But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

April 27, 2010 — 108 Comments
(image from http://www.facebook.com/iamhowlingwolf, which is an entire post in itself. geez.)

I’ve posted a lot about the phenomenon that is the hipster headdress (see here, here, and here), but I’ve never really broken it down as to why this trend is so annoying and effed up. A lot of this will be review and is repeated elsewhere on the site, but I thought it was high time I pulled things together into a one-stop-anti-headdress shop. Much of this can also apply to any of the “tribal trends” I feature here, and you can also consider this a follow up to my “Cultural Appropriation Bingo” post. The many sources I drew from are included at the end of this post.


So why can’t I wear it? 
  • Headdresses promote stereotyping of Native cultures.
  • The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has been created and perpetuated by Hollywood  and only bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It also places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but we still exist and are still Native.

  • Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance.
    The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance. Warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power. The other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the headdresses. I can’t read it as an act of feminism or subverting the patriarchal society, it’s an act of utter disrespect for the origins of the practice. (see my post on sweatlodges for more on the misinterpretation of the role of women). This is just as bad as running around in a pope hat and a bikini, or a Sikh turban cause it’s “cute”.  
    • It’s just like wearing blackface.
      “Playing Indian” has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstral shows or dressing up in blackface. You are pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so. Like my first point said, you’re collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you’re asserting your power over them. Which leads me to the next issue.
      • There is a history of genocide and colonialism involved that continues today.
        By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land. Taken illegally so your ancestor who came to the US could buy it and live off it, gaining valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through the generations to you. Have I benefited as well, given I was raised in a white, suburban community? yes. absolutely. but by dismissing and minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the US by donning your headdress, you are contributing to the culture of power that continues the cycle today.
        But I don’t mean it in that way, I just think it’s cute!
        • Well hopefully I’ve illuminated that there’s more at play here than just a “cute” fashion choice. Sorry for taking away your ignorance defense. 
        But I consider it honoring to Native Americans!
        • I think that this cartoon is a proper answer, but I’ll add that having a drunken girl wearing a headdress and a bikini dancing at an outdoor concert does not honor me. I remember reading somewhere that it was also “honoring the fine craftsmanship of Native Americans”. Those costume shop chicken feather headdresses aren’t honoring Native craftsmanship. And you will be very hard pressed to find a Native artist who is closely tied to their community making headdresses for sale. See the point about their sacredness and significance.
        I’m just wearing it because it’s “ironic”!
        • I’m all for irony. Finger mustaches, PBR, kanye glasses, old timey facial hair, 80′s spandex–fine, funny, a bit over-played, but ironic, I guess. Appropriating someone’s culture and cavorting around town in your skinny jeans with a feathered headdress, moccasins, and turquoise jewelry in an attempt to be ‘counterculture’? Not ironic. If you’re okay with being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism, or don’t mind perpetuating the stereotypes that we as Native people have been fighting against for just as long, by all means, go for it. But by embracing the current tribal trends you aren’t asserting yourself as an individual, you are situating yourself in a culture of power that continues to oppress Native peoples in the US. And really, if everyone is doing it, doesn’t that take away from the irony? am I missing the point on the irony? maybe. how is this even ironic? I’m starting to confuse myself. but it’s still not a defense.
        Stop getting so defensive, it’s seriously just fashion!
        • Did you read anything I just wrote? It’s not “just” fashion. There is a lot more at play here. This is a matter of power and who has the right to represent my culture. (I also enjoy asking myself questions that elicit snarky answers.) 

        What about the bigger issues in Indian Country? Poverty, suicide rates, lack of resources, disease, etc? Aren’t those more important that hipster headdresses?

        • Yes, absolutely. But, I’ll paraphrase Jess Yee in this post, and say these are very real issues and challenges in our communities, but when the only images of Natives that Americans see are incorrect, and place Natives in the historic past, it erases our current presence, and makes it impossible for the current issues to exist in the collective American consciousness. Our cultures and lives are something that only exist in movies or in the past, not today. So it’s a cycle, and in order to break that cycle, we need to question and interrogate the stereotypes and images that erase our current presence–while we simultaneously tackle the pressing issues in Indian Country. They’re closely linked, and at least this is a place to start.   
        Well then, Miss Cultural Appropriation Police, what CAN I wear?
        • If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native. There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a label that says “Indian made” or “Native made”. Talk to the artist. find out where they’re from. Be diligent. Don’t go out in a full “costume”. It’s ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don’t march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a ribbon shirt. Ask yourself: if you ran into a Native person, would you feel embarrassed or feel the need to justify yourself? As commenter Bree pointed out, it’s ok to own a shirt with kimono sleeves, but you wouldn’t go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar. Just take a minute to question your sartorial choices before you go out.       
        …and an editorial comment:  I should also note that I have absolutely nothing against hipsters. In fact, some would argue I have hipster-leaning tendencies. In my former San Francisco life, had been known to have a drink or two in the clouds of smoke outside at Zeitgeist, and enjoyed shopping on Haight street. I enjoy drinking PBR out of the can when I go to the dive bars near my apartment where I throw darts and talk about sticking it to ‘The Man’. I own several fringed hipster scarves, more than one pair of ironic fake ray-ban wayfarers, and two plaid button downs. I’m also not trying to stereotype and say that all hipsters do/wear the above, just like not every hipster thinks it’s cool to wear a headdress. So, I don’t hate hipsters, I hate ignorance and cultural appropriation. There is a difference. Just thought I should clear that up.

        This manifesto draws heavily from these awesome posts:

        Adrienne K.

        Posts

        • http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/ Mimi

          This is a wonderful series of rebuttals! Thank you, I’ll be making a note of it over at Threadbared!

          (On a less serious note, I think it’s hilarious that you had to add the “hipster disclaimer,” presumably for all those who felt that the recent slew of posts have unfairly defamed this figure. Also, I love that you mention Zeitgeist to do so!)

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11077004157036621428 Sheena Louise

          Thanks for the shout-out! I’m so glad you liked my article as I was really nervous about publishing it. It’s definitely gotten a lot of response though, so that’s all I can ask for. :)

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04901157820779687718 Adrienne K.

          @mimi I’m so glad someone appreciated the disclaimer and Zeitgeist reference. And thanks for your initial post at Threadbared!

          @Sheena sure thing! I really liked your article. I also fixed the post so the links at the bottom look better, so hopefully it’ll give you even more traffic. :)

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12215126547432402002 laura gayle

          Wonderful post. While I can’t claim my first nation roots (see the tangle around Virginia’s history with Native Americans), I want to respect and honor those forebears. Respecting them does not give me license to wear a sacred and ceremonial item.

          Keep writing!

        • Anonymous
        • Anonymous

          yea another reason to avoid coachella, drunk kids wearing war bonnets. you know you have to be a “warrior” to make it from the main stage to the water mist hut in 100 degree weather, with a colored sugary drink.

        • http://kitschchaos.com/ Mike Cooke

          Well, your points are valid. But I’m not sure they really tackle the actual problem.

          If an Indian wears a fedora, are they insulting my Anglo heritage? Are they ethically wrong?

          The answer is ‘no’. Indeed, the Indian wearing a fedora could be interpreted as having his culture attacked and diminished by the dominant ‘anglo’ culture.

          To get to the real issue, it’s this: as a child I played ‘Cowboy and Indian’, I watched ‘westerns’, read ‘western’ comics. The depiction of Indians in those media may have been prejudiced, but I was born into a culture that includes popular ideas of what Indians are.

