An Indigenous man who made a viral video about his encounter with an allegedly racist customer at a Red Deer McDonald’s outlet is getting a lot of attention.
Maybe too much attention, admitted Zach Running Coyote, who has appeared in media interviews aired around the country and the world.
The 22-year-old has been overwhelmed by messages of support, as well as strangers wanting to be Facebook friends with him.
But for every 20-plus positive messages Running Coyote has received, he said he has also fielded aggressive, angry and hurtful internet comments.
Some of these are further racist tirades — either generalized accusations, or blatant misconceptions, about Canada’s native population.
Others are personal slams, accusing Running Coyote of making up the whole McDonald’s incident, or being a media monger seeking publicity, or even being a fake or non-existent person.
“I am real,” says the actor from Rosebud, who’s been in Red Deer for the last three weeks rehearsing to appear in Bard on Bower Shakespearean productions.
Despite all the unwanted flak and attention, Running Coyote says he doesn’t regret speaking out — because he can. “I’m alive and not everybody (who goes through) these situations are still alive… This person spoke about killing people…”
His video recounts an exchange that happened after a black-hatted man in the Gaetz Avenue South restaurant celebrated that charges were dropped against an Alberta rancher who has shot a trespasser in the arm on his Okotoks property. When Running Coyote shook his head about this, the man came over to tell him to mind his “f—-ing business,” and allegedly called him a “f—-ing Indian,” among other things.
Running Coyote stresses that he doesn’t have time for hateful people — either those who act on their racist instincts in real life, or who hide behind internet anonymity to lash out at minorities on Facebook.
By making the video, Running Coyote says he hoped to help make racists — primarily those in Red Deer — “stop and think before they speak.”
Although he admits to living a sheltered childhood — he was home-schooled by his adoptive white parents in various small communities in Alberta and B.C. — Running Coyote said he has felt more uncomfortable while visiting Red Deer these past few weeks than while living in smaller rural communities.
No other local incident was as blatant as the alleged one recounted on video, but he says pickup truck drivers have stared at him aggressively, even sticking their heads out of their vehicle windows as they drive by. Some have shaken their heads, he says, particularly when he was wearing his long hair in two braids.
It’s made him fearful of riding his bike at night.
Since none of his non-native Red Deer friends have experienced these reactions, he concludes they happen because of his native appearance.
However, among the positives that came out of Running Coyote’s video is an invitation for him to speak at an anti-racism event this summer in Edmonton.