Claremont Insider: It's Not About Noodle Necklaces

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Not About Noodle Necklaces

More today on the Great 2008 Condit-Mountain View Pilgrim Indian Battle.

Yesterday we heard about the plan of some Mountain View parents (at least; perhaps there were Condit parents, too) to storm the CUSD Board meeting last night. They were concerned over actions by Condit principal Tim Northrop that they thought denatured the traditional Thanksgiving celebration at the two schools.

As we understand it, while traditionally the students of the two schools would visit each other dressed in paper Pilgrim garb and paper Indian garb, with noodle necklaces, this year they had a complaint from parents about the "dress-up" aspects of the event. So Northrop had changed the event to have the students wear their "school spirit" shirts, whatever those are.

These plans set the traditionalists against the insurrectionists.

One of "traditionalist" parents got the attention of KFI's John and Ken, and the piece was on KFI late Thursday afternoon (see below).

We hear that the school board took no action, and cut off the public comment in accordance with its previously stated policy on limiting comment to 20 minutes on a single topic.

The complaint by the Condit parent runs along these lines (from this webpage), written by Kanatiyosh, a Mohawk and Onondaga woman of the Deer Clan.

As a child, in Kindergarten the class was asked to participate in projects that were supposed to teach us about Indians. Some of the projects included cutting out of paper eagle feathers and then pasting them into an Indian headdress, which was a western style war bonnet. The class was also asked to learn Indian songs and dances. I was asked to pump my hand over my mouth in a mocking war hoop, to dance around like I had ants in my pants, and to sing the song "Ten Little Indians".

I remember feeling badly.
On the other hand, a Mountain View parent writes,

Both my kids were Indians [at prior-year events] and still keep their "paper vests" & "clay necklace" that they so proudly made. I was speechless when I heard a few days ago that because of a handful of parents at Condit, our Kindergartners would have to take their vests home & stuff them in a box without even having the opportunity to wear them. A 40 year old tradition between the two schools is almost coming to an end because of these parents. Does the voice of "one" outweighs the voice of "many"? I understand this parent feels offended by the fact that these 5 year olds wear vests made out of construction paper because they are not "authentic". I also understand that she finds offensive that the word "Indian" is used in some of the songs these 5 year olds sing at the event.

Kanatiyosh goes on to deconstruct "Ten Little Indians":

Asking children to sing "Ten Little Indians" is pure racism. The song is an Indian annihilation song that the Pioneers sang to their children to soothe their fears. If you remember the song, they count up and then they count backwards until there is only one Indian boy left. Today most people do not even know about the hidden message of eradicating the Indian people in the song; however, this song still plants seeds of racism and stereotyping in the minds of our children. This song must be stopped from its use in schools today!

So this is much more similar to the Pomona College Alma Mater controversy than we had originally supposed.

For now we'll omit our usual pithy comment. We provide a convenient extract of yesterday's John and Ken show below. We had to cut a few minutes off the end for length reasons; we suggest you listen to the whole thing on the KFI website, here (a little more than halfway through the clip). And, be sure to tune in this afternoon, Friday, November 21, on AM 640 from 3 to 7. They promised to deal with this issue again.