          I understand the righteousness in education and demanding respect for your your people(s). But can you understand the appropriation has already happened and exists now as the American cultural commons artists have a right to?

          Which is not to say I want to wear a headdress myself. But I see nothing wrong with a ‘hipster’ wearing a headdress inspired by Indian headdresses but clearly not the real thing. Had Native Americans had their treaties respected and today held economic and military power to rival the United States – do you suppose you might agree?

          • Anonymous

            I call bs. I am white. I make semi-authentic headdresses. Oh and before you freak out because of the color of my flesh. I lived in new Mexico for years. And that makes it a part of my culture. Why don’t you guys quit trying to lash out on other cultures and spread your culture, teach it so that in 50 years you still have one.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05673942898483254945 misee

          Mike,

          The comparison of classic westerns of an earlier time and hipsters wearing headdresses that represent a caricature of a minority in the much more educated and culturally aware society we have now isn’t really valid.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10071915180423432468 julia aka garconniere

          thanks so much for linking my article! i’m glad to be a part of this conversation.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01478763837213733775 Rob

          As you may know, I discussed this fine posting in my blog. Mike Cooke came up with an interesting counterargument that led to another round of debate.

          Mike went into his “cultural commons” argument and I disassembled it. I’d say he doesn’t have a leg left to stand on.

          You may be interested in this debate because it’s an extension of your original position. I’d love to hear your take on our respective arguments.

          Here it is:

          Stereotypes Okay in “Cultural Commons”?

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01478763837213733775 Rob

          Headdresses: Made of revered feathers and specific to Plains Indians. Fedoras: Not made of anything revered and generic to all Westerners. The two aren’t comparable.

          A lot of hipster headdresses clearly are the real thing. Or close enough to be indistinguishable to the average layperson. For instance, Kesha’s. What do you have to say about those, Mike?

          As for phony headdresses that resemble children’s playthings, they don’t have the problem of abusing actual feathers. But they do have the related problem of mocking or trivializing an Indian practice. They create the impression that a chief is anybody who wears a colorful headpiece.

          An analogy may help. Headdress-wearing hipsters who carouse and get drunk are like mitre-wearing hipsters who pretend to abuse altar boys. Legally they could do it, but Catholics would be right to feel offended. The hipsters would be mocking or trivializing something Catholics revere.

          The point you haven’t touched is that wearing a fedora doesn’t contribute to a centuries-old pattern of harmful racial stereotyping. Wearing a headdress does. That alone makes it wrong.

          A comparable act would be hipsters dressing consistently as conquistadors until people believed all whites were greedy plunderers. Or dressing consistently as Klansmen until people believed all whites were violent racists. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. Society would rightly condemn anything like that as a false and malicious stereotype.

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh lucky

          I agree with everything you’ve said about cultural misappropriation, but if the “fringed hipster scarf” you’re referring to is actually a keffiyeh, then you’re guilty of it as well.

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        • Anonymous

          I routinely walk about in a pope hat just because it has religious/spiritual significance

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02709883498078367644 Stephen

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkxtGFsC05o
          Look out everyone! It’s gone mainstream!

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00071046132325045088 Mel Sherman

          This was a great post. I actually went through and reported that facebook page because I understand how it is just like blackface. It’s wrong and you can see that the only people who are fans are clueless hipsters who wouldn’t understand racism if it sat on their head…literally.

        • http://crunkbunny.wordpress.com/ crunkbunny

          Coachella, this year. Hipsters with headdresses. Sold inside the front gate. Everywhere, the whole weekend.

        • Dianoguy

          Well written post! I understand your objections and tend to agree with most of them.

          I’m curious, though, where we can draw the line. Most St. Patrick’s Day traditions mock the Irish (originally a shunned immigrant group). Carving pumpkins on Halloween is a direct appropriation of a practice with specific religious intentions. Popular secular culture has drastically adopted the sacred (to Christians) symbol of the cross, to tattoo it onto their bodies and string gaudy gold version around their necks just because it’s trendy. (Christians would find any rapper rapping about his b****es and h*s with a cross around his neck utterly insulting.)

          I’m won’t even get into the appropriation and “secularization” of sacred religious holidays like Easter and Christmas. And it is a very debated topic at the moment, but Muslims strongly object to any visual representation at all of the Prophet, while cartoonists and others insist that this is a silly restriction for the majority of the population to have to abide by.

          Clearly, almost anything you do or say could offend somebody. When does your right to have your culture/religion/ethnicity/history respected override my right to free speech?

        • http://ayoungethan.wordpress.com/ ayoungethan

          Dianoguy — False dichotomy. Who says we can’t defend someone’s right to use their speech in racist, disrespectful and idiotic manner even as we lecture, shame and (all else failing) ridicule them for their privileged racist idiocy? Did the original poster call for making hipster headdresses illegal?

          Privileged people acting racist don’t have to stop doing what we are doing. But they can expect to hear MY “free speech” concerning their privileged racist idiocy.

          Your final question itself is based in privileged defensiveness insisting that someone else’s free speech pointing out your racist idiocy is somehow an “infringement” upon your freedom to speak. Free speech is not expecting the people you are offending to bite their own tongues or emotionally baby you.

          Plus, the Irish are not a categorically oppressed population now (we’re talking 24/7/365), so that and other examples are WEIRD. HOWEVER, if any of my or your Irish(-American) friends starting voicing concerns and feelings that they felt others were mocking and disrespecting their culture during St. Patrick’s Day, would you listen and validate or would you dismiss and silence?

          Interesting statement, “Christians would…” …any other categories of people you’ve appointed yourself as spokesperson for?

          For the record, I share your concern about the “secular appropriation” (a euphemism for capitalist commodification) of religious days. I think it is disrespectful and classist, and that it ultimately sucks the meaning out of our cultural traditions and leaves us emptier.

          But it’s not poor people — it’s wealthy, mostly men, mostly white or otherwise privileged who are making these decisions to dismantle a less powerful culture for our personal gain.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12769391221284822817 Dane

          Need some cheese with this whine!

          P.S.>>> it’s 2010. there is no culture anymore. you should just be happy people still think of natives when they see a head-dress.

        • http://elorie.livejournal.com/ elorie

          Gosh, Dane, thanks for demonstrating why there’s a crying need for blogs like this and education on the topic in general. Get on with your special self!

        • Dianoguy

          ayoungethan –

          I understand your points. I certainly didn’t think the original poster was advocating making hipster headdresses illegal, nor am I advocating such a thing, I hope you didn’t think I was implying that…

          Certainly, if my Irish-American friends were feeling offended by something I was doing I’d happily listen and adjust my behavior to avoid offence. I’d say the same for blackface, or headdresses (after reading this article), or doodling Muhammed around my Muslim friends, or anything like that.

          Definitely don’t think of myself as a “spokesperson” for Christianity… perhaps I should have prefaced that statement with “In my experience, I have found that…” Also, as a Christian (and not a very conservative one, at that) I *am* able to tell you what offends me and the Christian friends/family I am in contact with.

          Sorry for providing “weird” examples, it was the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Thinking of a less weird example… how about corny Cinco de Mayo celebrations, with cartoon-character-shaped pinatas, cheesy sombreros and fake mustaches? I think given Arizona’s recent legislation, that certainly is trivializing a culture that is currently in danger of being discriminated against.

