When Non-Native Participation in Powwows Goes Terribly Wrong

May 11, 2010 — 89 Comments

Let’s set the scene: Friday afternoon, Stanford powwow–one of the largest powwow’s on the West Coast. Three Native powwow committee members and a friend are checking in on the vendor booths, making sure things are ready to go, and they come across the group pictured above. 6 non-Native girls, decked out in warpaint, feathers, fringe, and moccassins–playing Indian at its worst. I’ll let my friend Leon tell the whole story:

While we were walking around Powwow on Friday, checkin out the vendors, we saw this pack of little white girls come running in from the street. Now, needless to say, we were shocked at the sight. We pretty much all just stopped in our tracks, and were speechless for a minute, as we looked on in sheer disbelief. After going through a few (angry) options in our heads about what to do, we figured we should have a little fun with it first (especially since there was this crew of little like six year old Native girls who were already making fun of them)…anyways, me and Lisa devised a plan to get this picture of them for you and your blog. So Lisa approached the girls and said “Excuse me girls…” (silence fell upon the land)…”could we get a picture of you for our newsletter?” “Of course!!!” the girls replied with excitement…

So girls, here’s your “newsletter” debut.
After Leon and crew took the picture, the powwow security team talked to them and brought them over to the director of the Stanford Native Center for some education on the issue, so (hopefully) they at least walked away from the experience with a new understanding of their actions. If they didn’t, here, again, is my anti-headdress manifesto.

I was telling my mom about the incident, and she said, “Honey, you can’t be too hard on them. Clearly they just didn’t know any better.” The thing is, they should have known better.

These girls are students at Palo Alto High School. Definitely one of the best high schools in the area, if not the state. It is a high school that turns out tops students who go on to top colleges, and enrolls  children of professors, stanford employees, and other well educated silicon valley execs. To top it off, the school is literally across the street from Stanford. Across the street from a school that hosts the largest student run powwow in the nation for 39 years running, that is home to nearly 300 Native students, that has one of the strongest college Native communities in California.

I would like to think that the combination of those factors would equate some level of understanding, that a high school of their caliber would incorporate some type of curriculum on Native history, or at least a basic level of cultural sensitivity. Clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

If these girls survived a talking-to by Winona (the director of the Native Center), they know what they did was wrong, and why. I feel posting their picture and story is enough of a public shaming. But as I struggle to find an analogy to another community event to analyze this incident, I’m still left scratching my head.

Why did these girls think it was ok to dress up like ridiculous “Indians” to come to a Native community event? Would these girls have dressed in blackface to go to a African American community gathering? Wear a sombrero, poncho, and drawn on mustache to a Ballet Folklorico concert? No.

But powwows, at least in areas that are not majority-Native, tend to invite non-Native spectators, encourage their participation in things like intertribal dances, and allow time and space for education about Native history and powwow traditions. I think that’s a great thing. Powwows show the vibrancy and currency of our cultures and evolving traditions; they show we are still here, that traditions are strong, that our communities exist and will continue to exist. They expose thousands of people to Native cultures that they may not ever encounter otherwise. They allow for Native artists and craftspeople to make a living selling their jewelry and art.

However, this openness and encouragement of non-Native participation creates a fine line–we want you to come, to learn, to watch, to engage; but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to mock our cultures in your attempts at participation.

I felt like that line was crossed a couple of weeks ago at the Harvard powwow, where our MC (a well respected MC throughout Indian country, great man, very focused on the educational aspects of powwow) called for a “Spectator Special”.  He invited the non-Indian spectators out to for a dance competition at the end of the afternoon, to real contest songs.

There were separate songs for men and women, and multiple rounds–semi-finals, finals, ect. The winners were chosen by the audience, and given a cash prize (like $5). As I stood on the sidelines and watched, I couldn’t help but feel extremely uncomfortable. It was like we had just given these men and women permission to mock us.

They hopped and ran around–one man even took off his socks to spin around like the fancy dancers. The thing was, it wasn’t like they were clowning, or smiling, or being silly. They were dead serious. They had looks of concentration, were sweating, breathing hard. I think I would have felt better if it was a joke–a chance for the Native dancers to take a break and poke fun at the spectators, almost like the switch dance where the men dance like women and women like men. But instead, these spectators reverted to the worst of stereotypes, jumping around like “war dances” around the fire from a spaghetti western.

