It is not surprising that a historical reenactment of a Native man’s public hanging would spark outrage, what is surprising is that those organizing the event wouldn’t see it coming and ask for a dialogue with Native peoples before moving ahead.
This incident comes from Pennsylvania, but it raises larger questions of who gets to say what is offensive and what is not.
In this case, where white people might see a benign history lesson, Native people can see and experience trauma. The reenactment sent a message that Native people are “less than” and gave permission to yell racial slurs.
This incident echoes the debate we have had here in Minnesota about whether or not to remove offensive art in the Capitol. In both cases, the challenge is the same: How do those people in the majority put down their defenses, open their hearts, and listen to and honor the pain suffered by those with little power or voice?