Random Appropriation of the Day! (Indian Smurfs)

In random appropriation, smurfs by Adrienne K.3 Comments

Virtue B. sent over these smurf figurines from her recent trip to New York. They were posed to look like they were acting out a scene from a movie with cowboys and Indians.

This guy’s wearing a buffalo headdress and leggings/loin cloth combo

While this guy’s got an angry expression, some war paint, and a feathered spear. (see the smurf with the boom mike and headphones in the back?)

Note the mid-war whoop pose on that center one.

The thing about these little figurines is, I have one. My friend Scott has them in his office (he’s Native). The associate director of the Native program at my school has some. I can only speak for myself, but I bought the one I have (he’s in a canoe) because I thought it was hilarious and should be so offensive, but, it’s a smurf, so you can’t help but smile. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the ridiculousness, because I find it tiring to be angry all the time. By buying the figurine I realize I play into the stereotyping and mis-appropriation, but at the same time having it in my room as something ironic and silly makes me feel I have more power over it. It’s a give and take. :)

(Thanks Virtue!)
  • i have a full collection of these little bastards.

    i started a project back in 2008 using them. the project is much different than it was back then, but, here was the early inception of that project.


  • Hahaha…it makes my day every time I get mentioned on your blog!

    My NDN Smurfs are very happy in my office =]

  • These are so funny and cute. I agree, sometimes it’s just better to allay the anger and remind oneself that these small objects don’t maintain the power to define who we are as Native people.

    I do have several thoughts on these smurfs. More out of curiosity than that old feeling of clear racial transgression that hits me in the gut when I see something like a cartoon of an Indian scalping somebody. I wonder if the reason we are so easily able to look past them is because they are lacking a dimension of racial stereotyping that say, a cigar store Indian might have. While the smurfs are wearing all the accoutrements of the typical plains Indian get up, the bodies of these smurfs are clearly out of step with the stoic or dispassionate facial expressions that other figurines, charicatures or images of Native people you would typically see in paintings or statues. In a way, they are much more animated and alive than those images – I always think that somehow the paintings or statues of native people are meant to look dead. These kind of fly in the face of that. But I could be going crazy. haha.

    Also, dare I call a reference to James Cameron’s AVATAR? These smurfs are strikingly similar to the Navi in the movie – and yet pose their own dissimilarities to the humanoid alien race. Regardless, I think there are some interesting connections to draw from these smurfs and the characters in that movie. I think these occupy a similar space in relation to society’s level (and perhaps our own) level of comfort in relation to the stereotypes portrayed. Is it possible that these smurfs – at first glance – present a “racial void”? Because they are blue and are very clearly non-human, the immediate reaction is that perhaps there is no racial commentary – the cultural stereotype they present is not compounded by being as racially charged as the classic red man figurine. If you were to place the INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD figurine next to these, which would you emotionally find more problematic? I don’t know, but I think my gut reaction is that these are more harmless because the racial element is somehow less acute. I don’t know if that’s right or not.

    But back to the AVATAR reference – is this how James Cameron was able to make a “tribal epic” while being able to slyly skirt past the issue of race in a way that DANCES WITH WOLVES or LAST OF THE MOHICANS was not able to do? Were the designers of these figurines thinking along similar lines as James Cameron when they were making them?