I want to share the video I took on my cell phone, but beware, the quality is, well, what you would expect from a cell phone. And the sound was so bad I had to plop a Northern Cree contest song behind it so you could still get the effect. In sum, don’t judge the filmmaker, judge the content of the film.

I’m hoping you can see the young girls running around the powwow circle, and the intensity of the mom in the tank top and baseball cap. She went on to “win”.

I don’t know if I’m being oversensitive on the spectator special, but it really made me feel weird, like it somehow belittled the talent and tradition of the Native dancers. Those dancers have been dancing since they were little, know the traditions and stories behind their style of dance, and have invested time and money in their regalia. To almost imply that spectators are just as good after a few hours of watching the dancing just seems wrong.

So, in sum, powwows are an amazing opportunity for education of the non-Native community on Native traditions and cultures, and may serve as one of the only chances that these spectators have to interact with Native peoples in a modern and culturally relevant setting. However, there’s a difference between learning and appropriating. Clearly some of these spectators need to learn the difference.

Earlier: But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?–http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-hipster-headdress.html

(Thanks Leon, Lisa, Kanani, and Alejandra!)

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18371193765269724352 Victoria Kray

    Hi-I am a Mondette.com reader and saw this….
    Thanks for the article…What I get from this discussion is a theme I am consistently coming across in our National dialogue today: The demonstration that “Education” does not equate to Consciousness…..In other words, just because these Palo Alto girls come from affluent backgrounds and are at “top” schools does not mean in any way, shape, or form that cultural sensitivity or awareness of the effects of their actions is being taught to them. Plenty of affluent and highly educated folks in this country (many of whom are running the show, so to speak) haven’t got a clue as to anything outside of their little bubbles. Bravo for this!

    Victoria Kray
    http://www.VegaJewelry.com

  • Dieva

    If there’s a powwow to show up at dressed up like that, it sure as heck isnt Stanford… I am gobsmacked.

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

    Harvard has a powwow?
    Spectator Special…?!
    I’m stealing this picture for my blog :)

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

    @Luke They do! and steal away…it was leon’s. your post was awesome, btw. beautifully written. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11224015455808107569 *

    thanks for this blog. you do good work

  • http://openid.aol.com/jmnycrikt3 niko

    Hi Adrienne, thanks so much for sharing this experience and how you felt that day; Its not easy to constantly be trying to prove why others are racist and ignorant (yes, I am calling these women racist because of their lack of addressing their many privileges)- so props to you for putting yourself our there.

    Even though I am not native, the contest for non-native folks to dance really makes me nauseous. Do folks who you’ve talked to in the Native community feel comfortable with this aspect of the powwow? What you said about the time, effort, $ and history behind the dancing by the native community really resonated with me- and validated my disgust for those non-native folks feeling some sort of “divinity” or “authenticity” because of this chance to dance at the powwow.

    And this is at Victoria Kray- is it really appropriate to post your website here? Especially after were talking about appropriation of native cultures, you go ahead, without any other text, post your website featuring jewelry saying “i see the crystal vision”? really? thats lame of you.

  • Miranda in Seattle

    Thanks for posting this. It’s disturbing on so many levels.

    If they were running around on Halloween dressed like this, maybe let them off easy and give them a (publicly shaming) lecture on the inappropriate/offensive nature of dressing like this…but to go to a powwow dressed like this?!

    That’s downright rude, ignorant AND racist. It just goes to show that these actions are not seen as wrong by the dominant society we live/go to school in.

    The fact that they are so near these ‘pillars’ of higher education is scary. These young women, and the people they go to school with, will most likely become teachers of kids, the doctors in our hospitals and policy makers of our country. If they are ignorant enough to dress like this and show up to a powwow, how easy will it be to dismiss cultural factors when diagnosing health problems, educating in inclusive ways and developing policies that take into account sovereignty?

