Archives For February 2010

Anyone able to help me out with the language/context on this one? 
For some reason, this week has offered me a host of examples of insensitivity and ignorance surrounding Indian identity and identity politics. I’ve gotten in intense arguments and conversations in classes, I’ve confronted a colleague who told me, to my face, that the reason the US and Canada were different in terms of policies towards their Indigenous peoples was because “Well, I mean, in the US our policy was just to kill all the Indians. That’s why there aren’t any left, and we don’t have to deal with them.” I also overheard a student with whom I was discussing my research tell his friend: “I was like, Okaaay Native American, just talk about how we OPPRESSED you and your PEOPLE!”
So when I was deciding what to post today, I remembered these ads from the American Indian College Fund, an organization that provides scholarships and assistance to tribal college students. They’re a little old, and their new campaigns–entitled “If I stay on the rez” and “Think Indian” are equally awesome and can be found here, but I think that these offer a powerful perspective that is rarely seen in print media.
After the jump, more of the ads and more discussion.

Judge Bill Thorne, Pomo. Judge for the Utah court of appeals, President of the National Indian Justice Center, skier, soccer coach for 25 years.
Hattie Kaufmann, Nez Perce, National network news correspondent, emmy award-winning reporter, traditional beadwork artist, marathoner.
Jarrett Medicine Elk, Northern Cheyenne/Assiniboine, business major, student  counselor, peer tutor, illustrator, public and motivational speaker
Rick West, Cheyenne, Attorney, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, traditional powwow dancer (and I would add–Stanford Alum!)
There are also a few more on the AICF website. The whole campaign can be found here.
I love these. Every aspect, from the attention-grabbing headline that makes the viewer question their preconcieved notions about what a “Real Indian” looks like, to the captions that demonstrate the subjects academic and career success; but also highlight their community/cultural involvement, as well as hobbies and other identities. It directly confronts what most of mainstream America would expect of an “Indian”–these are strong Native men and women, and they don’t need tipis or feathers to show it. It’s amazing how something as simple as putting “soccer coach for 25 years” can completely turn a stereotype on its head.
In addition, if you look along the right edge of each photo, there is a fact about reservation life, tribal colleges, or Indian education, and a link for more information about the American Indian College Fund. 
The best part is, the ads aren’t confined to Native outlets. These ads were (and the new ads are) featured in Sports Illustrated, Time, InStyle, the Delta Airlines magazine, Oprah magazine, NY Times magazines, and more. All major mainstream media outlets. That’s awesome. 
So, in light of my identity challenges this week, I thought I would offer a counter-narrative (I love that term) to the stereotypes clearly held in the heads of many Americans. I only wish the images of Natives that most Americans see everyday were more like these, instead of the other images that dominate this blog.
Keep up the good work, American Indian College Fund! I am such a supporter.
American Indian College Fund website:

Nicole Richie’s baby mocs

February 26, 2010 — 2 Comments

My fabulous little sister Michele found this from Nicole Richie’s new baby clothes line for Kitson (called “House of Harlow”). Baby moccasins for $225?!

(Thanks Sees!)

Today’s random appropriation comes from Hipster Puppies, a pretty adorable tumblr feed playing off hipster stereotypes by captioning pictures of dogs.

The above image was posted with this caption: “lola got booted from the kickball team after just showing up every week and drinking”

In the words of tipster MK: “I’m gonna hope the caption about drinking has nothing to do with Native stereotypes. Coincidence?” Let’s hope.

Apparently even the hipster puppies are getting in on the tribal trend!

(Thanks MK!)

Dartmouth Native Vigilantes?

February 24, 2010 — 1 Comment
(image via
Last night several of these anonymous signs were posted around the campus of Dartmouth College on the lawns of greek organizations and in front of administration buildings. The text on the sign above, posted at the Psi Upsilon house, reads:

Dear Brothers of Psi U,

You have been charged with representing your brotherhood to Dartmouth as racist and insensitive. Your use of the Dartmouth Indian, which is a caricature of racist stereotypes, as well as the objectification of women on your other shirt send a message to campus that you as an organization are actively disrespecting the feelings of your peers. We are holding you accountable for your actions.

It is time you start doing the same. 

I’ll admit that I’m not well versed in the intimate details of the ongoing issues surrounding the Indian mascot at Dartmouth, but I know that it has been a nearly constant struggle for Native students on campus fighting against generations of alumni who support and continue to use the mascot image. In addition to the mascot issues, there have been a series of serious incidents through the years directly targeting or affecting the Native community. Inside Higher Ed published an article in 2006 about some of the incidents, and can be found here.  I can only imagine, given the statement above, that the brothers of Psi U produced some sort of shirt using the mascot.

