Buzzfeed’s Another Round and #NoDAPL

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Just a quick post to let ya’ll know that I was on Another Round on Buzzfeed again, and had a lovely conversation with Heben (she’s back!). In addition to talking Standing Rock and #NoDAPL, we played a game where I had to identify Pilgrim names. I failed. But shout out to Godbert Godbertson. Listen here, and enjoy!

Two quick clarifications for things I said, cause I want to be accountable: I’ve been really, really trying to cut out ableist language, and I caught that I said “crazy” at the end of the episode. Serious apologies. I usually say “wild” these days. Also, I made a comment about Nixon being a good president for Natives. Just wanted to clarify: He was a big proponent of self-determination for Natives, ended the termination policies of the previous administrations, and his administration ushered in a new era in Federal Indian policy that was largely good for Natives. BUT he also was president during Wounded Knee and was responsible for the large military response to that siege, and overall was not a fan of the American Indian Movement and was responsible for the heavy surveillance and monitoring of folks involved in AIM. Just wanted to be clear about that. Also, as always, remember I don’t speak for all Natives on anything, and the words in the episode are based on my experience and perspective. If I said anything else that might be problematic, please feel free to let me know.

Thanks again to Another Round, it’s really a lovely episode to get to hear some of the protectors on the ground and their perspectives in addition to my hotel room rambling. The Pod Squad are masterful editors–they took a long conversation and made it coherent and beautiful.

Link to the episode here!

For those of you looking for resources or ways to support the movement, check out my update post here.

Dear little one on your Birthday: A letter to a future Native warrior

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.2 Comments


Today one of my best friends, who we affectionately call Bean, is having her first child. A baby girl. Last night I watched on live streams as unarmed Native protectors were mercilessly attacked by militarized police. I kept thinking about my new little niece, and the world we are leaving for her. This letter is to her, on her birthday. 

Dear Baby Bean,

Today you are being brought into this world, to a proud mama and dad who gave to you fierce genes–legacies of strength and resistance. Your San Carlos Apache, Hawaiian, and Mexican ancestors were fighters, resisting colonialism, federal policies of genocide and erasure, and filling their hearts and souls with love. Love for you, the answer to their prayers, the result of their love and survival. Years and years ago at Stanford your mama helped transform me from a shy and quiet girl from the suburbs into a loud, unafraid warrior. As co-chairs of the Native student group we sat in meetings with campus officials together and I watched her as she fought for our community, and I learned to do the same. She sat in my office in grad school and made me practice yelling bad words at her so I would start standing up for myself, even though I would collapse into giggles each time. Your mama has fought for her Native people at every turn, in the classroom, on her campuses, in healthcare, and now in the courtroom. I think about her when I think about you, and what power you already carry within your tiny heart.

Last night, I watched and was scared as men and women who are also fighting for our Native people, and for our water and our land, were hurt by men and women who are supposed to protect us. These brave water protectors stood on a bridge in the cold, saying prayers for the officers behind scary masks and big trucks. The officers sprayed water on them, even though it was freezing. They used weapons that are normally reserved for war. This morning I saw the news listing the attack as a “riot,” and reports saying many things that were completely untrue. We watched last night, little one, as they sprayed the protectors. We watched as they used those weapons. The protectors didn’t start fires. The protectors sang and prayed. We saw.

But I want you to know that last night songs were sung for you. Prayers were said for you. Our elders, your elders, knew you were coming. They asked Creator to protect you, and bless your journey. Because I’m sorry little one, with your eyes just opening to this big and new world, but this fight is now yours too. But I don’t want you to worry. I want you to concentrate on learning to breathe, to eat, to cry, to laugh, and to love. The rest will come later. The fight will come later.