          What I was intending to ponder (but expressed very poorly, it seems), was… where do we draw the line? That is… it very much depends on the individual whether a given activity/words come across as a light-hearted *celebration* of a culture, or a insulting “appropriation” of the culture. How do we decide how something is going to come across?

          I think that’s a question that both sides need to be aware of… the celebrant of a culture who might be way too callous about how they’re come across, and the cultural member who might be overly sensitive to any efforts of others to engage in and celebrate their culture. (Note that I’m speaking here of culture… the situation becomes more sensitive when we’re specifically discussing sacred/religious aspects of a culture, as I understand now headdresses fall into.)

        • Dianoguy

          Incidentally, my wife is one-quarter Native American (Ojibwe and Cherokee). (Not highly relevant to the topic — just saying I’m not a total stranger to this conversation.)

        • Anonymous

          “I’m won’t even get into the appropriation and “secularization” of sacred religious holidays like Easter and Christmas.”

          Since these Christian observances themselves appropriated and attached themselves to earlier cultural celebrations, I’m not sure there’s a really solid case to be made against re-secularizing a practice originally based on folkways and beliefs.

          I come from a culture that appeared to formally adopt Christianity in the 13th century (fire and sword were convincing arguments), but which still practices some of its folk beliefs up to this time. I was raised as a European Christian, plus folkways.
          So, I could get bothered by elves being introduced into the Christmas narrative, or I could get bothered by the Christian appropriation of my ancient culture, the colonization of my ancient homeland by a series of dominant military powers, the forced assimilation and relocation of my people even during the second half of the twentieth century, the brutal suppression of my culture and the deliberate, state-organized genocide by the occupying powers.

          Argh, what is the point I set out to make? That these questions are more multi-layered than we might at first suspect. And as with an onion, every time we peel away a new layer, there’s something to make us cry.

        • Anonymous

          It’s incredibly annoying when people think that protecting one’s culture is limiting their free speech. They’re frightened that by by claiming responsibility for living in a racist culture they might change the system which gives them leverage. Clearly, carving a pumpkin does not offend anyone, and Easter makes white owned corporations hell of money while promoting the sweet side of Christian domination and imperialism, so no one is offended by that either. Cultural appropriation hurts when it doesn’t profit the culture, it’s people, and simply amuses the rich and white who have white privilege. Get it right, people. We live in a racist society. It’s not stepping on my toes to do what I can to respect others. What lifts others up is what lifts me up. Although white people don’t need to be lifted anywhere. We need to be humbled.

        • http://openid.aol.com/Empathy000 solsolsol

          For cultural appropriation to exist there has to be a specific culture in question. The terms black/white/Asian and native American are NOT cultures. There are Indian (or native american) NATIONS! living in the overarching culture of United states of America. Thus, culture is colorless, has no ethnicity, no religion, no race etc.

        • http://openid.aol.com/Empathy000 solsolsol

          Consequently, nobody OWNS any culture, so you might as well give up defending it. Persecute and do not tolerate the racist douchebags sure, but trying to zealously protect a culture from everyone else is far from realistic.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09713053717542293866 Dianna Baldwin

          http://www.keshasparty.com/us/official-photos/6100

          Just thought I’d share! She looks like an idiot…and so do other hipsters who where headdresses. It is not original, it is not ironic, it’s pathetic. I’m sorry solsolsol but I disagree. Native people own their individual cultures just like you own your individual dismissive attitude. I could steal it from you, but then it might be deemed as mockery…oh it’s funny how things happen…Great blog btw Adrienne!

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18364548152951149928 ermes

          I definitely agree that cultural misappropriation is insulting and abhorrent. That said, I am a modern Pagan living in North America with no Native ancestry whatsoever. Symbolism associated with the animals, plants and other spirits of this land are nonetheless sacred to me. Feathers, animal skins, head-dresses, masks, etc, while often associated with Native spirituality, are hardly exclusive to it. I personally find no objection to a feathered head-dress being worn to honor and connect with the aerial or sky dwelling spirits, provided it is done exclusively in a sacred context, and does not pretend to associate to other Native symbolism (such as art motifs, etc). While many Native peoples may object to it, the fact is that there is much in common (in spirit) between Native spirituality and other forms of Paganism around the world. Many of the important sacred symbols have their parallels in other places aswell, including the head-dress, corn-masks, animal pelts, jingle dresses, and so forth. Modern Pagans often (having little other choice) innovate along the same themes for similar sacred (rather than cultural) purposes. Perhaps some day we can all celebrate our differences together in the light of our remarkable similarities. With Respect!

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11047758606235774256 Aries

          awesome! have you read Andrea Smith’s “Spiritual Appropriation as Sexual Violence”?
          I think you’d like it

        • http://openid.aol.com/Empathy000 solsolsol

          Thank you ermes for confirming my point that nobody “owns” their culture – there’s too much variations and too many similarities of the human kind in various cultures around the world for anyone to claim anything. I hope that Ms. Baldwin actually got the point here as well. And again, Indian tribes/nations have no cultures, just like Irish immigrants in America have no culture. The one culture that unites us is the USA culture, and that culture is the only relevant one in this conversation.

          In other news, hipsters are still douchbaggerly posers.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09713053717542293866 Dianna Baldwin

          Sorry I still disagree. Native people are not immigrants. They still live in America. They all have individual cultures that are still preserved and practiced. You might want to do a little research on American Indian cultural practices. Headdresses are reserved as a high honor. American Indian culture is valid. I practice the culture I was brought up with and it does not resemble “USA culture” as you seem to understand. I honestly take your comments as being just as disrespectful as hipsters wearing headdresses and with all good intentions cannot continue a conversation with someone who just wants to get a rise out of others. It’s the internet phenomenon that sometimes encourages the kind of behavior that dismisses any opportunity to learn about other perspectives.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09328355522766563031 Ichael

          Just curious, I can see that me wearing a headdress would offend you, but is there any small daily act that you would consider honoring? As an average young middle-class white male I don’t really have sacred things. I despise all the hate perpetrated by Christians. I know I live white privilege every day. As a stranger, is there a simple display that WOULD make you feel honored?

        • http://msjacks.wordpress.com/ Robin

          I just wanted to say that I love this. I disagree with what some commenters say- I think people are trying to frame “being” as “owning” in order to justify cultural appropriation, which is awful. Plus it’s like, do you really NEED to offend people in order to be fashionable? Aren’t there plenty of other routes you could go? Really, people?

          I live in Boston, too- let’s be friends! XO

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09111775839230420900 Dana Deviant

          I’d have to agree with Dane, there is no culture anymore. We actively exploit it to what end I don’t know. I mean for gods-sake Prince Harry can wear a Nazi Uniform to a dress up party. It is idealist to think that YOUR culture and YOUR cultural item won’t be exploited for fashion or social comment, when all other culture is exploited to. This generation (in the west anyway) and all others to come to have freedoms, socially, economically and morally that no angry blog is going to curb or undo. Save your breath.

          Carly

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05471520275609813391 erinhazel

          How do you feel about African tribal prints and patterns that have resurfaced every couple of years in the fashion world since colonialism and slavery first began? Those textiles and accessories don’t take into account the diversity of tribes and peoples of Africa OR the oppression of them.

