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Racism in a wild west theme park

CBC's New Fire explores racist stereotypes

On this week’s episode of CBC New Fire: Jacob Pratt, a traditional Dakota/Saulteaux dancer, went to work at the High Chaparral tourist destination in Sweden. He found out pretty quickly that the place isn’t the most comfortable, or welcoming, for someone who is Indigenous.

"Right off the bat I started to see the negative side of it," Pratt told the show’s host, Lisa Charleyboy.

The tourist spot, a kind of history amusement park, is wild west themed, with actors playing cowboys, cowgirls and Indians. It’s filled with unsettling imagery and portrayed Native people in very stereotypical ways.

At one point, kids shot at him with their cap guns as he was just walking around the place — simply because they saw him as the enemy, in the cowboys vs. Indians way of seeing things. That’s the way Native people are viewed.

“Every day I saw something racist. Every day I saw something that offended me. And that made me realize, wow, this is really how the world sees us,” Pratt said.

One of the scariest parts of the experience for Pratt was that there’d been other Native people working at High Chaparral for years and years before he arrived. These workers, performers and actors had reinforced the stereotypes we was experiencing. They were using those stereotypes to their own benefit, Pratt said.

He was scheduled to be at High Caperall for three months, but couldn’t last the whole time and eventually left. It’s like the world wants to keep Indigenous people in that 1800s image, in history, without recognizing how those like Pratt are part of a living, breathing, thriving culture that continues to move forward.

Listen to the Lisa Charleyboy’s interview with Pratt here.

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