top of page

Racism on Parade in Muscatine, Iowa

Written by Jessica Engelking, Representation Director

To the Muscatine Chamber of Commerce,

My name is Jessica and I am the Representation Director for Great Plains Action Society (GPAS), an Indigenous non-profit based here in Iowa. If you are not familiar with the position of Representation Director, it is a position that we have to address the specific harms done to Indigenous people by way of problematic representation such as playing Indian, Pretendianism, whitewashing, and the depiction of harmful stereotypes. Playing Indian is when white people pretend to be us for entertainment value. Pretendianism is when white people pretend to be us because they think it gives them authority to act as Native and the entitlement to speak on our behalf. Neither of these is acceptable. Whitewashing is erasing and toning down the genocide that was inflicted upon us during the theft of our land and colonization. What happened at your parade appears to be a disgusting mix of all these forms of racism.

There is also the issue of this act mocking the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis. Muscatine hosted a parade that featured a bound white woman pretending to be a Native woman in a cheap, sexually provocative Halloween costume being led beside a horse ridden by a white woman. Again, as the Representation Director of GPAS,it is my job to clearly state that great harm that was perpetuated by your parade. This wildly distasteful act that you allowed in your parade was dehumanizing and dangerous for Indigenous Peoples. Your parade represented Native women as 1) sexual and 2) powerless. A Native woman was displayed as a captive servant—a desirable candidate for possession for rape and violence. This was made even more evident by the “sexy” Halloween costume she was wearing, which mocks our traditional regalia and sexualizes us.

Ask yourself, would you take a woman hostage, bind their wrists, and force them to follow you on foot as you rode beside them? I sincerely hope not, and if you would, please seek help immediately. So then, why is it acceptable to

portray such a situation as acceptable treatment of Native women? It is because Native women aren’t seen as fully human. We have been dehumanized by society, and this dehumanization was reinforced by a racist act in your parade. This dehumanization makes us easier to hurt, and Native women are hurt at devastatingly disproportionate rates. According to the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women

  • Nearly half of all Native American women-- 46 percent-- have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

  • One in three Indian women will, at some point in her life, experience the violence and trauma of rape.

  • On some reservations Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average.

Regardless of whether this aspect of the parade was your intent, you allowed it to carry out. It should have been shut down immediately. We live in a world where real women, our not-so-distant ancestors, were bound and pulled beside horses like that. And they were raped and murdered. They watched their babies' skulls be smashed. They witnessed and experienced unspeakable horrors. And, you allowed a part of that real history to be recreated for entertainment value. Shame on you. We expect an admission of accountability, an apology, and a forever ban for the racist organization who did this.


Jessica Engelking


Representation Director

Great Plains Action Society


To Take Action Please call or email the City of Muscatine and the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry to register a complaint about what they allowed to happen in their parade. It is important to note that Brad Bark is both the Mayor of Muscatine and the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce--so let's contact him!

Contact Brad Bark though the City at: (563) 506-3161

Contact Brad Bark through the Chamber of Commerce at:

(563) 263-8895


I am so sorry that so many people just do not practice being human. I am disgusted at their actions and heartbroken for the pain it causes your people. ❤


Disgusting. What is wrong with people!

bottom of page