          But I bet I’d be hard pressed to find a handful of people in this comment forum who don’t own something African-inspired (like animal prints, “loud”/colorful patterns, jewelry, home decor, etc) — that wasn’t actually made in Africa or sold free trade.

          I find a more valid comparison between headdresses and African tribal fashion, than of headdresses and blackface. I’m curious what you think about it.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03592952785676230834 Mary

          Thank you for this.

          I was born in Hong Kong, of Chinese descent, have lived most of my life in Canada, and cultural appropriation speaks to me as well. I hated the mid-90s trend of Chinese-style gowns in Western culture. These reductive “fashions” do nothing for us – we should be standing in solidarity instead!

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07324847329302463805 Rosa

          Thank you for this wonderful post. I have a hipster sister, and as of yet have not been able to articulate why she is being offensive by wearing certain pieces of clothing.
          I am Canadian, so the issues are slightly different, but not by much. And I know that Americans can feel threatened by posts like yours, which I find silly. If a kid grows up watching and hearing racist tv programs, movies, and general statements from those around him/her, does that mean it’s ok to be racist as an adult? Absolutely not! If we don’t know that we’re doing something wrong, then it’s still not ok to do it. And when you learn that it’s offensive, then stop! Unless you’re looking for a fight… which I guess some people are…
          My policy is this: everything you do/wear/eat/watch/like, you should know the “why” of. Why do you like it? Why do you eat it? Why do you celebrate it? Why would you think that wearing feathers in the style of Native Americans is interesting and fashion-forward?
          I am Polish/Canadian, and I do not agree with cultural appropriation.
          Thanks again for saying what I couldn’t even begin to talk about.

        • http://openid.aol.com/defusee Alison

          “If the ‘fringed hipster scarf’ you’re referring to is actually a keffiyeh, then you’re guilty of it as well.”

          I was thinking the same thing when I read that.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04901157820779687718 Adrienne K.

          Since two people have mentioned the “fringed scarf”, I’ll clarify that it’s not keffiyeh. I have two of these (Note: That is not me, I google image searched). I actually talk about the keffiyeh comparison in this post. It’s definitely something I can see exploring further. Thanks for your comments!

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08183686721305419157 Kelly Hogaboom

          This is excellent! Thank you for putting the time and work into it.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16530766837837932504 gemarina

          I like this post, but I have to agree with other commenters that by this time cultural appropriation is far too rampant for it to be truly offensive anymore. It’s basically all that hipsters do, although it originated with taking working-class culture or something. (And that culture’s pretty oppressed, just not necessarily minority enough to be offended.) It was sort of inevitable that hipster appropriation would hit up other cultures too. I hope that you don’t lose any sleep over the hipster wardrobe, it’s really not worth the worry.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01073619786043008627 Metak

          I just want to thank you for this amazing post. Although you are talking about NATIVE appropriations, I think the reasoning you explain here applies to virtually any situation of appropriation of sacred objects for fashion. I hope you don’t mind that i liked our blog, Overlooking Tibet to here, because I felt that your explanation of why wearing a sacred object is inappropriate was better than anything I could write! Our post is here:
          http://overlookingtibet.blogspot.com/2010/06/lets-talk-about-feet.html

          We have so many similar situations, these shoes are the tip of a massive iceberg (One which you also brought up in your great Bay to Breakers article). Anyway, thank you for your amazing writing. I hope you don’t mind that we used you as a reference.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01073619786043008627 Metak

          duh, LINKED your blog. Clearly you don’t mind if I LIKED your blog. I can’t type. I should be banned from blogging.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01801931533900409715 old coyote ming

          This comment has been removed by the author.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12223978928303495993 E.J. Starbuck

          I agree with Dana Deviant. I think this point of view is painfully old-fashioned. The Internet has created a melting pot of Ancient, Present, Past, and Future cultures from all around the world. And at this point, everyone is fully aware of what stereotypes are and what “PC” is, and going on about them is only going to perpetuate them. Practice sacred culture, don’t preach it. Making efforts to keep sacred cultures segregated and separated in the name of respect and cultural preservation maybe honorable, but it is quite impossible and impractical. If that were the way, then the spirit of the Native American culture would be long dead, and we know that isn’t true, it’s just evolved. Everyone is connected and everyone is mixed, this is a new tribe of people. A handmade headdress (and not the dime store “cowboys and indians” plastic version) is sacred to anyone who wears it and certainly to anyone who makes it. To limit that sacred experience to Native Americans when people from every part of the planet have been using feathers as decorations on their heads all throughout history is just wrong.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01652209057710470837 Naomi

          Yeah, Native American culture would be long dead if it weren’t for helpful white people ripping it off. Ridiculous.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17137574510210428578 Amanda

          This comment has been removed by the author.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17250976614930779565 MaeDecember

          I have been reading up on not only your blog, but also a few other ones for a few weeks trying to educate myself.

          I wouldn’t be one to wear a headdress for the hell of it, but I did once dress up as an “indian” for Halloween when I was ten. I have a really hot black top that’s got a dream-catcher dangling from it, and a necklace that I have no idea what it’s called, but I bought it in Arizona and it had a picture of a native American on it.

          That’s about as far as I’ve taken it, but it was in absolute ignorance, because I never thought to …well…think more of it. I’ve been having a hard time understanding to the full extent that doing this is offensive because you could fill up a library with things I don’t know about the native culture. But my God am I trying. I’m trying to decide what to do with the necklace and dream-catcher top, in the meantime I won’t wear them until I know exactly what it means to wear them, and if I’m even allowed to, really.

          I’ve also been informing my 13-year Ke$sha/lady gaga loving sister of these things so that she doesn’t follow indie trends and offend anyone.

          This is me attempting to show you that …you changed at least two people. One in LA..one in Mexico.

          Thanks.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03646724738562074744 James

          I want to address the commenter above who claims that, as a member of the majority culture, he doesn’t have anything sacred. That’s an honest and common misconception. I believe that this kind of insecurity is what leads to the kind of misappropriation written about in the post.

          Minority cultures seem “special” to a lot of us well-meaning White folks. That “specialness” is partly an illusion created by contrast. If you’re used to a lot of the same thing and you encounter something or someone different, it will appear alien, and depending on how you feel about your home culture, a natural automatic response is anything from xenophobia to xenophilia. Both lead to bias and discrimination if they’re never developed.

          I believe that a lot of clumsy gestures in the States are a result of White folks who feel rotten about how “boring” they are and, therefore defensive. This sometimes manifests itself in misplaced loyalty to a European nation you’ve never visited. Take some time to consider your own present-day culture. I’m talking about your family, your hometown, your community. What do you love about it? What shaped you as a person? What are the rituals that help you to feel like you’re home? Those are your sacred cultural practices and artifacts. If someone found a way to corrupt them in your mind, you’d be upset. And if you let someone else know you felt upset, you’d have a right to hope they’d hear you out and find a way to accommodate when reasonable.

          It’s a blunder to wear a chicken feather headdress to a music festival, but it’s one you’ve come by honestly if you’ve been raised participating in media that trivializes the things that others hold dear. But it’s a blunder you can make right if you take the thing off and remember that that object means something to someone else. It’s mean-spirited and stubborn not to. Calling people racists never really helps anything to change or heal, but if you’re part of the power-holding majority in your home environment and you make use of the protection that affords you to maintain a single perspective, it’s hard to know what else to call you.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01028759571242077454 Anonymous

          Oh please, the world of the Hipster is an impenetrable island-universe that where these petty exercises in politics have no real place; Ours is a citadel fit only for the purity of art and if you can’t wrap your tiny mind around that, I have some Jack Kerouac that you really ought to read.

