Krewe of Chasco

For 86 years, the city of New Port Richey on the Gulf Coast of Florida has exploited American Indian culture and spirituality to sell an 11-day food fest and carnival called the Chasco Fiesta.

They put on a pageant in which children dressed as Florida Indians made stabbing motions into the chests of children dressed as Spaniards, showed Indians practicing human sacrifice, and showed a Spanish priest teaching Indians how to plant corn, squash and other crops, while the priest calls the Indians savages, pagans and heathens. The happy ending of this pageant? The Indians spared two white children making them their King and Queen, then convert to Christianity.

And why are there no Florida Indians today? The Chasco Fiesta brochure says when their benevolent white rulers died, the Indians reverted to human sacrifice, so God killed them all: men, women and children--with hurricanes, not Spanish genocide and disease. The pageant ended only when local citizens took the mayor and the president of the local Chamber of Commerce to court. Also ended were these activities in the Children's Indian Village: "Pin the Tail on the Drunken Indian," and "Find the Buried Treasure in the Miniature Indian Burial Mounds in the Big Sandbox."

What remains is the Krewe of Chasco, more than 300 white local civic and business leaders who dress up in authentic, sacred Indian regalia purchased at great cost, so they can appear in nine regional parades as a living advertisement to the Chasco Fiesta in late March. They are the only krewe in Florida that dresses like an ethnic minority that is not made up of a majority from that group--in fact, they pay a Seminole $5000 to stand on their float--the going price for betraying your heritage here.

Peter Matthiessen, author of several books on American Indians, calls the Krewe of Chasco one of the greatest insults to American Indians in the U.S. today. When the Florida American Indian Movement (AIM) and local citizens protested the float, the Krewe president told a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, "I want you all to buy guns and kill AIM--I'll bury them for free." He owns a funeral home.

On their website now closed to outsiders, one of their photos showed a drunken blonde woman wearing a sacred Plains Indian headdress with the caption, "Even Squaws can be Braves in the Krewe of Chasco"--apparently unaware that the word "squaw" is as insulting as the n-word to African Americans. On their float to "honor" Florida Indians as their non-profit charter says, they have a big brown fort representing the power of the military in destroying American Indians, a canoe and a drum from the Northeast, totem poles from the Northwest--and one paid Florida Indian.

Each year, the city of New Port Richey and the Pasco County Commission uses taxpayer money to rent the float for this private club--$21,000. Letters, lawsuits, protests, arrests and local petitions signed by more than 100 city residents have not been successful. Anyone who cares about American Indians who is considering a visit to this area should reconsider, and let the local governments know why. To freeze American Indians as they were a century ago, and to act as though they do not exist in modern-day American society is shameful.

No American would consider dressing up like blacks, or Roman Catholics, or Jews if they do not belong to that group--why then dress up like American Indians?

We, the undersigned, ask the New Port Richey City Council and the Pasco County government here in Florida to cease any and all ties includingpublic funding with the Krewe of Chasco, a private club that dresses up like American Indians.

In the 21st Century, it is clearly inappropriate to publicly support any organization that steals American Indian culture and spirituality in order to advertise an 11-day food fest and carnival under the guise of honoring American Indians.

The Krewe of Chasco does nothing to educate the public regarding Florida Indians as required by its non-profit charter, and gives no support, financial or otherwise to any American Indian tribe. Its sole purpose is to party at the expense of the poorest ethnic minority in the U.S., the minority most likely to be the victims of hate crimes, the minority in which one in three women suffer rape or other sexual abuse at the hands of non-Indians.

By our signature we say--enough! We urge the city and county governments to sever all ties with the Krewe of Chasco. We urge the Krewe of Chasco to cease dressing as Indians, and choose a theme suitable to their white heritage.

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The Krewe of Chasco: Whites Steal American Indian Culture! petition to Krewe of Chasco was written by Daniel Callaghan and is in the category Culture at GoPetition.