You share a birthday with my Gram, and that makes me happy. She is 90 today. She grew up in rural Oklahoma on Cherokee allotment land, attended Chilocco Indian School, and somehow ended up in Southern California married to an Armenian and raising three Cherokee-Armenian kids. She has taught me a lot, about generosity, love, sewing, cooking, the importance of family, and the importance of remembering. So I will remember her journey for you, and the journey of the others that have come before her and after her. I will remember this fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the ways our people have come together in ways like never before. I’ll whisper Mni Wiconi–water is life–and I’ll remember for you.

Your Auntie Adrienne just came back from Standing Rock, my second trip. I have felt the power and joy of camp, the intensity of direct actions, and the sometimes overwhelming sadness that a big company and the US government can be so cruel. I have been changed from this fight, and know that forever into the future I will be ready to stand in ways I haven’t before. Our world is in a hard time right now, love, and it will continue to get harder. But there are people like me, and so many others that will not rest until things are better–for you, and all the little ones like you.

As you grow up, I promise to protect you. I promise to continue to fight as hard as I possibly can to ensure a future for you. To protect your water, your sacred land, and your sovereignty. Whatever your future gender identity or who you choose to love, I will make sure you can be who you are meant to be. I want you to turn on the TV or open the newspaper on your fancy-soon-to-be-invented-daily-news-device and see yourself reflected. The true you, in your complexities and complications, the multitudes you contain. and I’m sorry, Baby Bean, that we couldn’t fix this world for you before you arrived. You deserve an earth with clean water, fresh air, and a world that recognizes and honors your place and contributions as an Indigenous person. These are your lands, the lands of your ancestors, and you deserve to walk on them, pray on them, and learn from them without struggle or fear.

After I can protect you no more, I know that you will take up this fight. You will fight to protect the water for your daughters and granddaughters, and you will think of them when times become hard and it feels easy to lose hope, just as we have done for you. So whether you follow your mama into the courtroom, your dad into the world of education, your Auntie into the world of academia and activism, your innumerable Stanford Aunties and Uncles into their diverse careers, or you find your own path, your existence is our future. That’s a lot of weight to heap on you on your first day with us, but whatever you choose and wherever you go know this: You, like every Native born into this world, are a victory against colonialism and attempted genocide. You are the resistance. You are hope made flesh.

You, Baby Bean, give me hope.

With all my heart,

Your Auntie



I’ll write more about what happened last night and my recent trip to Standing Rock soon. I’m still processing. But if you want to help, from my last post, but even more necessary now:

So now, what can you do?

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#NoDAPL: Updates, resources, and reflections

In Long form essays by Adrienne K.12 Comments


On October 27, 2016 I sat in my office in Providence and watched on my computer as my unarmed friends were pepper sprayed, beaten, shot with rubber bullets and bean bags, and arrested. I sat glued to the choppy Facebook live streams, constantly refreshing the page and searching for others who were able to get a signal when one would drop. I live-tweeted the streams, desperately trying to get folks online to tune in and see what was happening. I retweeted and signal boosted, I even called the White House. Before I knew it, I looked at the clock and realized it had been over five hours.

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Defeating the Stone Man: PMDD, menstruation, and healing

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“The power Cherokees attributed to menstruating women is illustrated by the myth “The Stone Man.” The Stone Man was a cannibal with a skin of solid rock and an appetite for Indian hunters. When a hunter spotted Stone Man heading for a village, he hurried to the medicine man, who stationed seven menstruating women in the cannibal’s path. The Stone Man grew progressively weaker as he passed the women and collapsed when he came to the last one. The medicine man drove seven sourwood stakes through the Stone Man’s heart, and the people built a large fire on top of him. While he was burning, the Stone Man taught the people songs for hunting and medicine for various illnesses. When the fire died down, the people found red paint, which they believed brought success. Through the power of menstruating women, therefore, great tragedy was averted and good fortune brought to the people.” (30)

I was reading Cherokee Women by Theda Purdue, and I got to the passage quoted above. I smiled, thinking about a line of menstruating women stopping Stone Man, picturing something like this GIF:


But in reading through the section in her book about traditional beliefs around menstruation, and the misinterpretation of those beliefs, made me start thinking more deeply about my own relationship with my body, my hormones, and their power. Power is something that can be both negative and positive—evil can be powerful, but good can also be powerful. And in my struggles I’ve seen plenty of both.

