A couple complained of being kicked out of a Shari’s restaurant in Lewiston on Saturday after they dressed up as Native Americans and made war cries in the restaurant, sparking a viral online response defending the restaurant.
A group of intoxicated people in costumes came into Shari’s over the weekend. Two of them were dressed as Native Americans, said Shari’s spokeswoman Lisa Amore.
The couple began to get “disruptive and loud” and made “war cries,” Amore said.
The shift lead at Shari’s asked the couple to stop but after that the couple made “offensive comments” to the server and cook, both of whom are Native American, Amore said.
“While no one complained, it was obvious that everyone was uncomfortable,” Amore said.
“To further clarify, the reason the guests were asked to leave was because of their offensive conduct and comments to our staff and guests,” a statement from Shari’s corporate headquarters reads.
“At Shari’s we believe that all people should be treated kindly and equally with respect be they staff or patrons and we simply won’t tolerate anyone that doesn’t share those values,” Amore said.
Lewiston is less than 10 miles from the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, one of the largest Indian reservations in Idaho.
The woman posted photos of herself and a man both dressed in Native American costumes on Facebook and tagged the Shari’s (Lewiston) page.
“Well, we tried to have breakfast after a fabulous Halloween party with friends and we were kicked out for our Native American costumes!!!” the post read. “Never Stepping another foot in Shari’s. NEVER EVER!”
The post has since been deleted and the woman’s Facebook page can no longer be found. However, that didn’t stop a screenshot of the post from being shared on Twitter.
Mariah Gladstone, of Kalispell, Mont., saw the woman’s post on Facebook after a friend shared it. Gladstone is a member of the Blackfoot Tribe and the founder of Indigikitchen, a company that works to revitalize native food systems.
“There’s a period of time between Columbus Day and Thanksgiving where native people are expecting to see a lot of racist caricatures on social media,” Gladstone said. “It’s one of those thing that I’m always bracing myself for during this season.”
At first when she saw the post, Gladstone thought, “Not again.” But then she read the caption, she recounted.
“It was hopeful in that it pointed to an increased recognition to the harm that costumes based in stereotypes have,” Gladstone said.
So she shared the post with friends before making a screenshot of it and sharing it on Twitter with the caption, “When the karma is swift.”
“As I saw it, I shared it with my brother and a friend in direct messages because it was a hopeful story,” Gladstone said.
The comments on the original post were supportive of the Native American community, something that encouraged Gladstone.
“I suspect that the post was deleted because they were getting pretty negative feedback,” Gladstone said.
Gladstone’s tweet garnered more than 2,000 likes and mostly positive feedback from people lauding Shari’s for taking action.
Hundreds of reviews have been posted on the Shari’s Lewiston Facebook page since the incident. Most are five stars with supportive comments on Shari’s standing up to racism and appropriation.
“Just want to give Shari’s a huge shout out for kicking out the ignorant people who were dressed as indigenous people who were war whooping and mocking our culture — thank you for having so much class” one reviewer wrote.
Some posted comments in their native language while others mentioned they might “take a road trip up to Idaho just to hug you guys,” a reviewer said.
Amore said Shari’s has not been in contact with the couple who was asked to leave. Shari’s stands by its decision to remove the couple, and Amore said it is proud of its staff.
“We all believe they did the right thing,” Amore said.
This article first published in The Spokesman-Review.