    I hope they got re-educated by the Director of the Native Center at least to why their actions were so inappropriate. But that would only cover 6 of them. What about the rest of the ignorant masses??? >sigh< so much work to be done…

  • http://openid.aol.com/jmnycrikt3 niko

    @Victoria Kray- appologies, you did write a post and I appreciated what you said. I thought you had just posted your website, which i think would be a cheap move, but you actually wrote something, so I am sorry for that. Even though I still think your work bites off a lot of native ideology and history without restitution, i still respect your comment.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know how much blame you can direct at the non-native participants in the dance, though. Yes, they probably have no clue what they’re doing or even supposed to be representing. Yes, ignorance of a culture is no excuse for misrepresenting or appropriating it. However, it looks like the MC opened it up for this kind of behavior. Something’s definitely awkward and even wrong here (you’re right to be made uncomfortable), but if you’re opening dances up to people who are obviously non-dancers, you should know what kind of show you’re gonna see.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13049101335843424025 MinuteCynic

    This is incredible (in one of those ignorance-never-ceases-to-leave-me-speechless kind of ways. Excellent work here by the way. Good reads…

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

    Here is my attempt to make this an equal opportunity blog rant- http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashkani/2530607882/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08884216574829467136 Dani

    ugh, this makes me sick! I live in the Bay Area, where people are so proud to call themselves liberal about EVERYTHING but then completely drop the ball on anything pertaining to racism. Doesn’t matter how many times images like this are shoved in my face, it’s always equally disappointing.

  • Delux

    Stephen, dear, whats your point? Lot of people of African descent are as ignorant as anyone else in the US about indigenous people.

    Thus?

  • Anonymous

    listne, I do think you’re overreacting a bit. A pow wow is a social event; it has relatively low spiritual significance, and it intended for fun. At least in Canada, a certain silliness is par for the course. Jokes are rampant; and getting the white people to dance is just part of that, and I think is all in good fun. No one credible would confuse them with the professionals; and no one secure in their heritage would be threatened by their imitations. The fact that some of the participants were honestly trying is a sort of compliment, IMO. And naturally, the stereotypical crap they took in gorwing up would come out in their dances; but isn’t the more important part that they are trying?

  • Anonymous

    I agree with this view and wanted to also comment I am a switch dancer but in our community we don’t laugh at switch dancers, we respect them. I am Two Spirit, a Native American lesbian womyn who celebrates and honors both my masculine and feminine side. In most of the Native American Nations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, inter-sexed and transgender people have held sacred roles in their communities for hundreds of years. We are namers, medicine people, we take care of children and have many other roles we fulfill, but we were taken out of the sacred circle and it won’t be healed until we are put back in. All tribes were aware of the existence of two-spirit people, and each still has a name for them. The Dinéh (Navaho) refer to them as nàdleehé one who is ‘transformed’, the Lakota (Sioux) as winkte, the Mohave as alyha, the Zuni as lhamana, the Omaha as mexoga, the Aleut and Kodiak as achnucek, the Zapotec as ira’ muxe, the Cheyenne as he man eh.

  • Anonymous

    this is so wrong! you lied and exploited young girls! This obviously was not there intention to harm anyone they seem misinformed. this is so cruel and your are giving out information about them that could be dangerous. i recommend you delete this now before you get in serious legal trouble from their families. This is morally wrong obviously these girls did not consent to this picture and you lied to them about who you were. I am sure they did not mean to be offensive, who would purposely want to offend native americans. This is sadistic and inconsiderate.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the previous comment. These girls were not meaning to harm anyone I am sure. Yes, I do see your feelings of disrespect, but what you need to understand is that these things happen, and usually it is blown way out of proportion. For example, in this instance. Also, giving out personal information about these girls that you got by being dishonest is simply irresponsible and wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the last two comments. The girls were obviously not meaning to be disrespectful and probably understand at this point that what they did WAS disrespectful. However, it is just as disrespectful to lie to them and expose them in a national blog. Clearly since the director of the native center was asked to speak with them, they have hopefully learned their lesson.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the last three comments! This is completely ridiculous. Did it ever occur to you that these girls actually did not have malicious thoughts behind those outfits? That maybe, just maybe, it was a simple mistake by very young teenage girls? It is horrible that you have posted extremely personal information about them on a very public website. Native American, African American, Asian American, whatever your heritage is, you should know better. Shame on you.