        • http://openid.aol.com/arilouskiff Arilou

          I should note that wearing sacred symbols when “dressing up” isn’t that uncommon, there are indeed clerical vestments availible for Halloween (as well as nun habits, and other kinds of ceremonial dress)

          I’d assume the most cogent comparison would be with king/queen dresses though? People might not remember it much, but royal regalia *is* sacred.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08492976083075624478 Saje

          I wouldn’t go so far as to appropriate a headdress, or a facsimile thereof, but I did recently purchase a pair of moccasin boots or SF convention costume purposes because, first of all, it fits the time period I’ll be working within (the premise being an alternate 19th century) and, second, they’re astonishingly comfortable–something I’ve known since I was a kid and grew up wearing moccasins all summer rather than sneakers or cowboy boots like most of my neighbors at the time.

          Probably not the same thing, given that, as far as I know, footwear doesn’t have a sacred aspect to it. I’d never consider wearing native headgear in the first place. I like hats.

          I do find it interesting you’re so dismissive of the Irish/Celtic experience, especially since it so closely resembles that of the native peoples in many ways. I wouldn’t be so forceful in demanding respect that you refuse to reciprocate. When one expects others to understand your perspective, it helps to show oneself willing to see things from another’s.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03046799364432808174 Idi ‘Big Daddy’ Amin

          I hope anybody who indulges in this kind of ludicrously offensive cultural larceny receives an inoperable tumour at the base of their spine.

          Adrienne, I totally agree with your outrage at your cultural heritage being exhumed and made to dance for kudos by clueless hipster fashionista douchebags. I’m a white guy, and in my mind the genocide of America’s Native population is the worst atrocity in human history.

          The thing is, as if that weren’t bad enough, there seems to be no respect for–or even memory of–what European settlers and later white Americans did to Native Americans. In almost every facet of modern American life, Native history is trampled and disrespected: from that murdering criminal prick Andrew Jackson’s presence on the $20 bill and the grinning, caricatured logo of the Washington Redskins–how is that still an acceptable team name in the 21st century? Imagine a team called the Alabama Darkies–to that 5,700-foot “fuck you” to the Lakota known as Mount Rushmore. It’s enough to make you want to puke into your soup.

          I genuinely dream of the day that a Native American president is elected. I foresee his inauguration speech going something like this:

          “Right, you lot: out.”

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18378323477750377867 Katlin

          This post is incredible. =) I am an enrolled member of the Cherokee Indian and over half in blood degree. I am currently in the practice of reverting back to my cultures traditional religious beliefs. I disagree with the people here who are claiming Native American culture is alive because of white people perpetuating it, as well as those claiming a headdress is sacred to a non-Indian and that there is no culture anymore. Try telling the thousands of Native Americans in America that they have no culture anymore. Also, if an Irish person were to claim St. Pats day is just for them I would completely step aside and allow them their practice. You can’t compare Native culture to Christmas or Halloween because no one is stepping forward and claiming these dates as exclusive to one culture. What is also offensive is hipster art that consists of people placing a headdress on a white girl and calling it art. There is even a group on facebook for this now!If you are a white person and are arguing there is no culture it is because you do not have one you have chosen to honor.

        • http://openid.aol.com/harrissbobarriss HarryBoBarry

          Amin. Not to be rude. BUt I’m kind of curious, where would you go? ANd I can’t find the comment now but I completely agree with the person who gave the “white people feel they are boring” explanation. Now on to my main question. Does this apply to blues music? is it wrong then for me as a white person to play or listen to blues music? I’m honestly curious about this since I am a musician and I’m white.

        • http://vegn.wordpress.com/ vegn

          Since you seem a bit clueless on the keffiyeh/shemagh thing:

          “The black-and-white keffiyeh is a symbol of Palestinian heritage. The red-and-white keffiyeh is worn throughout these regions as well as in Somalia, but is most strongly associated with Jordan, where it is known as shemagh mhadab. The Jordanian keffiyeh has decorative cotton or wool tassels on the sides It is believed that the bigger these tassels, the more value it has and the higher a person’s status. It has been used by Bedouins throughout the centuries and was used as a symbol of honor and tribal identification.The tasseled red and white Jordanian and Palestinian shemagh is much thicker than the red and white shemagh used in the Gulf countries (no tassels). In Yemen it is used extensively in both red-white and black-white pattern and some traditional Yemeni designs and colours.Multi colored tribal shemagh were used widely before the 1950′s. Nowadays these are mostly worn in Yemen and Oman only while in the Gulf and Levant the black/white red/white or pure white styles succeeded. The shemagh is part of an ancient Middle Eastern headgear tradition.”

        • http://ianthevedge.livejournal.com/ ianthevedge
        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05705390421378718100 BP

          I love your blog and how well written it is in terms of laying out the issues of native appropriation.

          If you don’t mind I have taken this post in particular and put it on my blog crediting you as author. You can check at http://www.abp.tumblr.com

          If you are at all uncomfortable with that and would like me to remove it or just want to contact me please do so at alinap@gmail.com

          Thanks!

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01900580211147454363 keona

          I just wanted to say that I myself being 50% Native American do not find it offensive what so ever if someone chooses to wear native American inspired fashion. In fact I fully embrace it with my website:

          nativevintage.com.

          Why can’t “hipsters” be inspired by our culture and want to wear fringe boots, turquoise, native patterned shirts, moccasins, feather jewelry, etc. if they chose to? I find no disrespect in that, I do agree if someone is doing it in a “blackface” sense, then it is wrong, however, most “hipsters” don’t have that intention at all and do not think they’re superior to native americans, they simply do it because it is a fad and they like it. most pictures tastefully (such as mine on my site of myself) simply are photoshoots that are trying to get a native american theme across. I wore a headdress because I think they’re beautiful, it is fake because I can’t afford a real one and have not earned the real eagle feathers.

          To sum it up, I think you may be exaggerating the issue a bit or using hipster fashion as a bad example of people being racist.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01900580211147454363 keona

          Also I heard the argument that it is cultural appropriation from people accusing me of it in my picture of me wearing a headdress, however, the definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. Since I am half native, that argument goes out the window.

          The second argument I heard was that only men can wear headdresses, that is not true. My culture specifically Powhatan nation has art & pictures dating back to the early 16 & 1700′s of women wearing headdresses as well as modern day examples throughout many tribes I also found (pictured on our tumblr nativevintage.tumblr.com ).

          the third and only other intelligent argument I heard is that my feathers are not authentic and not “earned”, yes I agree, however I was not given the opportunity to grow up knowing my full native American father since he abandoned my mom and I when I was 2, so the closest I can get to my culture for now are the inexpensive imitations that I still find beauty and symbolism in if worn respectfully & tastefully.

          any further rebuttals?

          sincerly, nativevintage.com / nativevintage.tumblr.com

          -Keona

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06029996059906107622 Jac

          @ Keona; With your last paragraph you exemplified one of the very points the author of this blog/article made, “you will be very hard pressed to find a Native artist who is closely tied to their community making headdresses for sale. See the point about their sacredness and significance”.
          So silly :)

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06121640967659589470 cindiasaurus

          I loved Keona’s response! Mad props.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16186494588382404710 Photo Jeni

          Jac I am with you. I find it truly offensive and honestly sad…especially to make a statement like “the closest I can get to my culture for now are the inexpensive imitations that I still find beauty and symbolism in if worn respectfully & tastefully”.
          Really? How would a kid at a show or a party ware a war bonnet tastefully and respectfully? Is “Fashion” the only way you feel connected to your culture? Do you know anything about your culture? I mean other than wanting to look “cool”? Have you even looked into the Native community where you live? Have you really tried? Why not go to a library, search out people in your community, LEARN about your tribe, ceremonies, culture, history, and then make your own regalia. They will have greater meaning than if some white lady buying cheap feathers from China slapped it together with a glue gun.

