Festival organisers apologise for depiction of Native Americans

By Heta Gardiner

The organisers of the Wild West Festival in Waimamaku have apologised and vowed to not incorporate any further Native American themes into their festival after this year's promotional material caused offence.  

The apology comes after some social media backlash, leading to a letter from the Māori Women's Network, deriding what they saw as disrespectful portrayal of Native Americans.

Mera Penehira from the Māori Women's Network was disappointed by the festival's promotion of the event, which included people in blackface, and dressed up in Native American clothing.

"To celebrate that time without knowing the pain and suffering that came with it, that is racism out of ignorance," says Penehira.  

After the committee met, even though some were offended by the comments made against the festival, they eventually agreed unanimously to apologise for any offense caused and said they would remove any references to Native Americans from the festival. 
"I've got to thank those people that brought this to our attention because around our table we have lots of people with similar views- the way Native Americans have been treated in the past and even now- so I'm pleased we've had a kōrero, and more is needed in New Zealand I suspect," says festival organiser Bruce Lomas.