By Johanna Love
Jackson Hole Daily
Via Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — The Bar T 5 Covered Wagon Cookout and Show will no longer use white actors to portray Native Americans.
Less than a week after the Bar T 5 entry in the Old West Days parade caused a dust-up in person, on social media and in the newspaper about white people in “redface,” co-owner Jeff Warburton sent out a statement Friday afternoon saying the chuckwagon outfit would discontinue the 45-year practice.
For the past 45 years the chuckwagon has used its dinner show to “honor the story of friendship between Nick Wilson and Chief Washakie,” the release said.
“In a continued spirit of friendship to all, we will not be honoring that story using live actors portraying native Americans any more. We apologize to anyone who has chosen to take offense. It has never been our intention to offend or belittle anyone.”
Warburton elaborated a bit in a telephone interview with the Jackson Hole News&Guide, saying the change would take effect immediately and his family and staff would work to see what the show will look like in the future. He repeated that the intention of employees dressing up as Native Americans was to honor them.
“That was meant to build up the idea of the importance of the Native Americans in the Old West,” Warburton said.
In that spirit, they were careful and tried to be respectful of individual tribes.
“We wouldn’t let our [college] kids use any specific tribal paints,” Warburton said. “We didn’t want to appropriate anybody’s personal religious things. The goal was to get people interested and excited enough to get people to go learn more for themselves.”
After the controversy, Warburton acknowledged the complaints.
“Apparently it’s offensive to many people,” he said. “Our purpose is not to be political, not to cause commotion. Just to promote Jackson Hole, enjoy the valley with everybody else, and entertain the folks that come through.”
The chuckwagon hosts dinner shows six nights per week.