In a letter from the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the 2017 San Diego County Fair logo is described as “extremely offensive in light of the history and experience of genocide for the Kumeyaay Nation and other Native nations during the so-called settling of the west.” Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Fair board changes slogan theme after complaints

DEL MAR — The slogan for the 2017 San Diego County has been changed from “How the West Was Fun,” to “Where the West Is Fun” after the original wording was deemed “extremely offensive” by the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

In a letter dated Nov. 18 to the 22nd District Agricultural Association, tribal Chairwoman Angela Elliot Santos asked board members to rescind and cancel an Oct. 11 motion that approved the logo, featuring the theme and a man on a horse with cacti in the background, and ask staff to create a new one.

“The logo is extremely offensive in light of the history and experience of genocide for the Kumeyaay Nation and other Native nations during the so-called settling of the west,” Santos wrote.

“The Kumeyaay Nation is concerned that such a logo would be used by an Agency of the State of California without prior consultation with or notification to the Kumeyaay Nation,” she added. “There was insufficient public review and participation in this decision.”

Her letter referenced “Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873,” by Brendan C. Lindsay; “Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources,” by M. Kat Anderson; “An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873,” by Benjamin Madley; “Pushed Into the Rocks,” by Florence Shipek; and “The Early Ethnography of the Kumeyaay,” by M. Steven Shackley.

All five nonfiction books address the killing of Native Americans in the west in the second half of the 19th century.

When Deputy General Manager Katie Mueller announced the theme at the Sept. 13 meeting, she said the idea came from a survey of past fairgoers and fairgrounds staff.

She said exhibits and activities would include a cattle drive, panning for gold, camping out on the prairie and drinking sarsaparilla and other libations at a Wild West saloon complete with an old-fashioned player piano.

There would be famous outlaws such as Jesse James or Black Bart and fearless women of the West, including Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley.

The plan is to provide a historical tie-in, especially with local celebrities such as Kit Carson.

“But we really want to focus on having fun,” Mueller said. “It will appeal to little ones who have always wanted to be cowboys or cowgirls when they grow up.”

Also featured would be pop culture and fictional and nonfictional heroes such as John Wayne, Will Rogers and Clint Eastwood, as well as big- and small-screen characters including the Cartwright family from “Bonanza,” Woody from “Toy Story,” the Lone Ranger and the cast of “Little House of the Prairie.”

Recognition of the Native American contribution to the Wild West is also planned.

Director Fred Schenk, chairman of the Fair Operations Committee, was scheduled to preview a new fairgrounds website at the Dec. 13 meeting. He said that plan was put on hold in response to Santos’ letter.

He and his colleagues said they didn’t mean to offend anyone by the theme and logo.

“It never occurred to us,” Director David Watson said.

In her letter Santos stated the Kumeyaay Nation was interested in working with the Del Mar Fairgrounds to develop “educational and interpretive programs to accurately display the heritage of the Kumeyaay Nations for the general public.”

Fairgrounds General Manager Tim Fennell and Mueller met with tribal leaders Dec. 20 and agreed on the new slogan, which Schenk said created jointly.

“It was one that came through conversations with Tim, Katie and the tribal leaders,” he said. “We were determined to work out a resolution because it was important to us not to offend anyone.

“The goal of the fair is to have a great time, not to create a wedge between one community and another,” Schenk added. “Everyone walked away happy with the change.”

At press time, Santos had not returned phone calls seeking comment.