APTN National News
Cardston is a small Mormon town in southwest Alberta and right across the street is the Kainai Nation, or Blood Tribe.
The people of the Blood Tribe frequent Cardston to shop or see a doctor but they say doing those things includes experiencing racism.
“This intolerance to the Blood Tribe and Blackfoot people – it has existed a long, long time. It’s deeply rooted,” said Rick Tailfeathers.
Sharon Unger moved to Cardston several years ago and became part of the Mormon community.
“I was really shocked when I moved here. I recognized the racism, I heard the comments and it really hurt me,” said Unger.
She left the Mormon community and began sundancing.
“It’s also taught me that we have a wealth of information from our First Peoples of our country and we are ignoring it,” said Unger. “We’re doing worse than ignoring it, we’re oppressing it and not giving them the opportunity to teach us.”
An example was a Peter Pan play put on by the local theatre company.
Photos of actors wearing Indigenous “costumes” and face paint made its way around social media.
“Our people no longer accept the images that have been portrayed of us in movies and plays,” said Tailfeathers.
Having a connection with Cardston and the Indigenous community, Unger saw the play as an opportunity to educate people at the theatre.
“I thought most people in 2017 would have cultural sensitivity and have understanding. I do understand that there is a severe amount of ignorance in the community and I don’t mean that in a mean way – it’s just the truth. If someone did understand they would never put on that play,” she said.
Blood Tribe members contacted the theatre company and asked for the play to be cancelled.
Instead, the owner of Carriage House Theatre wrote an apology.
“The Carriage House Theatre would like the First Nations people to understand that there was no intent to offend in our production of Peter Pan. But saying that, in our ignorance we have offended,” the statement said.
“We recognize in this situation, we too have much to learn and feel sorry for all that has transpired due to our lack of cultural awareness.”
The theatre removed the costumes but for the people of Blood Tribe they would have liked to see the play cancelled.
They do hope it opens the door to reconciliation.