  • http://bijoujou.livejournal.com/ bijoujou

    I posted in your FB, but i’ll post again. (im an avid, non-native follower)

    While I agree that it is totally humiliating what they, and TOTALLY disrespectful of them to do this. Does it benefit you to lie to them? To go behind their backs with this? What lesson have you taught them?

    It just really makes you look bad. From watching this blog, I can tell your a strong, powerful woman. Why couldn’t you just tell them your feelings? Why couldn’t YOU educate them on why they were offending your culture? I don’t know you, youre right. But i get a feeling from you that says that this isn’t something you normally do.

    I know it’s exhausting to have to deal with all the disrespect. But, youre a woman, and these are girls. Sometimes you just have to get over it and show them whose boss, the right way!

    Anyways, I love the blog. Keep posting because if it makes you feel ANY better, you have educated me at least. And Im also understand how my (native) boyfriend feels a little more, which I didnt before. I guess it’s just different when you hear it from a fellow girl?

    Too many typos, so its bed time.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that these affluent 14 year old white girls should have been fully educated about Native American Heritage at this point in their lives….yeah, uh, right. I think people are overreacting to the kids here that clearly didn’t mean any harm – but you did by posting personal information that could bring harm to them.

  • Anonymous

    It is possible that these girls could be nervous for their safety right now, seeing as personal information is posted about them on the internet AND their are people who are angry about it. Be the bigger person in this situation even thought they were disrespectful. All they needed was a peptalk, which it is apparent that they got from Winona.

  • Josh

    You are sick Adrienne. No harm was meant, and I find it sad that this is what you spend your time doing. Get a life and try having some fun.

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Adrienne K.-

    I am horrified to view your blog to find that you have taken our picture and used it without a detailed explanation of what context the photo would appear in. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture taken out of context can be distorted and twisted in many ways. Being one of the girls in this picture, I did not originally understand our dress to be offensive. I now understand, especially as you so gracefully put it, after surviving “a talking-to by Winona”. This blog was a breach of my personal security, seeing as you graciously listed my hometown. Albeit, I do happen to live in one of the wealthiest, most educated areas of California, it’s true. My parents have worked hard to give me everything that they believe that I will need to be successful. I have worked hard. While you may see our dress at the Stanford powwow on Friday, May 7, as offensive, we did not initially see it in that light. As you have said, our “talking-to” with the dean put us in the right direction. We each proceeded to wash off all war paint, as well as remove any fringe and feathers that we could. I have never been so publicly humiliated in my life.
    You can possibly imagine my surprise at finding your blog. It is worse than the equivalent of a teenage girl sending pictures of herself nude to someone else, and having it sent out to the world. Your blog, and particularly the picture, have the power to prevent me from the accomplishments that I had hoped to achieve in the next lifetime. While I am just a teenager, I am still learning, and “walked away from the experience with a new understanding of their actions.” I am proud to say that I am a sixteenth Cherokee–being raised outside of the cultures that surround that lifestyle clearly give me a different perspective on our actions than your views.

    With all due respect, I believe that it is time to remove both the picture and the blog post from your website; otherwise I will be forced to pursue this legally.

    Sincerely, Anonymous

  • Anonymous

    Concerning one crunkbunny from wordpress.com:
    You do not have the legal right to post a picture in the media of a person without their consent. Please be aware that if you do decide to “steal away” this picture, as Adrienne K. has said, I will be forced to press charges.

