Editor's Note: All of the letters today refer to a May 29 letter, Chasco talk meant to humor, not harm, from Roger Michels.
Editor: I wish that these people complaining about the Chasco Fiesta would wake up. I'm married to a Native American who agrees with me. These people sit around and pay so much attention to the politically correct item of the day and complain about it ad nauseam.
Do you think that those Indians that come to events like the Fiesta are bugged by some white people putting on what everyone knows is a fictional tale and wearing a head dress? Actually it more than likely is the opposite. They'd probably sell them the feathers. These Native Americans are making money off these white people. If anything they're laughing all the way to the bank.
Why don't people look around and complain about something we're all being hurt by? Where were any of you during the last election when there were ridiculous amendments to be voted on in the ballots? Where were you when the class-size amendment was debated? You want something to get you worked up, that should have been it. You and I are paying for it.
So, give the Indians a rest and for God's sake be an informed citizen the next time you go to the polls.
Editor: Some elements of the Chasco Fiesta emphasize and stereotype negatively the proud and vibrant Native American culture. How would the Caucasian people in Pasco County like to have a festival called the Honky Fest or the Southern Redneck Fest?
Imagine the anger people would feel if that sort of insulting festival existed! Look in the mirror and ask yourself, would you want a festival that denigrated you or wrongly stereotyped you? Let's emphasize respect. Recognize that no matter what your background or heritage, you should be proud of your roots and deserve to show honor and respectful consideration to everyone's proud historical past that made our nation what it is today.
Editor: Roger Michels spewed a lot of words in print to detract from the few hate-filled words he spoke. I'm surprised he apologized. Must be like some fine judges I know say in court when the defendant says they are sorry, "it seems you are most sorry about having been caught." Why else would Michels have been so upset as to curse the reporter who made his remarks public?
Michels says his call to the fine community-oriented members in attendance to get guns and kill AIM was in jest. I might believe he did not intend to actually incite people to indiscriminately kill any Native American who belongs to AIM, but I do believe he meant to send the message that he is violently against this group.
Those fine community-oriented individuals whose ears those words fell upon and who laughed and condoned Michels' statement of violence are all very cowardly.
I am Native American. I am a longtime supporter of AIM and its principles. If I have offended Michels, members of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, members of the Chasco Fiesta or members of the Krewe of Chasco - so be it.
Editor: After Chasco Fiesta 2003 reached its end, I thought and hoped that the slanderous accusations of the so-called AIM of Florida would end as well. Unfortunately for your readers, the close of this year's fundraising event has only brought about another round of this never-ending game of conflict.
Thanks to the unscrupulous sensationalism of overzealous reporting, the character of one of the county's most respected and selfless citizens has now been questioned. And a fun, family, fundraising event that has put Pasco County on the map is being threatened by a minute group of self-proclaimed Native American sympathizers who want to see their names in print.
The citizens of west Pasco know that Roger Michels is one of our finest, most honorable citizens who has given all but his life to help those less fortunate than he. Mr. Michels also is a human being who made one slip of the lip mistake. How many readers, reporters, clergy or politicians can honestly say they've never said something they later wished they hadn't?
Give your readers credit for having the brains to decide who really deserves to be recognized as an asset to our community.
Editor: I have never seen an apology so circumvented as Mr. Roger Michels'. Not since Nixon, has anyone dared to claim or promote the falsehoods that he does.
The charter of the Krewe of Chasco does not say one single thing about honoring the American Indians. I have a copy of the Krewe's charter. Mr. Michels' self-flagellation promotes nothing but a deep-seeded hate for the dignity of those who point out that it is wrong for him and the krewe to play at being Indians.
Mr. Michels mixed fact with fiction. Better he keeps his mouth shut than open it and remove all doubt about his character and hidden motives.
Editor: Below are some questions for the krewe to ponder and responses to Roger Michels' letter.
"A brief examination of the facts would reveal that the Krewe of Chasco and the Chasco Fiesta are chartered to honor and promote the Native American heritage of the West Pasco area, and not for the purpose of mocking."
The statement goes back to the argument of "intent to honor." Maybe in Michels' view intent to honor is good enough. If one American Indian is offended by the intent then what you are doing is wrong.
If you want to honor then learn why what you are doing is not an honor at all. Do you even care why this behavior is offensive? What you are doing is appropriating the identity of Native peoples, wearing their regalia as parade costumes. You have no right to wear the regalia just like I have no right to wear a nun's habit.
If you could just see yourself as a traditional Native person sees you then you might understand why you mock Native people.
We love our Native American regalia and are proud to display it for the crowds.
Native people make or are given their religious regalia; they don't pay thousands of dollars for it. Does Michels think the vendor would tell him not to wear the regalia after he and the krewe members paid them good money for it? They aren't going to sell you something and then tell you not to use it. Did anyone ever ask the vendors when it is appropriate to wear it or if it is appropriate to wear it in the parade? If you asked traditional people who wear their regalia for ceremonies, you would be told that you have no right to appropriate my identity for the entertainment of your community as a non-Native person.
Michels claimed some of the members have Native heritage. What does that mean? Do they live as a Native person, practice Native spirituality and values, or did they have a Cherokee princess somewhere back in their past. I wager that none of the krewe has a connection to the beliefs or culture of Native peoples. Maybe some of them believe they have a right to wear Native ceremonial regalia and throw beads for the entertainment of other equally ill informed people of your community.
Maybe they didn't get enough of playing Indian when they were kids. Grow up and open your mind and ask why instead of telling Native people of an intent not to mock, of an intent not to denigrate, and of an intent to joke about killing American Indian activists.
Michels' intent is the real joke.
Editor: Contrary to printed opinions of the protesters who referred to the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, the Chasco Fiesta, the Krewe of Chasco, the city of New Port Richey and Pasco County as "racist, backwoods rednecks," the citizens of this county and in particular, its business leaders, have led our community well with their knowledge, strength and dedication.
The hard-working dedicated business men and women of west Pasco donate endless hours on an annual basis to our community. Their time, talents, resources and commitment have helped the Chasco Fiesta become the major fundraiser for many local charities. These nonprofit groups serve all citizens of west Pasco on a daily basis, regardless of their race, religion or political persuasion.
Our annual Chasco Fiesta has given hundreds of Native Americans from all across the United States a forum in which to showcase their heritage through music, dance, customers, culture foods and regalia. They have shared in this event for many years and are always eager to help increase awareness of their lifestyle and rich history through this event.
The large number of Native Americans who participate in the Chasco Fiesta unanimously feel that all of the events honor their heritage and they are happy and willing to contribute to its success, especially because of the resulting benefits to the nonprofit groups of our community. The business leaders of west Pasco have an excellent rapport with the visiting Native Americans and enjoy the fellowship that they share.
History indicates that there always have been those who seek to undermine the work of people who contribute to and work hard to achieve a better society for all. And there always will be people among us who seek division and promote dissension. That's their right to freedom of choice and speech in this great country of ours. However, to differ in opinion is acceptable, but to slander and harass is another matter best addressed through the judicial process.
The Steering Committee of the Chasco Fiesta obtains input from the participating Native Americans and, when possible, the Krewe of Chasco has Native Americans riding on its float as guests. The chamber of commerce serves the west Pasco business community and its leaders to the best of its ability.
These groups will continue to work hard to make our community a better place for all of our citizens. The Chasco Fiesta will continue to focus on its Native American heritage while helping local nonprofit groups raise funds for their work. The chamber of commerce will continue to support the great business community of west Pasco and work for all citizens of our community.