The Ivygate blog seems to think that these vigilantes are “anti-greek”, but I think it’s pretty obvious that’s not the case, and that there are bigger issues at play here. In addition to the sign above, they also covered the porch of the house with ladies underwear and the words “this won’t just go away”. While the blog speculates this is a reference to sexual harassment, commenter “vigilante” sets the record straight:

The panties are not anti-sexual-assault or even feminist (god forbid), but rather refer to a Psi U’s response to concerns about the Dartmouth Indian tshirts about people getting their “panties in a twist” and saying the situation will just “go away” if they don’t address it.

The people behind the signs aren’t anti-Greek by any means, just looking to revive dialogue about some recent actions by various organizations that come across as racist/sexist/generally insensitive. These things are consistently dismissed and swept under the rug, so the signs sought to give voice to those who were affected, offended by, and/or silenced by such actions. Accountability and respect of others in the community are the main goals, but at the very least we hope people will start actually talking about these issues rather than blowing them off as usual.

I think this is definitely a voice that needs to be heard, and that the Dartmouth administration’s track record of not taking action on issues affecting the Native community and communities of color in general is inexcusable. I hope that these “vigilantes” use this as momentum to keep the movement going and make their voices heard.

I know I’ve got a few readers from up that way, if anyone wants to give me more information, or wants to write a post about the issues facing Native students on campus, especially surrounding the continued use of the mascot, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I am perfectly happy to keep you anonymous.

Dartmouth Apologizes for Indian Incidents–Inside Higher Ed (2006):

Anonymous Vigilantes Attack Dartmouth Frats with Manifestos, Women’s Underwear–Ivygate Blog: 

(Thanks Scott!)

Here are a few more links examining the Indigenous presence in the games!

The argument I’ve been hearing is that with the “inclusion” of First Nations in the games marks the NEW start to a world wide relationship with us as Aboriginal Peoples living in Canada.  The term “unprecedented involvement” has been thrown around quite a bit and I wonder what that means exactly?  Are we involved because we danced in the Opening?  Are we involved because there is an Aboriginal pavilion at the games where “the world” can see us perform, sing, dance, rap, etc.?  Are we involved because we had to be because the Games were taking place whether we liked it or not and to be “a part” of it made more sense than not; at least we get to represent ourselves right?

To me, Canada had a chance to REALLY change the way the world sees “US” and how THEY (Canada) sees “US.”  I can’t help but go back to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and how Canada has participated in adopting (actually, NOT adopting) it.  Currently 143 countries have signed it and 4 haven’t.  The countries that haven’t signed are Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia.  Australia has recently signed and New Zealand and the US are currently said to be close to signing. That leaves Canada.  To show TRUE appreciation for it’s Aboriginal Peoples and while on the world stage – could Canada have done more to let people know where they stand?  Should they have?  I mean, we did get to “dance” at the Olympics, but shouldn’t we ask for more?

Irniq is put off by the Olympic logo because of its human form. Its fat legs and outstretched arms make it look a little like a hockey goalie, and the head has a hint of a smile. Irniq says his people rarely stacked rocks to resemble humans.

“It’s a symbol of the fact that someone may have, um, committed suicide or someone may have murdered somebody at that spot,” he says.

If people are interested in looking at an example of an inukshuk that’s not associated with death, he says, they should look at the flag of Nunavut, which features a more traditional inukshuk.

Alano Edzerza, owner of Vancouver’s Edzerza Gallery and the acclaimed artist who carved the 10-meter native art mural at Vancouver’s GM Place (an arena to be used for the Olympics), together with ASICS, has unveiled their ground-breaking collaborative design for the Netherlands Olympic team uniform. 

The designs were unveiled at a fashion show hosted by ASICS at Arnhem’s Olympic Papendal Hotel and Conference Centre (Papendallaan 3, Arnhem, NETHERLANDS). The event was streamed via a feed and is available on demand at and on YouTube at

(Thanks Marjorie, Ryan, and Leon!) 

As promised, I’ve tried to pull together some informative links/articles/blog posts about the Indigenization of the winter Olympics. This is by no means exhaustive (not even close!) so if anyone has more, please send them my way!

(AK note: this is a fantastic, well researched, well written piece, I wanted to quote the whole thing here! definitely a must read.)

 Some have found the cartoonish Olympic marketing imagery to be a mockery of native traditions.  For example, critics have argued that the 2010 Olympics committee has edited and re-packaged native culture — which also has been ripped out of its traditional contexts. The Committee is highlighting Arctic indigenous imagery — yet Vancouver, the centre of the Games, is a temperate city.  Arctic indigenous peoples did not live there — or on the nearby Whistler and Cypress mountains, where some Olympic events will be held. Other indigenous populations who did live in that area of British Columbia also are not represented in the marketing iconography.

