As governor of the Gila River Indian Community, I write to register our strong condemnation of your publication’s insensitive cover of February 6, 2014 (for the story “Broken Arrow,” Monica Alonzo). While our community supports New Times’ First Amendment right, we must draw the line at illustrations that convey age-old, offensive stereotypes about American Indians.
Clearly, your artists and editors have very little insight into or concern for the realities of tribal life in 21st century America. From your cover illustration’s inclusion of tomahawks, arrows, a teepee and a feather-decorated slot machine to its offensive use of a stereotypical headdress to sell “an Indian story,” New Times’ cover reduces ours and other Arizona tribes’ culture to and age-old Hollywood oversimplification of what it means to be American Indian.
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This cover is all the more disappointing because these borderline racist characterizations of American Indian nations is coming from a so-called progressive, independent, and open-minded publication that New Times proclaims itself to be. We continue to battle these stereotypes wherever they arise. To be silent, we believe, is to offer assent to an unrealistic and disrespectful characterization of our way of life.
We eagerly await your response and your apology. My hope is, this letter serves to begin a dialogue between our community and your writers, editors, and artists — a conversation that includes the opportunity to educate your employees about the difference between a 1940s Western movie full of stereotypes and the reality of life in the Gila River Indian Community and other American Indian communities circa 2014.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this issue.
Gregory Mendoza, governor of Gila River Indian Community