian and I say no, I'm a First Nation American'. These things are very raw for these people."

At the Santa Parade, most people spoken to by RNZ said they would have been happy for the costumes to have stayed in the parade.

VJ Dasri said it was a Santa Parade, not a cultural parade, and it was supposed to be fun for the kids. He had no problem with the Native American costumes being included, he said.

Another attendee, Lindsay Challis, said he could not see anything wrong with it.

"They're not trying to be anything, or meaning any offence. Some people just need to get over it really."

Ms Jamieson said there would be a debrief on the parade, and they would decide then whether the costumes were out of the parade permanently.