This has been a piece that has been nearly impossible to write, but I write because I’ve seen how little women (and all people who menstruate) openly talk about these issues, and how stigmatized talking about moontimes and monthly bleeding has become in Indian Country.

So I write this by way of explanation, to the many missed deadlines, unanswered emails, unanswered texts, broken plans, the resentful subtweets and facebook posts from colleagues and friends. I’m sorry.

For the past 8 years, and even more intensely for the last two, I’ve been dealing with Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder (PMDD), or as I describe it to others, PMS from hell.

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Where are the Natives in Hamilton?

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.16 Comments


I have not seen the highly acclaimed, Tony-award winning, ground breaking, race-bending new musical Hamilton. Not due to lack of trying. I enter the digital lottery nearly every single day on my phone, though if I do somehow win it will mean the most panicked four hours of my life trying to get from Providence to NYC in time for the show. But that’s an aside. What I have done is listened to the soundtrack hundreds of times (not exaggerating), as well as listened to interviews of Lin Manuel Miranda on Another Round–we’re fellow Another Round alums!–and a couple other places.

I truly have had the soundtrack on repeat for months, including right now, except for “Quiet Uptown,” because sad. So, while I haven’t seen the show, I feel like I’ve consumed enough media surrounding the actual production to offer this review–or offer this question, really. But I will add these disclaimers: I have not seen the show. I have not read the HamilTome with insight from Miranda into the writing and production of the show. I have not read the Hamilton book that inspired the show. So, if I’m wrong or there are specifics I don’t know about, feel free to let me know (Or take me with you to see it? Please?).

But, I still feel qualified to ask: Where the heck are the Native people in Hamilton?

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WaPo’s new Redsk*ns survey: Faulty data and missing the point

In indian mascots by Adrienne K.63 Comments

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This morning I woke up to phone notifications. Blinking awake, I clicked over to twitter on my phone, and was greeted with the news: “New poll finds 9 in 10 Native Americans aren’t offended by Redskins name.” I sat up, let the phone fall in my lap, and said some choice words that I won’t print here.

The Washington Post has apparently devoted a lot of time and resources to conducting a “nationally representative” poll of “Native Americans” to find out whether or not they find the Redsk*ns name offensive. In their survey of 504 “Native Americans,” they found that 90% did not find the name offensive. They published a follow up  that gives the details on the survey and answers some FAQ.

Before I dive in, a note: This is not something I should have to do. For the last 7 years I’ve been writing this blog we’ve made huge gains in the way the public thinks about Native peoples and Native mascots. It’s been the hard, hard work of a huge community of activists and community members for decades, and I just don’t understand why WaPo felt the need to do this poll. More on this in a minute, but we’ve got psychological studies, tribal council votes, thousands of Native voices, and common decency and respect on our side, yet that was not enough. The Washington Post needed their OWN survey. The perspectives of Native peoples, who this effects directly, apparently aren’t enough.

So the poll. WaPo has generously provided (that’s not sarcasm) the actual questions, the breakdown by demographics for each, so feel free to explore. Look here.

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Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh.

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Yesterday I wrote about the trailer for JK Rowling’s new multi-part background pieces on Pottermore, entitled “Magic in North America.” You should read the post here if you need context. Even before that, back in June, I wrote about my concerns with the bringing of the “magic universe” to the States. You can read that here.

So this morning at 9am, part one of this mess was released. It’s really short, I don’t know what I was expecting, but definitely go over and read it in full.