          I am Yuchi and Cherokee, and I work at a Native Youth and Family center where I live. I am often having to educate people on appropriation, history, and historical pain that is still felt by Native people everywhere. It truly saddens me when I hear cop out comments by people and wish that thinking of our history before self gratification was the norm. It seems all to easy for folks with white privilege to forget the struggles of our ancestors and elders. To say it’s ok for non-Indian people to ware sacred things, things meant for ceremony, that it is ok to make it their own feels like we really don’t exist anymore. I tried to go to both your links and it looks like they do not exist or are broken.

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14607884150565499144 Angel H.

          The racist douchebags in your comments section who are exactly the reason posts like this need to be read. Mind if I link?

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08471035806072446791 Benjamin Hancock

          A question for the gang: at what point does a garment with feathers on it begin to be a headdress?
          When it is “obviously “inspired?
          More aptly, can one make a head garment with feathers which is sufficiently artistic that it isn’t racist or offensive?
          Is new creation possible in our culture? No: all creation is appropriated from the past…?

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04445365936829423963 alex wilson

          Hi-Great site. I have to clarify something though– headdresses were not, and still are not, just worn by men in First Nations cultures. Women have always worn them, and still do today. There is of course sexism and misogyny in Aboriginal communities as well, so perhaps that is where the misunderstanding comes from. Most importantly though, women were not allowed to be Chiefs under Federal policy, until recently, so that is why there isn’t much info out there about it. Keep up the good blog.
          alex

        • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02642693321698228596 Ginny

          Ah thanks so much for this. I see this popping up in the city and it upsets me because it is very disrespectful.

          I’m Native American decent (Blackfoot tribe) and I take pride being descended from them (even if it’s a little bit). It’s just really sad and stupid to see a culture gone ‘mainstream’ for fashion purposes.

        • Sunflower

          Just wanted to let you know that I sent this article to someone at my university who had emailed an invitation to an outdoor group’s listserv that I’m a part of. The invitation was for an “island party” set to take place after a canoe trip. Participants were asked to wear “island spirit / indian” costumes. He replied with an apology for his ignorance and saying he was changing the costume theme to “just island.” :P I hope he learned something. Keep up the good work!

        • Sunflower

          Just wanted to let you know that I sent this article to someone at my university who had emailed an invitation to an outdoor group’s listserv that I’m a part of. The invitation was for an “island party” set to take place after a canoe trip. Participants were asked to wear “island spirit / indian” costumes. He replied with an apology for his ignorance and saying he was changing the costume theme to “just island.” :P I hope he learned something. Keep up the good work!

        • katansi

          Wait why are button down plaid shirts hipster? DAMMIT LEAVE MY GRUNGE CHILDHOOD ALONE. Seriously though, well written.

        • random person

          Wait why are button down plaid shirts hipster? DAMMIT LEAVE MY GRUNGE CHILDHOOD ALONE. Seriously though, well written.

        • Euheduh

          those “fringed hipster scarves” are actually keffiyehs, and that comment is actually hugely offensive.

          • http://www.facebook.com/animatekate Kate Lasher

            i really wanted one of those scarves to fit in with the mission rats until i figured that out… then i didn’t want one anymore. it’s depressing how something so politically important can lose its power when met with so much ignorance. plain, simple ignorance.

            • Alex

              How ironic that this blog is about cultural appropriation while she simultaniously does the same? Most of what this article touches on is valid (though I don’t know that wearing a turquoise ring is “appropriation” any more than wearing plaid is an appropriation of Scottish culture or kimono sleeves are an appropriation of Japanese culture) but if you’re going to talk the talk you have to walk the walk.

        • Euheduh

          those “fringed hipster scarves” are actually keffiyehs, and that comment is actually hugely offensive.

        • purejuice

          oohhhh grrrl.

        • purejuice

          oohhhh grrrl.

        • Breakinglimits2

          Is it ever okay to buy a headdress but NOT wear it? I am curious by this. Obviously, running around and wearing it as a fashion statement is disrespectful, but what if you have it in a very respectful manner and just have it because they’re beautiful? Or is that still not even okay? I feel most discussions are about wearing them and I am curious about just having it.

        • Breakinglimits2

          Is it ever okay to buy a headdress but NOT wear it? I am curious by this. Obviously, running around and wearing it as a fashion statement is disrespectful, but what if you have it in a very respectful manner and just have it because they’re beautiful? Or is that still not even okay? I feel most discussions are about wearing them and I am curious about just having it.

        • Racheledwards8191

          Unfortunately nothing Tribal is sacred anymore. Just like Tribal tattoos. Here in Australia EVERYONE has them, even though probably 50% of the people with them have no link to the original islander tribes that used them originally. I can understand why it upsets you, but I’m sorry thats just how it is. And it isn’t just your tribe. I have a friend who is Greek who has always worn the “evil eye” jewelry, and now all of a sudden “evil eyes” are hugely fashionable. Its just a phase and it’ll die out. I’m sure there are other bigger problems out there for you to fret about than a bunch of teenagers wearing headdresses.

        • Racheledwards8191

          Unfortunately nothing Tribal is sacred anymore. Just like Tribal tattoos. Here in Australia EVERYONE has them, even though probably 50% of the people with them have no link to the original islander tribes that used them originally. I can understand why it upsets you, but I’m sorry thats just how it is. And it isn’t just your tribe. I have a friend who is Greek who has always worn the “evil eye” jewelry, and now all of a sudden “evil eyes” are hugely fashionable. Its just a phase and it’ll die out. I’m sure there are other bigger problems out there for you to fret about than a bunch of teenagers wearing headdresses.

        • anonymous

          I realize this comment is coming kind of late. Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people wearing feather hair extensions, and I was wondering if you had any problem with this kind of trend. It’s not quite the same as wearing an Eagle feather or something sacred, but it’s likely that the inspiration for this trend (also in earrings and jewelry) came from Native American symbols. Is there a distinction between that kind of trend (where people take dyed rooster feathers that are sort of general and decorative) and appropriating something sacred/ wearing full headdresses that are a more clear reference to native cultures when it comes to what people should not wear? Do you think all feather-wearing is appropriation? What would you say to someone, perhaps a biologist who likes birds for example, who claimed to have no desire to “play Indian”? Do you think all feather-wearing people are appropriating Native American traditions when they wear feathers? Does it depend on the context of the rest of their ensemble and which feathers they wear? (I agree that a full headdress is pretty straight-up appropriation and it disgusts me; I’m just curious about how you feel about using feathers as decoration in general.)