    Sincerely, Anonymous

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09359496395044679090 Kathryn Latour

    I am the mother of one of these young girls. Before one judges their actions as insensitive or mocking, let me outline their thought processes. First, in their exuberance to enjoy the festivities, these young girls thought dressing up like the celebrated participants would be fun to do much as one is ENCOURAGED to do at the Swiss Festivals in Utah, the Danish Festivals in So California, or the Irish Festivals in Boston. In fact at all cultural events that I have been to except, apparently, pow-wows that is part of the events. Dressing up is, in their view, an act of support. Second, it was assumed these girls were white. All but one have Native-American heritage. It is apparently Adrienne who is ignorantly pointing the finger when all these young girls were doing was trying to celebrate the Native-American culture, which is what I thought the pow-wow was for. I am an attorney and it is ridiculous to think this blog is the proper forum to act as the judge and jury of minors especially when publicizing information about these girls might put them in harms way. At the very least, our girls are devastated that they were sanctioned with such a heavy hand (they were taunted, spit upon, and lied to let alone being lectured). They all have sweet, loving, accepting hearts. If they have been taught any lesson through all this it is that those who persecuted them are people who, in my opinion, are intolerant with a chip on their shoulders. When a student I was a member of the Stanford Native American club; I personally find it embarrassing that people are treating each other this way. This could have been an opportunity to instruct in love but it was a lose-lose for all concerned.

  • Anonymous

    i heard those girls got asked to leave it was funny

  • Anonymous

    I am horrified by this blog. It is a shame that such a smart woman as yourself (well so it seemed) chose to exploit these YOUNG girls.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11492833543705132714 Special K

    To the girls who are so ‘indignant’ about being humiliated (and their parents), this blog is quite obviously set up for a purpose (to point out and discuss appropriation of Native American culture by non-Native people) and as happens, you got caught in the net. The author was (quite fairly too) critical of your behaviour, but also pointed out that you were talked to by other elders and spokespeople.

    You seem to think you should be ‘treated more fairly’ and yet native people around the world continue to be treated unfairly by the wider community.

    Take this blog as the ‘tongue lashing’ you deserve, learn from it and grow. Of course you’re embarrassed. I would be too.

    Understand that many people are fed up with this kind of behaviour and have a right to express their dislike of it. Threatening the blog writer isn’t useful at all. Don’t you have such a thing as freedom of speech there? Or do you simply pay lip service to it?

  • Anonymous

    Oh wah wah wah.

    The “anonymous” posts here are from the girls in the photos and their parents.

    Perhaps their parents shouldn’t have let them out of the house like that.

    I hope you don’t delete this blog post.

    Either way, the links and copies of this are already out on the web. Just google white girls pow wow!

  • Anonymous

    haha…Ms. Kathryn Latour, the blog did not list any of these girls’ personal information, but you commenting with your full name and link to your FAMILY BLOG-with photos!–did. Nice twist of fate there, eh?

  • Anonymous

    The problem here is that we are talking about young minors here being exploited by this woman and as she states above she is “Covertly giggling that they are being called white bitches and she is responsible for this search term”. They are KIDS. Also, this “behavior” has been MISINTERPRETED. Read the post from the mother. It was not intentional. That is different than if it was. This is irresponsible and hurtful and this Adrienne person is just being cruel to a group of young minor girls. She has mistakenly believed that they ridiculed American Indian heritage.

  • Anonymous

    I was honestly a spectator at the event, and I do not know these girls. “we saw this pack of little white girls come running in from the street.” First of all, I did not witness them run in. I noticed they were walking around the event simply looking at jewelry then were asked to take a few pictures, and asked to speak with Winona. Get your facts straight. They were harmless.

  • Anonymous

    Well of course I agree with the last dozen comments. This whole “politically correct” drama is completely absurd. Relax – have some fun and dress up! But hey, let’s not be too hard an Adrienne because she looks like a real babe to me. Seriously though, I loved the earlier comments from “Two Spirit” a native American lesbian who engages in transgender “switch dancing”. This is my first time reading native American lesbian blog sites but I’d like to learn some more about this switch dancing thing. By the way, is it too late to bring back the Indian as Stanford’s official mascot?

  • Anonymous

    Oh, how admirable of you to lie to a group of teenage girls to get a picture of them! Please think about the message you are sending from this article– then realize you are doing something just as offensive.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, how admirable of you to lie to a group of teenage girls to get a picture of them! Think about the message you are sending by writing this blog– then realize you are doing something just as offensive.

