How this settler gets it wrong.

here is the story behind this one sense i’m getting scorned on the internet for shooting a white woman in a native headdress.

just because this image has become a trend hardly means in disrespectful, i have been to many pow-wow and have collected many hand crafted items. the culture continues to fascinate and impress me. even when i was 5 i was listening to WOJB radio connecting me with the sounds of the reservation i grew up by.

i have been enthused with the cultures work ethic and morals on life. i have collected books and studied the beliefs. i respect and hope to adopt this way of life into my own lifestyle.
i’m very aware that this culture may feel inclined to speak up about the booming “trend” of young woman wearing the traditional material, but there are positives to this….

if you would like to look at this and scorn, i am sorry you are offended.

try to look at it as a positive, the trend is booming because of the beauty in hand craft, and if this is the case then more power to this culture for sticking to tradition. i admire and truly wanted to reflect that beauty in these photos.

This settler woman is upset that I called her out on this photo, and indicated to her that the model and photographer should reconsider the wearing of a headdress.  The quote above is her ‘explanation’ and complete lack of apology on the matter.

I initially linked her to an article I wrote on precisely why it is disrespectful to wear a headdress.  There is no indication she read it, as she certainly does not address any of the points raised.  To help her, and others like her, who are afraid of links, here is an excerpt on where the headdress comes from:


For the most part, headdresses are restricted items.  In particular, the headdress worn by most non-natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations.  These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them.  It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.

So unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.

Even if you have ‘native friends’ or are part native yourself, individual choices to “not be offended” do not trump our collective rights as peoples to define our symbols.

If you want to pretend that this is sexism and that it’s super feminist to buck ‘the native patriarchy’, please check your privilege and read this.

There are natives who don’t care that you are wearing a headdress…(although I doubt you’ll find many among the Plains nations from whence the okimâwastotin originates), but do not conflate that with being happy that settlers are ‘celebrating this trend’.  They don’t care that you’re doing something ridiculous…but they aren’t cheering you on, either.

What else did she get wrong?

This woman seems to think that attending powwows entitles her to the headdress, or is proof that she ‘appreciates’ our ‘culture’. 

We are over 600 nations throughout the US and Canada.  Our cultures (plural) are incredibly diverse, and going to a powwow doesn’t entitle you to anything.  If you actually think of Native American ‘culture’ as a monolithic thing you can appreciate via the generic ‘native-themed’ shit so in fashion right now, you are deluded.  Scarily so.

Powwows are not traditional cultural events.  They are modern events, open to ‘tourists’ like this, with a smattering of ‘tradition’ related solely to specific dances and regalia.  Regalia by the way is what you call what we wear when we dance.  Not costumes or cultural wear.

And you cannot claim on one side of your mouth to be respecting native americans while the other side of your mouth screams at them for telling you specifically why what you are doing is disrespectful. 

I mean you can…but it’s ridiculous.

Educate yourself…before you wreck yourself

Here is another excerpt from my Open-Letter To Non-Natives in Headdresses that this woman didn’t bother to read:


It is okay to find our stuff beautiful, because it is.  It is okay to admire our cultures.  However I think it is reasonable to ask that if you admire a culture, you learn more about it.  Particularly when the details are so much more fascinating than say, out-dated stereotypes of Pan-Indian culture.

You do not have to be an expert on our cultures to access aspects of them.  If you aren’t sure about whether something is restricted or not, please ask someone who is from that culture. If people from within that culture tell you that what you are doing is disrespectful, dismissing their concerns because you just don’t agree, is not indicative of admiration.

If you really, really want to wear beaded moccasins or mukluks or buy beautiful native art, then please do! There are legitimate and unrestricted items crafted and sold by aboriginal peoples that we would be more than happy to see you with.  Then all the nasty disrespectful stereotyping and denigration of restricted symbols can be avoided, while still allowing you to be decked out in beautiful native-created fashion.

I’d like to add Beyond Buckskin’s Boutique to these links as well.  Please!  Go on and wear our stuff, it is awesome!  But when we ask you not to wear something, please respect that.

One last thing


It’s okay to make mistakes.  Maybe you had no idea about any of this stuff.  The classiest thing you can do is admit you didn’t know, and maybe even apologise if you find you were doing something disrespectful. A simple acknowledgement of the situation is pure gold, in my opinion. It diffuses tension and makes people feel that they have been heard, respected, and understood.

If you make this kind of acknowledgement conditional on people informing you of these things ‘nicely’ however, that is problematic.  The fact is, this issue does get people very upset.  It’s okay to get heated about it too on your end and maybe bad words fly back and forth.  My hope is that once you cool down, you will accept that you are not being asked to do something unreasonable.

And now you know.

Don’t be like this woman.  Don’t get it so wrong.

PS: for a look at how grossly unoriginal this trend is, take a look at my Hall of Shame, featuring nearly 1000 images of people who thought they were unique too.  And if you’d like to actually learn more about the issues we face as peoples today, in an age where so many settlers want to pretend racism and colonialism is a thing of the past, please peruse my Aboriginal Issue Primers.  You can show your appreciation and respect of our cultures by becoming more education on the subject.

  1. error-i-am-no-one reblogged this from fyeahcap
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  4. kjacqueline said: White people: they talk about pow wows open to the public like they’re secret, special ceremonies and spiritual journeys. If it was that sacred you would never ever be apart of it white folk. Pow wows are just for fun. Bubbles burst, I know.
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