A Wausau School Board candidate has come under harsh criticism for a video, posted to his Facebook page and since deleted, in which he mimics a Native American drum and dance, the Wausua Pilot and Review reports.
In the video, posted in June, L. Voigt Smith dances around a campfire with a small hand drum, singing in a manner that seems intended to sound like a Native American drum circle.
“It’s especially problematic to see anyone who wants to be in a position of power that creates and adopts policy to engage in behaviors that essentially mock a minority culture,” said Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, who is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. “We should be electing people who embrace diversity and who include all cultures and other vulnerable populations.”
The video was publicly available on Smith’s Facebook page, but became more widely known Thursday when it was shared on Twitter by Marathon County Board member Katie Rosenberg.
This is not the kind of thing you’d want to publish ever if you had any consideration for diversity and inclusion. Certainly not if you were running for school board. Do better. https://t.co/0jO1uXZAKi pic.twitter.com/KQLvM0iDmX
— Katie Rosenberg (@katierosenberg) March 21, 2019
The video is still available on YouTube, posted by an account called simply “Wausau.”
Zunker said she had already spoken with Smith about cultural appropriation on Wednesday, when, at a candidate forum at North Central Technical College, he said he used an “Indian talking stick” at work.
In a press conference Friday, according to the Wausau Daily Herald, Smith said he bought the small drum last summer as a gift, after finding out that he had Native American heritage on his father’s side. He said that since the video surfaced, he’s had conversations with Native American friends, who explained the significance of the dance and drumming, and that if elected, he would work alongside other board members to incorporate more lessons about Native American history and culture for students in Wausau. He did not take questions.