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School to Drop Show on Custer's Death

October 11, 2000|From Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — A high school marching band is scrapping its halftime rendition of the death of Lt. Col. George Custer after a student complaint about its "cartoonish" portrayal of American Indians.

A modified version of "The Death of Custer" will be performed twice this week before it is dropped altogether, school district officials decided Tuesday after meeting with Indian leaders and others.

"There will be no stereotypical representations of Native Americans," said Vickie Countryman, director of equity for Spokane School District 81.

In fact, no Indians will be represented. Band members and dancers from Lewis and Clark High School instead will dress as Custer troops or in clothes that suggest cowboy gear.

The crowd will be told that Custer was "a self-proclaimed Indian killer," Countryman said, and a new script for the program will describe U.S. Indian policy at the time of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

Custer and more than 200 of his troops were wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors after they attacked Indian villages in Montana.

The marching band spent much of the last year working on the show, which uses a piece of music written in 1905. The show portrayed Custer's death under Indian attack and Indians performing a war dance afterward.

The controversy over the 6 1/2-minute show was sparked by complaints from Dylan Lodge, a member of the Gros Ventre Tribe in Montana and a student at another school. She saw the program during a football game last month.

Lodge said the Indian characters' clothing, hair and jewelry were inauthentic. Countryman also said Lodge termed the Indians' portrayal as "cartoonish."

Lodge said she was appalled by the band's performance.

"I'm tired of sitting back," Lodge, 16, said this week. "I want to better educate people."

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