We recently became aware of a deeply unsettling portrayal that took place during the Fourth of July parade in Muscatine, Iowa. It is with heavy hearts that we express our profound disappointment and concern over the misrepresentation and distortion of the tragic story of Matoaka, also known as Pocahontas, who was a young Powhatan woman. She endured immeasurable pain and suffering at the hands of colonizers, and her story is one of the first documented cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Matoaka, often romanticized in popular culture as Pocahontas, was only 12 years old when she was captured, sexually assaulted, and eventually taken to England, where she tragically died. The painful history of her life is an unfortunate symbol of the systemic violence, discrimination, and injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples throughout history.
We want to express our deep concern over the fact that Muscatine chose to honor the independence of the United States by dressing a participant as a Disney version of Pocahontas and parading her tied to a horse. This insensitive portrayal not only grossly misrepresents the reality of Matoaka’s life, but also shows a lack of understanding and respect for the historical trauma and ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples. The portrayal is a stark reminder of how far we have to go in achieving a balanced, respectful, and historically accurate representation of Indigenous histories, cultures, and peoples.
We urge those who share our concerns to reach out to the city of Muscatine to express your disappointment and demand immediate action. We believe the city should publicly apologize to Indigenous nations for this inappropriate portrayal and commit to taking steps to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. Education and dialogue about the realities of our shared history are crucial to fostering understanding and respect.
It is incumbent upon all of us to stand together and demand that Indigenous peoples’ histories and experiences are accurately represented and respected. We must continue the crucial work of dismantling harmful stereotypes, promoting education, and advocating for justice and equality for Indigenous peoples.
Thank you for standing with us.