        • anonymous

          I realize this comment is coming kind of late. Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people wearing feather hair extensions, and I was wondering if you had any problem with this kind of trend. It’s not quite the same as wearing an Eagle feather or something sacred, but it’s likely that the inspiration for this trend (also in earrings and jewelry) came from Native American symbols. Is there a distinction between that kind of trend (where people take dyed rooster feathers that are sort of general and decorative) and appropriating something sacred/ wearing full headdresses that are a more clear reference to native cultures when it comes to what people should not wear? Do you think all feather-wearing is appropriation? What would you say to someone, perhaps a biologist who likes birds for example, who claimed to have no desire to “play Indian”? Do you think all feather-wearing people are appropriating Native American traditions when they wear feathers? Does it depend on the context of the rest of their ensemble and which feathers they wear? (I agree that a full headdress is pretty straight-up appropriation and it disgusts me; I’m just curious about how you feel about using feathers as decoration in general.)

        • Accipiter

          I agree with about 99% of what’s here, but it’s important not to go after people who may wear something that appears to be Native American, but is for another purpose. For example, feathers in your hair. For many people (not just Native Americans), feathers have deep spiritual meaning. Wearing them in a warbonnet would be offensive, but wearing them in a general headdress would not. Native Americans were not the only cultures to wear feathers in the hair. It’s not ‘unique’ to them, so please be careful before making widespread arguments against people wearing feathers in their hair.

        • Accipiter

          I agree with about 99% of what’s here, but it’s important not to go after people who may wear something that appears to be Native American, but is for another purpose. For example, feathers in your hair. For many people (not just Native Americans), feathers have deep spiritual meaning. Wearing them in a warbonnet would be offensive, but wearing them in a general headdress would not. Native Americans were not the only cultures to wear feathers in the hair. It’s not ‘unique’ to them, so please be careful before making widespread arguments against people wearing feathers in their hair.

        • Annoyed

          I am not a hipster, nor am I Native. I don’t wear head dresses or Native regalia. In fact I am more than likely to laugh at a white dude wearing a Headdress because he/she is an idiot. I am however Irish. My culture was oppressed for centuries including after the immigration to the states. I could get upset about our symbols being appropriated into fashion trends. But I don’t. A Scotsman could get upset about plaid being worn. I’m sure some of them do (not a single Scotsman I know does). A Roman Catholic could get offended by non Christians wearing crosses and I’m sure they do but no one looks twice at these fashion trends because they have been fully amalgamated into our society. That’s just what happens. It’s how culture works.

          • Shawnm

            Though the Irish were oppressed in the United States in the past, I would point out that the Irish are not considered an oppressed population in our country anymore. Ireland still has tense relations with the United Kingdom due to war, discrimination, and continued violence, but as a part of the white culture in America, the Irish do not face the same problems modern Natives do. Further, many white Americans claim some sort of Irish descent (how many ‘kiss me i’m irish shirts’ have you ever seen?) but do not feel much of a connection to the culture and traditions of Ireland. Even those I know who are full or half Irish know little about their heritage outside of American history. Native Americans on the other hand, are more likely to be deeply connected to their history, because the oppression they felt in the past continues today in our white dominated culture, hence this article.
            While I do agree that a Roman Catholic could be offended by a non Christian wearing a cross (as a white non Christian myself, I never would wear one), it is not the same as a white person wearing a headdress because, like the Irish, Catholic oppression and discrimination is not the problem that it used to be, especially when compared to the challenges faced by Native Americans today. The same applies to a Scot being offended by a person wearing plaid, but plaid is also no longer identified primarily with the tartan the same way a headdress is identified with Native culture or even a rosary is identified with Catholicism. Hopefully this clears some stuff up.

          • Educate Yourselves

            It might be “how the culture works” in your mind, but that doesn’t make it okay. Furthermore, for people to recognize that is wrong and do it anyways to fit in to what they think the culture believes is just stupid. Second of all, I realize that the Irish suffered for what I’m sure a bandaid could cover, but instead of taking a a conversation about racism that is focused on a culture that in all of its history up until this very moment is still being persecuted, maybe the all mighty powerful whites could let someone else have the spotlight.

            I’m sure your intentions were good in writing a comeback to this article, but you’ve literally forced your “whiteness” onto an argument and a culture that has no value for that. White skin gives you power and privilege that millions of people never experience as a result of their darker skin color or other “foreign” features. it isn’t about wearing things as a representation of a culture, if Native Americans weren’t STILL being tortured and people who were attempting to dress as one understood what they were doing then it would be different.

            However we live in an age of society where no one chooses to educate themselves and they create this highly offensive blunders and thats the point. White people need to get over themselves and realize that when they don’t acknowledge their privilege they take away so much from everyone else in the world. its up to them to use their privilege to help others and to equal out the playing field.

            so please and thank you: stick this in your juicebox and really think about it.

        • Sharletrd

          Really well-said! As a non-native working with the Snoqualmie Tribe on the West Coast, I have recently been researching/making regalia for Canoe Journey and Dance Ceremonies. The importance of each piece and each symbol is very hard to communicate. But it is important enough that we spent many many hours just doing research and visiting museum archives to understand exactly how things were made. And one of the sad facts is that there are very few authentic pieces to look at. Outlowing Dance and Ceremony was one of the ways that many Tribes were suppressed. Bringing back traditions in a respectiful way is a work of dedication and spirit, not just fashion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/animatekate Kate Lasher

          i really wanted one of those scarves to fit in with the mission rats until i figured that out… then i didn’t want one anymore. it’s depressing how something so politically important can lose its power when met with so much ignorance. plain, simple ignorance.

        • Annoyed

          I am not a hipster, nor am I Native. I don’t wear head dresses or Native regalia. In fact I am more than likely to laugh at a white dude wearing a Headdress because he/she is an idiot. I am however Irish. My culture was oppressed for centuries including after the immigration to the states. I could get upset about our symbols being appropriated into fashion trends. But I don’t. A Scotsman could get upset about plaid being worn. I’m sure some of them do (not a single Scotsman I know does). A Roman Catholic could get offended by non Christians wearing crosses and I’m sure they do but no one looks twice at these fashion trends because they have been fully amalgamated into our society. That’s just what happens. It’s how culture works.

        • Sharletrd

          Really well-said! As a non-native working with the Snoqualmie Tribe on the West Coast, I have recently been researching/making regalia for Canoe Journey and Dance Ceremonies. The importance of each piece and each symbol is very hard to communicate. But it is important enough that we spent many many hours just doing research and visiting museum archives to understand exactly how things were made. And one of the sad facts is that there are very few authentic pieces to look at. Outlowing Dance and Ceremony was one of the ways that many Tribes were suppressed. Bringing back traditions in a respectiful way is a work of dedication and spirit, not just fashion.

        • Sharletrd

          sure- look to New Orleans Mardi Gras for awesome inspiration on the use of feathers & headdress in a way that isn’t a silly knock-off of a serious spiritual symbol. they do some incredible feathered costumes!

        • Sharletrd

          sure- look to New Orleans Mardi Gras for awesome inspiration on the use of feathers & headdress in a way that isn’t a silly knock-off of a serious spiritual symbol. they do some incredible feathered costumes!

        • Latelilacs

          Quit being a martyr. No one cares.

          PS: You don’t even look Native. You’re probably mostly white anyways. :)

        • Latelilacs

          Quit being a martyr. No one cares.