The Olympics branding denies noteworthy differences among native groups spread across these areas. Passing theatrical gestures to native peoples during the open ceremonies could be considered to be more respectful, but Olympics marketers otherwise have been mixing up North American native traditions into a soup-like caricature. Natives have been consistently oppressed, but the various peoples who are considered to be native (in some way, or to some degree) certainly are not ‘all the same.’ Tacking Arctic imagery on to Vancouver-area Games implies that there is only one native essence (in North America, if not beyond this continent).

“So when I watched the Olympics opening ceremonies after the original broadcast I did feel proud that Native peoples were being included and celebrated in the production. I also am happy that it is the first time Indigenous people have been recognized by the International Olympic Committe as official host partners in any games.

But I can’t help feeling like it’s a little token. There is not doubt that Canada doesn’t want to share it’s long legacy of genocide toward the Native people of this country. This is why many Native people are asking for attention to our issues today, especially our stolen lands. The effects of this colonization are very much alive today. We have so many health, poverty, education, social issues which have many people living in third world conditions right here in Canada, in our backyards.”

During the games, the pavilion, an 8,000-square-foot building, will include entertainment provided by Native performers. There will also be plenty of aboriginal food and merchandise for sale. The pavilion will not be the only place in town with an aboriginal presence. In fact, there is no escaping aboriginal involvement and it will be rather prevalent in almost all aspects. For example, the games’ official logo is named Ilanaaq the Inunnguaq; ilanaaq is the Inuktitut word meaning friend.

Also, the games’ three official mascots – Miga, Quatchi and Sumi – were inspired by traditional First Nations creatures. Miga is a mythical sea bear, Quatchi is a sasquatch, and Sumi is an animal spirit. The athletes who win a medal will take home some hardware based on the designs of artwork of Vancouver-based aboriginal artist Corrine Hunt. And there are scores of other aboriginal designed products that are part of the games’ merchandising program.

To some, this means the Olympics are being held on stolen native land. But Phillip says if the Four Host First Nations want to allow the games on their land, that’s their right. Not that he’s happy about it. His organization has kept its distance from the Olympics, and he’s even refused to take part in the tribute to native culture in Friday night’s opening ceremony, which he calls “Disneyesque.” “I don’t think it’s proper for me to stand there and hold hands with government officials and be part of the misrepresentation of the well-being of our people,” Phillip says.

Canadian aboriginals eager to promote their culture at the upcoming Winter Games on their ancestral lands lamented on Wednesday that some “authentic First Nations” souvenirs were made in China, Italy or Thailand. These include native art and traditional clothes.
Tewanee Joseph, director of the Four Host First Nations, representing area aboriginals, says it is not a problem. “The design was created by authentic First Nations,” he told AFP. “The Four Host Nations created the whole aboriginal mark of the Games and we are truly authentic aboriginal people.”

There are so many more, but I didn’t want it to be too overwhelming. Maybe I’ll do a few more roundups throughout the week.

(Thanks Nancy, Sociological Images, Lisa Charleyboy, and anyone else who gave me links!)

Thanks to @lanova33 for pointing me to these pics of Jessica Alba sporting the pendleton jacket and braids in Texas last week. A couple more below:

All pics are from her twitter feed, and can be found here:
(Thanks Lanova!)
(image via The Sartorialist)
Remember back in January when I posted the Rachel Zoe report about Lindsay Thornburg’s Pendleton cloaks? Looks like they’ve invaded the NY fashion scene. I found this picture this morning on The Sartorialist, one of my favorite fashion blogs of on-the-street fashion, by photographer Scott Schuman. He tends to have his fingers on the pulse of fashion (look at me use a metaphor at 9:30 am), so we’ll see if this is a trend with staying power.
I’ll keep my eyes open for anything similar coming out of NY fashion week right now.
Lindsay Thornburg Designs:

My friend Yve found this Hermes scarf online.  Called “Pani La Shar Pawnee”, it retails for $420, and features a border of feathers and a vintage-looking Native photo. The image can be clicked for a bigger version, or the website has a zoom function as well. The scarf can be found here.

Apparently there were earlier, limited editions as well. This one had a limited run of only 200 scarves, and was based off a 1984 version:

I found a blog that gives a little background on the original design and the artist, Kermit Oliver, if you’re interested. Apparently this is one of the most complex designs Hermes has ever done, because of all the color tones in his face.

Pani La Shar background info:

(Thanks Yve!)