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Artist wins battle against mall owner


Dana Wagg and Gary Gee, Windspeaker Staff Writers, Edmonton







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Triple Five Corporation has removed two Indian mannequins from a shooting gallery at its Eaton Centre mall following a formal complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Alberta Human Rights Commission officers launched an investigation into the game after prominent local artist Jane Ash Poitras filed an official complaint, calling the game "racist and


The game, dubbed the 'Yukon Shooting Gallery' featured a domestic scene with a life-size Indian couple sitting on a from porch surrounded by pets and animals.

For 50 cents a pop, customers can use six .22 air rifles and shoot at animals and objects around a backyard like pop cans, a snake, a skunk, a dog and a pig.

The Native couple, while not targets, sat in the centre of the objects. A buffalo skull, above their heads used in many sacred Indian ceremonies, lights up when hit.

The gallery is located at the east end of the mall on the lover level between a record store and a shoe store.

The mannequins were removed on Sept. 27, five days after the complaint by the artist.

Triple Five issued a news release Sept. 27 regretting the use of the game, saying that the company did not have any input into how the game was designed.

"It was on off-the-shelf item in which we had no design input. Had we been aware that the display would offend, we would have altered the scene or purchased a different scene.

"We sincerely regret the game offended members of the Native community," said Selma Linzer, Triple Five's vice-president of shopping centre operations, in the prepared statement.

"It has never been our intention to perpetuate a negative stereotype. We appreciate the efforts of those in the Native community, the press and others who have sensitized us to this

concern," she said.

Poitras, a Cree Indian from Fort Chipewyan, said she doesn't buy Triple Five's explanation. "They're saying they're blind, stupid and dumb and don't have minds of their own. It's a

cop-out. They should make a public apology."

The mother of two said she couldn't believe her eyes when confronted with the game while looking for a toy store for her three year old son.

The shooting at the gallery frightened her son Joshua, who asked: "Mommy, why are they shooting at us?"

"What are you supposed to tell your kid?" she asked. "This display validates Indians as lesser human beings. It's the most racist you can get. It's horrific.

"We're saying to society and adults it's OK to shoot people and animals. It's OK to shoot Indians. It's trivializing Indian culture and exploiting them for monetary gain," said Poitras


While she's pleased the mannequins were removed, Poitras called it a "band-aid solution" and insists the whole game be dismantled because it promotes violence.

"It promotes violence," she said. "Malls are for shopping not to do target practise."

She says Native people are still offended that a buffalo skull, often used for sacred Indian ceremonies, remains in the display.

John Fletcher, manager of the 1990 North American Indigenous Games called for a boycott of the downtown mall and West Edmonton Mall until the game was removed.

Fil Fraser, chairman of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, called the display "insensitive."

"There remains in our society a great deal of insensitivity about things like this. People put up things or get involved in displays and comments and they just don't think about them.

They don't have much sensitivity to how other people might view them. I think that's the case here," he said.

Poitras says it's amazing how realistic the display was with the mannequins.

She's happy that some action came from her complaint and hoped that other Native people can see that if they speak out against racism, there may be someone willing to listen.

"There is a real humanitarianism left in the world," noted Poitras.

It's the second time in less than a month the treatment of Natives at Edmonton's Eaton Centre has come under fire.

IAA officil Percy Potts has launched a suit against mall owner Triple Five after he was handcuffed and wrestled to the ground Aug. 29 after trying to use an elevator reserved for

hotel patrons.