There are many serious problems facing the Navajo Nation, but Durango needs to decide whether the “Chief” is how it wants to portray Native people.
I reside in La Plata County. I am non-Native, but I have served Navajo people for 40 years, as an official of the nation, helping people with consumer fraud problems and securing Navajo voting rights in San Juan County, Utah.
The “Chief” is a cartoonish caricature of Native people. It suggests all Natives wear feathers in their hair, have braids, have big noses and dark skin, and wear “traditional” costumes. How is this non-Native portrayal of Natives different than Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben?
The Native people I have encountered do not look anything like the “Chief.” The “Chief” doesn’t represent the realities or diversity of Native peoples and cultures.
I am not criticizing any person or business. I appreciate Jackson Clark bringing attention to the many other problems facing the Navajo Nation, his efforts to address those problems, his call for others to lend a hand and his stated fair treatment of Native artisans. But those cannot justify keeping a racial caricature as one of the public faces of Durango.
We should listen carefully to Native people on this subject (perhaps including the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission) before deciding to retain the “Chief” as representative of how Durango thinks about Native people.