For Immediate Release
June 4, 2009
Reference: Jeff Rice, BAYAN-USA Northwest spokesperson
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone 206-291-8078
Seattle, WA – Filipino-American community groups in Seattle are launching a campaign seeking a public apology from the University of Washington and City of Seattle for the 1909 Igorot Village during the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE). In 1909, Seattle hosted the AYPE with the most popular exhibit being the “Igorrote Village” which displayed a recreated village where Filipinos were made to eat dogs and act out indigenous practices for entertainment. On the centennial of the AYPE, the groups are calling for a public apology for this historic wrong where the racist event created stereotypes of Filipinos. Many Filipino-Americans in Seattle and across the United States continue to be called racial slurs such as “dog-eaters.”
The display was located on what is now the University of Washington Genome Sciences building on 15th & Pacific. The zoo-like village reinforced racial stereotypes of Filipinos as a primitive people through displays of spear-throwing, mock battles, semi-nude clothing, so-called headhunters and dog-eating. The July 11, 1909 Seattle Times ran the headline “IGORROTES TO HAVE DOG FEAST” to sensationalize the event and draw large crowds for this spectacle.
At the same time, a brutal war of colonization was still active during the Philippine-American War under the auspices of “civilizing a savage race.” The AYPE along with the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair portrayed Filipinos as a primitive people which served the political goal of justifying war and torture. The image of Filipinos as “savage” and “unfit for government” was propagated in the US media by government and military figures as a justification of the Philippine-American War. In 1899, the United States had launched an aggressive war of colonization against the independent Philippine Republic resulting in the deaths of over 1 million Filipinos. The brutal war included the introduction of water-boarding, concentration camps and a total war policy against civilian populations. Military generals boasted of destroying 1/6 of the population in near-genocidal numbers. The brutal nature of the war brought criticism from historical figures such as Mark Twain and William Jennings Bryant.
“We believe that the 1909 Igorot Village was a historic wrong that had long-lasting implications and should be recognized as wrong by our officials,” said Donna Denina of PINAY sa Seattle. “It is not enough to have modern-day Igorots showcase their culture at Pagdiriwang [A Filipino event held at Seattle Center on June 6]. The officials of the University of Washington and City of Seattle should acknowledge that the impact of the Igorot Village was wrong and damaging. We uphold the sanctity of indigenous practices and are outraged that they were exploited as entertainment and seen as inferior to other cultures.”
On the centennial of the AYPE and the Igorot Village, the community groups ask the University of Washington and City of Seattle to issue a public apology to the Filipino community in Seattle. They are asking for a commitment to create a public monument in memory of indigenous people. They are also asking for the Seattle Public Schools to implement Ethic Studies in high schools in order to work towards dismantling stereotypes and provide a positive history of indigenous people and people of color.
The organizations AnakBayan Seattle, PINAY sa Seattle and other concerned community, student and API groups will be gathering petitions throughout Pagdiriwang and during the summer. “While the AYPE put Seattle on the map, it was at the expense of the Filipino people which justified war and torture while creating enduring stereotypes of Filipino-Americans,” remarked Ms. Denina. ###