There are a number of things that stand out and deeply concern me, but the response to my critiques on my twitter timeline is even worse. I’ll talk about that after I walk you through the text. Because, like with everything I critique, it’s not just the mascot/image/text/movie/fashion itself, it’s the response, how it’s used, and the impact. This has the perfect storm of all of those categories. I really could write a dissertation about this, but I have a million papers to grade and work to do, so a quick rundown:Read More

“Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.117 Comments

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Remember back in June when it was announced that the new Harry Potter prequel-of-sorts had an American Wizarding school? Remember how I was concerned? If you don’t, here’s a link to that post. Basics of my argument were:

The problem, Jo (can I call you Jo? I hope so), is that we as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures. Think about Peter Pan, where Neverland has mermaids, pirates…and Indians. Or on Halloween, children dress up as monsters, zombies, princesses, disney characters…and Indians. Beyond the positioning as “not real,” there is also a pervasive and problematic narrative wherein Native peoples are always “mystical” and “magical” and “spiritual”–able to talk to animals, conjure spirits, perform magic, heal with “medicine” and destroy with “curses.” Think about Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas, or Tonto talking to his bird and horse in The Lone Ranger, or the wolfpack in Twilight…or any other number of examples.

But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as badass as that wizarding world is). In a fact I quote often on this blog, it wasn’t until 1978 that we as Native peoples were even legally allowed to practice our religious beliefs or possess sacred objects like eagle feathers. Up until that point, there was a coordinated effort through assimilation policies, missionary systems, and cultural genocide to stamp out these traditions, and with them, our existence as Indigenous peoples. We’ve fought and worked incredibly hard to maintain these practices and pass them on.

So I get worried thinking about the message it sends to have “indigenous magic” suddenly be associated with the Harry Potter brand and world. Because the other piece I deal with on this blog is the constant commodification of our spiritual practices too. There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner, I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece. American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include Native-inspired anything.

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“9 Questions Natives have for White People” and White fragility: That time I was in Buzzfeed videos

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(That’s me! I’m a gif! I’ve made it!)

You might have noticed lately that Buzzfeed has been putting out a lot more race and social justice themed content, and even has included a series of videos featuring Native folks: “Native Americans Try on Indian Costumes,” “Native Americans react to Indian mascots,” “If Native Americans said the things white people say,” and a few others. They’re largely the result of some very hard work by Chris Lam, one of the staffers at Buzzfeed Video, in collaboration with local Los Angeles-based Native folks (who you see featured in the videos). Chris is a great example of allyship–prior to working on these videos he had little experience with Native communities, and has really taken a role of learner in the process, defaulting to the Native voices and keeps challenging himself to learn more and push Buzzfeed to feature more Native pieces. I love it.

So when I was home in Southern California for winter break, I headed over to the Buzzfeed studios in LA to meet up with Chris and some of the Native team for a brainstorming session and to film a couple of videos, both of which have now been posted: “9 Questions Native Americans Have for White People” and “I’m Native but I’m Not…”. Here’s 9 Questions:Read More

The Next Chapter: #employed

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.14 Comments

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Six years ago when I started Native Appropriations, I was a first year graduate student fed up with feeling invisible and voiceless in my doctoral classroom. Since that time, I’ve gone from semi-anonymous graduate student “Adrienne K.” to scholar-blogger Dr. Adrienne Keene, and in many ways this blog has served as a catalog of that journey. I’ve watched my own voice and knowledge grow in these online communities, and the conversations around cultural appropriation move from whispers in academic circles to a full blown roar in mainstream media (for better or worse). And through it all, we’ve built a community, one where we know that representations matter, and are not only worthy of our time and attention, but are tied in with our continued struggles and survival as Indigenous peoples.

Behind the scenes, these last six years have not been easy. I struggled through graduate school, have pushed through my postdoc, and many times felt lonely, insecure, and afraid of the choices that lay ahead. I lived in four states, seven apartments, and moved five times in one calendar year, and haven’t felt “settled” (ignore the irony of that word choice) in a very, very long time. This job search has been beyond stressful, and has meant many sleepless nights and a constant state of anxiousness for months on end. But it ends with very good news. Read More