Recently found ourselves under the Hall of Shame on the website Apihtawikosisan along with other people including Johnny Depp, Jared Leto, TEED, Felice Lilith Fawn, Biz Markie, Parris Hilton and Steve Aoki to name a few. After reading the article and captions to the images of many artists, models and imbeciles I can understand to a small extent, where the writer is coming from.
First off, if anyone from Apihtawikosisan ever comes across this article, I understand you are proud of your culture. However, this is the 21st century and cultural appropriation is becoming a dry prejudice/racial bigotry tool. Soon we’ll all be so inter racially mixed, words like spic, chinc, nigger, redskin and many other racial terms will have no offensive meaning. Personally, I’m already passed all that and I encourage everyone else to get passed it as well.
The Native American culture has influenced many people with life styles and fashion styles. Be proud that your culture has inspired people outside of it. Although, I can totally understand being pissed after seeing Paris Hilton or those Kardashian bitches rocking headdresses and other accessories of the culture.
Since I was unable to leave a comment on your post here: http://nekrodesignfactory.com/?p=1657, I thought I’d drop you a line the newfashioned way.
While it’s heartening to hear that you can “understand to a small extent” where I’m coming from, it’s disquieting to have the concerns expressed dismissed so quickly under the claim of ‘racism will soon be extinct’. The fact is…racism is not extinct, and the claims of its imminent demise are, I’m afraid, greatly exaggerated.
You see, I live in a country that still has an Indian Act which all but guarantees that if indigenous people with recognised government Status commit the sin of miscegenation, they will be cast out in only two generations and no longer recognised as “Indians”. With this loss of recognised Status comes a difficult choice for their community…you see, only recognised “Indians” are counted when funding is allotted to reservations (with funding formulas similar to those used in municipalities). Thus, keeping non-Status people in your community means more people to provide services to, with much less money to do it with. You can, I’m sure, imagine the result based on that economic incentive alone, not to mention the likelihood of ethnic ‘extinction’ in the eyes of a government who will only talk ‘rights’ with those who have that recognised Status.
I also live in a country where indigenous women are three times as likely to be sexually assaulted than their non-native counterparts. A country where in many indigenous communities, potable water is still something to be dreamed about rather than experienced. A country that was recently shocked by the images of native families living in tents and make-shift shacks in the middle of Canada’s extremely harsh winter…in short, Third World conditions in a supposedly First World nation.
Racism is so systemic, present and inextricably linked to the shockingly low standard of living experienced by indigenous peoples in Canada, the US and many other nations, that to state it’s going the way of the dodo anytime soon is wishful thinking at best…and dangerously deluded at worst.
With that in mind, I’d like to move on and point out that I don’t care who is doing the appropriation…I don’t hate Paris Hilton and I don’t think that her acts of appropriation are any more thoughtless than the acts of a fashion designer or a bunch of frat boys at a party. All of these acts take place in an atmosphere of cultural and historical ignorance. This atmosphere has direct consequences on us as indigenous peoples, and not just in the sense of ‘you don’t understand what our stuff means’. It plays into wider ignorance about those standards of living I just mentioned, and the kinds of systemic racism we face. One of the major obstacles to overcoming these kinds of things is that very ignorance. I do not believe that if the majority of Canadians and citizens of the US understood what we face, that they would support it or condone it. Our invisibility makes us vulnerable.
And invisibility can be caused by erasure, which leads us back to this reoccurrence of the ‘native themed’ trend in fashion. Non-natives seem fascinated with the Hollywood stereotypes so encapsulated by the focus on Plains style warbonnets, Cherokee two-wolf stories, cheesy knock-off dreamcatchers and feathered everything. Claims of honouring us and being super duper interested in us fall flat, because most of these people aren’t actually at all interested in our actual cultures. They’re interested in the false glimpses granted while John Wayne was busy shooting us and defiling our graves to the cheers of his cowboy compadres. Our cultures, plural, are erased and replaced with post-card portraits with about as much depth as the crappy warpaint on Johnny Depp’s face as he reprises the role of Tonto, the idiot Indian sidekick.
I’m not proud of being erased, and replaced with what people think our cultures look, sound, or feel like. I’d very much prefer they actually figure out that we’re still here, and that there is a heck of a lot more to us than campy accessories for binge drinking.
And if you’re still not sure whether what I’m saying has much merit, I’d like to ask you this: for what, exactly, should we be proud of when people disrespect our sacred symbols, dress up as racist caricatures of us and make mad money off ‘native-inspired’ made-in-China crap while our people are literally dying in poverty?
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