          PS: You don’t even look Native. You’re probably mostly white anyways. :)

        • lauraokay

          This was poorly written. The arguments lack necessary validity.
          Moreover, an article like this needs to clearly elaborate on distinctions between what is appropriate and what is not, and then explain why it is through those reasons that people should take this article seriously. Because I did not. Too many holes. Needs more research.
          If this person is studying cultural anthropology, s/he should probably go back to the basics. It is important to understand both sides, which was not adequately done.

        • lauraokay

          This was poorly written. The arguments lack necessary validity.
          Moreover, an article like this needs to clearly elaborate on distinctions between what is appropriate and what is not, and then explain why it is through those reasons that people should take this article seriously. Because I did not. Too many holes. Needs more research.
          If this person is studying cultural anthropology, s/he should probably go back to the basics. It is important to understand both sides, which was not adequately done.

        • anonymous

          Okay I knowit’s only sort of related to the article, but I strongly reject the idea that white people are “boring.” White people aren’t just one big homogenous mass. When my parents immigrated to North America in the 70s they were both harassed, bullied and physically attacked by other white kids for not being white enough. We have different traditions, speak a second language and still preserve our culture. We are not just like everyone else, and many of the white people I know have other strong cultural heritages. Not all white people came over on the Mayflower, wiped out an indigenous culture or owned slaves. I’m not saying that means it isn’t my responsibility to act in a respectful manner, or that the points brought up in this article aren’t valid. I am saying don’t lump me into your mass of ignorance and boredom and don’t invalidate my cultural ties just because yours are lost.

        • http://www.facebook.com/malcolm.stumpf Malcolm Stumpf

          So, i do agree with this. I’m just not sure where the line is. Is it offensive to let your kid be a samurai for halloween? There are still people who follow Bushido as a philosophy, and true Samurai lasted until the late 19th century. Though, letting a kid dress up as a Samurai is not letting them dress up as a ‘Japanese person’. You aren’t reducing the entirity of japanese culture to one way of life that doesn’t exist anymore (although the teachings live on, as i mentioned). Is this the line? But in this case, would it be ok to let a child dress up as a native american warrior of some sort? But i guess that a samurai is far more it’s own thing than just a ‘warrior of a specific culture’. Arguably, so are some native warrior traditions but i doubt whatever kid that wants to be this knows those traditions.
          My only worry with all this is i’m a strong believer that anyone can be their own culture (as in personal culture). Part of making culture is learning from and sometimes borrowing from other cultures. But i guess a head-dress is never really donned in an attempt to truly connect with a piece of native culture, because it’s never done in a way even remotely reaching historical or cultural accuracy. A piece of real native jewelry or native inspired clothes that aren’t costumes are more in line with the ‘make your own culture’ concept. Kinda like your kimono sleeves thing.

          So hey, really answered my own question there. But this is all very interesting. I actually still have one thing, i can’t decide if the Hollywood Voodoo thing is offensive or not. Voodoo and Voudoun are true cultures and religions that still exist in certain parts of America (and the fore-runners to these cultures still exist in parts of Africa and france). Mbut I just love that spooky Voodoo aesthetic so much. The fantasy ‘N’orleans Bayou’ is one of my favorite stock ‘spooky’ settings in cartoons and such. But in ways it does belittle true cultures. At what point is it ok to say ‘i know this isn’t really how it works, but this is fun’ and at what point is it offensive?

        • Amber_lush

          Completely understand. I am a Gumbayngirr woman (Aboriginal Australian) and consistently witness non- Indigenous people ‘cherry picking’ our culture for the juiciest bits, from adornments to spiritual beliefs and philosophies. Why is it so hard for people to accept that cultural appropriation and the subsequent innappropriate use of sacred objects is a real issue and cuts so deeply for people in cultures who have been relentlessly exploited and controlled over hundreds of years?

          The fact that many of the responses from people are so immediately on the defensive really says something to me. Why are people so angry about being told that playing dress-ups with another cultures sacred/significant garments is not ok? How do you feel when an Indigenous person speaks out about this…look at you immediate response…what is it? If it is anger, ridicule or cyncism then why? if you forfeited a feather head-dress at halloween would that affect you so deeply? Would it feel so morally perverse to say ‘ok, fine I accept that it is offensive, thanks for pointing it out, I’m sorry if I acted in ignorance…now moving right along…’

          In my country the Aboriginal population is only 2% so why would it feel so annoying and ridiculous if this minority says anything at all really? Lets face it we are never going to hold enough power in mainstream culture to enforce much at all so when we do speak out about the things that are close to our hearts why the aggression?

          What is even more interesting is that many dominant cultures have been violently enforcing the suppression of Indigenous culture for centuries. Our last official massacre was 1937, the bones of the Desert women were found on a back track scorched black far from family and homelands. In the Amazon people are still being violently hunted from resource rich land…and now its cool to paint up in ochre and endangered macaw feathers in every vogue magazine…come on people you gotta admit that there is a dichotomy here!

          I love feathers, I love ochre and ‘tribal’ adornment but I can certainly live without a feather head-dress particularly if that contributes to the honouring and in the long run, enrichment of a unique and diverse culture. thats what I’m teaching my kids anyway…

        • Amber_lush

          Is a fedora sacred? Is worn only by initiated men? If a woman wore even out of jest could she be very likely punished either by her own people or by the spiritual deities revered by that culture?

          No, I didn’t think so.

          You missed the point…its not about the actual physical article, its about the cultural significance embedded in that object…you wouldn’t dare go to a many countries and muck around with male religious/sacred head-wear, so why do you feel that it is ok in your own country, even if its ‘not the real thing’?

          So if you can acknowledge the predjudice you were born into, assuming you have an understanding about and empathy for those it marginalises, why would you perpetuate these veiws by defending appropriation?

          What people are really saying when they talk about ‘amalgamation’ or ‘integration’ of Indigenous people/culture/icons into mainstream culture is ‘this country has been/is being colonised..deal with it!’

        • don’t agree 100% with you

          so how to you feel about spell and the gypsy collective? they’re white women, hippies, whose business is native inspired jewellry & headbands and kimonos.

          http://spelldesigns.com/categories.php

        • Anonymous

          My grandmother was full Cherokee. I do not physically resemble my native blood. I have blond hair and lots of freckles. This blog has got me wondering…where do I stand? Legally I can wear an eagle feather. However, if I do I may even be labeled “hipster”…I am not trying to be confrontational here I’m just curious ;)

        • Anonymous

          I went to the Download rock festival in the Uk at the weekend where stalls were selling full (but poorly made) bonnets to festival goers. A few were buying and wearing them totally oblivious to their meanings…. Its LACK OF EDUCATION… that is the problem, here in the UK we know very little of the history and culture of the Native Americans which is totally wrong in my opinion, we have brushed our disgusting treatment of these people in our dark history under the carpet, and its time that changed and the due respect for this beautiful people is recognised and appollogies made.
          I wanted to go over to the two young girls I saw in them at the festival, and im sure if asked what they represented they would not have had a clue, to them theyre pretty feathers that Indians wear, I also wanted to tell them that it was in fact racist and disrespectful and would they be walking around in a turban if the stall was selling those too???
          I think its time we had some of the native Elders come over and talk to our youth in our schools and educate the future generations to our History let alone the history of the true American.

        • Anonymous

          It amazes me just how stupid people can be, they throw these things on without a thought as to what it means or how insulting to indigenous peoples it really is.
          The warbommet is more than just a bunch of feathers stuck together, each feather, bead etc etc means something verys spiritual to the native.
          There derss and customs should be respected/