Photo courtesy
Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club members dressed as Native Americans during the Rose Parade in 2014. On January 1, 2016, the club once again dressed in faux Native American attire. The club says the Nez Perce have given them their blessing to play Indian during the parade.

Nez Perce Did Not Give Horse Club Blessing to Play Indian at Rose Parade, Tribe Says

Gabriela Maya Bernadett

A horse club that participated in the Rose Parade in California Friday received the blessing of the Idaho-based Nez Perce Tribe to dress as Indians, a representative of the club said.

But during an interview with ICTMN, a spokesman for the Nez Perce said the tribe never supported the horse club’s public display of cultural appropriation.

During the annual New Year’s celebration in Pasadena, the group, called the Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club, dressed in faux Native American attire and rode horseback along the parade route.

A spokesperson for the club who spoke to ICTMN on the condition of anonymity said the purpose of the clothing was to honor the Nez Perce, a tribe credited with developing and refining the unique Appaloosa breed.

The spokesperson claimed their attire was researched to be made as “authentically” as possible, and that they consulted with the Nez Perce and received their blessing.

The Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club, dressed as Native Americans, rides during the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Photo courtesy

Nakia Williamson, director of the Nez Perce Tribe Cultural Resource Program, said he is not aware of the Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club, and that as someone who practices many of the Nez Perce’s traditional ways, he would struggle with endorsing such a practice.

“There’s a lot of people that do something in the name of the Nez Perce that are not necessarily endorsed by the Nez Perce tribe,” Williamson said.

Williamson said it’s possible an individual of Nez Perce heritage gave the club its blessing, but added “I would probably know who they were,” he said.

During the broadcast of the parade, Native Americans on social media were swift to condemn the display.

“When there are so many fabulous indigenous dance groups, this is inexcusable,” Facebook user Lisa R. Weber wrote. Valerie Demaray commented on Facebook, “Why not get real Native Americans to be in the parade? That’s just pitiful.” Demaray added a crying emoticon to your post.

“The Native minstrel show at the Rose Parade by the Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club was just that, a minstrel show — white people dressed in red face,” Amanda Blackhorse, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and leading plaintiff in the case to strip the Washington Football Team of its federal trademarks, told ICTMN. Blackhorse was watching the Rose Parade when she saw the riders dressed as Native Americans.

“The [Rose Parade organizers] should’ve caught this and the NCAA football should denounce this disgusting act,” she said. “The group and the [parade organizers] must publicly apologize for this.”

The spokesperson for the Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club did not respond to follow-up questions concerning Williamson’s stated denial of the club’s claim.

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bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
Brothers and sisters, we live in an ignorant world and will continue to do so with no end in sight. I am sure the Rose Bowl parade officials are riding in that same boat with all the other ignorant nationally-known parade organizers. Now, how do we adopt a blanket policy, and have it endorsed by all tribes and therewith, issued to all the nationally televised parade organizations, including all professional sports, numerous college bowl parades and the likes of Macy's parade? The Appaloosa horse club, in my mind, started on the right track in its early consultation effort with the individuals of the Nez Perce tribe, but apparently the tribal rep was not duly authorized to do so. We live in a society and we should make every effort to be non-judgmental and bring greater understanding and respect to our unique heritage, history and culture. As tribal members, we must be pro-active and formulate solutions. It is not enough to say all parades, stages, playing fields, and auditoriums are put on notice that any organized displays whether exhibits or live performances that are based upon Native American tribes are required to consult and include enrolled tribal members. There is no teeth. Then, is each tribal nation left on its own to adopt a blanket policy and work to enforce it on non-tribal land? I think not. And I believe that the Appaloosa horse club members and parade officials meant no harm and should be extended a friendly hand by the tribe, open dialogue and develop a plan so our society may foster an abiding respect for one another.

Ojibway Turtle Mountains's picture
Ojibway Turtle ...
Submitted by Ojibway Turtle ... on
Dear Bullbear, I don’t mean to get up on the high-horse, but reaching out is how all this started, Right? These people it seems reached out to anyone that would “speak” for the Nez Perce. Again I’m Chippewa so I can’t speak for any the other People, but only willfully ignorant people (Native and non-Native) would do what the Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club did. So to reach out now is to accept and in a way condone what has happened. To my mind that wouldn’t be right, to me that’s kinda like someone smacking you in the mouth and then saying “sorry”, if they were really sorry they wouldn’t have smacked you in the mouth in the first place. Many times saying sorry is just trying to get you to except what they did to you. Embarrassing you then embarrassing you again. No somehow that doesn’t seem the right way to go, there must be a better way. Here in the Pacific Northwest where I live, whites many times take Native symbols and totems change them a little and use them anyway they like (think Seahawks logo) without even any attribution and I know lots of Natives don’t like that very well – Whites making money off of tribal designs, not good. But anyway “why can’t you people just get over it” right!