by William Skink
Someone needs to notify the culture police about some cultural appropriation going down at the Merc. Are David Beck, Ekoo Beck and Rosalyln LaPier available? They were instrumental in fueling the outrage over Missoula’s alleged cultural crimes of painting faces and having a day of the dead parade. Here is some of their commentary from two years ago, when these culture warriors appealed to Missoula’s City Council:
“I am here to ask you not to support the Festival of the Dead in any way and to issue a resolution condemning it,” said David Beck, who believes Missoula’s events show disrespect for indigenous belief systems of Central America and Mexico.
Ekoo Beck said she grew up in Missoula participating in the festival, but was shocked to see its cultural appropriation and what she called racism when she returned from Harvard University.
“Then I realized how wrong it was,” Beck said. “It becomes a racist situation.”
She worries that, if it continues, future generations of Missoula children will grow up seeing the festival as “just a part of the community” rather than a cultural appropriation and show of disrespect.
Rosalyn LaPier, who co-authored “City Indian” with David Beck detailing Indian activism in Chicago between 1893 and 1934, said October marks the start of a time each year when Native Americans feel most maligned – from the observance of Columbus Day to Halloween and Day of the Dead, to Thanksgiving.
“People are dressing up like Native Americans at all these events,” LaPier told council members. “Festival of the Dead is one of these places, with the face painting. Throughout the month, we have this constant disrespect for indigenous cultures.”
With the Festival of the Dead now rebranded and barely in existence two years later, what are these culture warriors going to do next? If they are even still in Missoula, let me suggest the next target: Tad Hilton and Philip Schaefer’s “Mexican-inspired” restaurant, The Camino. Here is how these two dudes describe their culinary appropriation opening downtown in the Merc:
Tad Hilton and Philip Schaefer unveiled the interior of their new Mexican-inspired restaurant and agave bar, The Camino, for the grand opening celebration of the Mercantile business complex in downtown Missoula on Tuesday night for a curious and anticipatory crowd. For the two owner-operators, and for the Mercantile building, the evening’s festivities were the culmination of a very long process.
To open the Camino, Schaefer and his team traveled to various regions of Mexico preparing their menu.
“We’ve had a long-time fascination with both the culture and cuisine (of Mexico), and then that turned into sort of a love story once we went down there and experienced it first-hand,” he said. “And living in Missoula, we felt like there was a place for it and that we could do something that was really unique for what our town has.”
Is this cultural appropriation? Tad and Philip aren’t Mexican, yet they are opening a for-profit business hoping to make money selling Mexican food and booze in Missoula. The name alone—The Camino—should have the cultural warriors raging against this exploitive establishment, yet I haven’t heard anything about any protests. How can this clear example of appropriation go unnoticed?
Please, David Beck and Rosalyn LaPier, we need action now so our 90% white Missoula community doesn’t think it’s ok for two non-Mexican guys to open a Mexican restaurant downtown. Please gather another mighty storm of outrage before it’s too late. Thank you.
Not to mention that the city furnished a sweetheart loan so they can directly compete with a genuine Mexican restaurant — El Cazador — right across the street.