By Angel Ellis, Reporter
HENRYETTA, Oklahoma — The American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association Ltd., (AHRMA) and T & S Racing have come under public scrutiny for giving away trophies featuring Native American regalia replicas. The event was a National Championship Finale held in Henryetta OK, on Nov. 6.
In addition to giving winning racers war bonnets, which were worn by the winners, attendees and participants also noted that organizers of the event dressed up in mock regalia. At least two of the organizations staff was reported to have their faces painted and wearing costumes resembling Native American regalia.
Images surfaced on Facebook of one woman wearing a “Pocahontas type costume,” imitating dancing. In the images the woman who has been identified as Deirda Parks wears a sign on her buttocks that reads “Pow Wow.”
One photographer at the even posted comments, “The OK Wild West Show had it all (this is the PG rated shot).”
Parks commented on her actions at the event claiming Native American Heritage.
“I am also a federally recognized Native American Indian and this is America and I can do what I choose,” Parks said on Facebook. “This is still a free country, I wasn’t making fun, I was having fun recognizing my home state of Oklahoma which is Native American territory.”
But other Indigenous participants and residents of Henryetta did not feel the same way.
Indigenous motocross racer Robin Coyne (Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe) called organizers about her concerns. Coyne and her aunt began racing motorcycles and formed a team made up of all Native American women.
“In September 2020 I discovered photos from T&S Racings 2019 event,” Coyne said. “We immediately started posting stuff on Facebook.”
“The Executive Director Curt Comer contacted us.”
Coyne and her team were told to just focus on the racing.
“He basically told us to cut the Facebook crap out and focus on racing because they don’t want to get involved in politics and racism,” Coyne said.
Comer was not the only person who justified their actions to Coyne. Sherri Parker of T & S Racing claimed that the tribes endorsed this event.
“So we called Sherri and she claimed even Creek Nation backs them and comes to their events.” Coyne said. “My aunt told her she was going to report them and they said they would no longer give out the war bonnet trophies.”
Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation David Hill issued a statement on his social media in response to the claim that the tribe was involved with these races
‘Many citizens were concerned with cultural appropriation, including Native costumes and trophy war bonnets presented at a recent T & S Racing event held in Henryetta,’ Chief Hill said. ‘Citizens were further disturbed by claims that this event had the backing and support of the Muscogee Nation.’
‘We have investigated the matter and to this point find no evidence of the Nation having any connection to this organization whatsoever or any form of monetary sponsorship.’
Chief Hill said, ‘We would also like to remind everyone that this administration rejects any form of cultural appropriation that includes inappropriate imagery, symbolism or mascots.’
‘We have reached out to the leadership of this organization to discuss how we can avoid these matters going forward’
But for Indigenous racers like Coyne and their all female all Indigenous team some of the damage cannot easily be mended.
“This whole situation made us not even want to race anymore,” Coyne said. “I really hope they apologize.”
Coyne said her aunt reached out back in September to collaborate on appropriate trophies, such as a beaded cowboy hat.
“I have no idea why they would just start throwing together their own Native versions into the events,” Coyne said.
She said that the climate has been strange since she shed light onto the racism.
“The tension feels very weird already,” Coyne said. “I’m looking into racing with a different organization.”
The American Indian Movement Director of Oklahoma AIM Indian Territory Cetan Sa Winyan also issued a statement and asked the organizations for an apology.
“The racism and cultural appropriation towards Indigenous People displayed at this even is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Winyan said. “We are asking for all future events to cease use of culturally inappropriate Indigenous items and a public apology be made by the T & S Racing Organization and the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association. “
According to the AIM Statement, “Castrol Oil has issued a statement denouncing this event and stated that they had zero involvement and their name was used without permission. “