I am empathetic towards natives. I think this is absolute nonsense that some people would make a fuss over a McDonalds happy meal toy. I am sure there are natives that even think it is silly to make this a big deal.
RAPID CITY, S.D. - Custer rides again, although he's atop a plastic motorcycle and in a McDonald's Happy Meal box.
And that doesn't sit well with some in the Native American community.
Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was killed in 1876 along the Little Big Horn River by Native Americans he aimed to destroy.
But Hollywood brought him back to life as a character in the Ben Stiller comedy “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” which opened in theaters May 22. McDonald's included characters from the movie as toys in its kid-sized Happy Meals.
The fast food chain's decision to circulate the toy in Indian Country is akin to circulating a Hitler figure in Israel, according to Laurette Pourier, executive director for the Society for the Advancement of Native Interests-Today. “It's insensitive and disrespectful.”
“We are oral historians, and Custer's escapades are not far from our hearts,” said Paula Long Fox, a guidance counselor for the Rapid City School District. “Custer didn't kill Indians or Natives, he killed relatives.”
The majority of the U.S. Army's victims were friendly Native Americans who would not run, Long Fox said. The military campaigns against Native Americans were driven by the government's desire to acquire land without any consideration for Native Americans as human beings, she said.
“It was dehumanizing and not honest,” Long Fox said. “It really left hard feelings.”
Long Fox said it is also insensitive of McDonald's to circulate the toy to children at an age where parents strive to teach them lessons on treating others fairly.
“It's insensitive to adults,” Long Fox said. “I'm not sure the children understand that.”
“At McDonald's, we value and respect people of all ethnicities, as well as their cultural history,” said McDonald's spokeswoman Danya Proud in an e-mailed statement. “The ‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian' Happy Meal features eight toys portraying different characters from the film. As with all Happy Meal promotions, our goal is to provide families a positive experience that can be shared by all.”
An e-mail containing follow-up questions regarding Native American concerns was not answered by the McDonald's media relations staff.
The “Night at the Museum” toys are scheduled to be distributed at McDonald's through Friday.
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