Angry Apaches sue Spielberg

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A family of New Mexico Indians is suing the producers of a Steven Spielberg television series, claiming a stylist violated tribal customs by cutting a girl's hair to make her look like a boy.

A lawsuit filed by the girl's father, Danny Ponce, of the Mescalero Apache tribe, seeks $250,000 (£142,000) for emotional distress and $75,000 (£42,000) in damages from an unnamed stylist and Turner Films, the makers of Into the West.

"It's part of our culture not to cut a girl's hair until her coming of age ceremony," said Mr Ponce. "The only ones allowed to do that are the parents. Nobody asked for permission."

According to the lawsuit, Christina, Mr Ponce's daughter, responded last March through her parents to a casting call for the six-episode mini-series, produced by Spielberg. During the three-day shoot the stylist cut the girl's hair, the suit claims, "to make her look more 'Indian' and like a male Indian child because the casting call failed to produce sufficient young males of Indian heritage".

The Mescalero tradition forbids cutting a girl's hair as she approaches puberty.

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Vernon Clayson - 3/26/2006

This was an American Indian girl, therefore no one will care enough to write an opinion, but imagine the outcry if she were a black child and someone combed out her corn rows without her mother's approval, or someone unveiled a Muslim child without a cleric's approval.