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

    Hi Everyone,

    First of all, thank you so much for all your comments. It still amazes me that there are people interested in what I have to say, so thank you for reading and taking the time and care to comment. Some of you who read the blog often might have noticed by now that I rarely involve myself in the comment conversations–I think they stimulate great discussion, and since I try very hard to not be the “one and only expert” on all things Native, or the spokeswoman for all of Indian country, I usually let the discussions work themselves out without my intervention. For the most part, that technique has worked.

    I’m realizing that this post has caused a stir, both in the comments here, on facebook, and on racialicious. Some of my Harvard friends have felt hurt by my description of the powwow, and I feel I might not have been totally clear on my thoughts on the special. In addition, the most recent comments about “exploiting” these girls have made me feel extremely unsettled. So, I thought I would clarify my thinking a bit.

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

    To start with my description of the Harvard powwow spectator special, I in no way meant to come off like I was criticizing the Harvard Native Program (who sponsored the powwow) or the MC Dennis Tsotigh, who I mentioned is very well known and respected throughout the powwow circuit. He did a fantastic job, and, as I mentioned, was very careful to describe and educate throughout the afternoon. All I said was I felt uncomfortable. I realize by calling for the special he invited the spectators up and encouraged their behavior. I think a lot of why it made me feel uncomfortable was how it went on. for. so. long. Each group (men and women) had about 6 songs, and as the numbers of dancers got narrowed down, they got more and more serious. It wasn’t a one-off quick special, one song to laugh at the attempts of the dancers. That’s all. I feel the same way at tourist lu’aus when they call up the spectators to put on a grass skirt and dance. by calling attention to it I was attempting to work through my feelings on the event, and perhaps stimulate some discussion and see how others felt. If you read my words, I did not criticize the dancers. I questioned what we, as Native people, were doing by opening up the dance circle to them.

    And on to the charges of “exploiting” the girls. To clarify, I was not there at the time. I arrived at the powwow late friday evening. My friend was the one who sent me the picture and story (hence the block quote), he was the one who characterized them as “white”, it was his description of their interactions, and my other friend took the picture. If I had been there, I would have talked to them, but since I wasn’t, I can’t change that. And the “personal information” I posted was simply the name of their high school–information they gave willingly to my friends. I also blocked out their eyes, which I felt protected their identities further. I know no other “personal information” about them, and if anyone can track them down just from this post alone, I’d be very surprised. I see no need to fear for your “safety”–we Indians abandoned the war raids and tomahawks long ago (that was a joke. Me subverting stereotypes by using them in a humorous manner!) However, as a commentor just pointed out, Ms. Latour, you just commented using your full name and a link to your family blog–so now your daughter’s personal information is out on the internet, but by no fault of mine.

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

    I completely understand your hurt, embarrassment, and anger at my posting. But if you read my words carefully, I did not attack the girls personally. It was not my intention to publicly shame the girls. I said they should have known better due to their education and location. I in no way said they had malicious intent or that they meant harm. I was using the incident as another instance of how “not knowing any better” can still be hurtful and harmful to Native people, how “celebrating” and “honoring” can actually be just the opposite. Ms. Latour compared the powwow to events like Irish and Dutch festivals where dressing up is “encouraged”. The difference is, just like the fighting Irish is not the same as the redskins, there is not an ongoing state of continued oppression of those ethnic groups you mentioned. Native people still, today, live in a constant state of colonialism, oppression, discrimination, and outright racism. While they may feel the same, they are not. It is a matter of power and who has the right to represent whom.

    She also notes that most of these girls have Native heritage, and that is a wonderful thing. I truly encourage them to use this experience as a starting point to learn how to properly honor and represent their heritages. I have made many mistakes in my life, and have been humiliated and humbled by fellow Natives when I have overstepped the boundaries of my knowledge. Once, during a summer internship I was reduced to bawling in a bathroom stall after a Native co-worker sternly–ok she yelled at me–told me that I had no right to ask her questions about her ceremonies. And she was right. and I learned.

    I could go point by point and counter many of the other comments, but I won’t. I recognize your anger comes from a genuine place, and anyone who knows me knows that this blog came out of an absolutely genuine place as well. I created this space in order to draw attention to issues that get pushed under the rug, ignored, or called out as being “too sensitive.” I wanted an outlet for the hundreds of images I am bombarded with daily that seek to undermine my identity. I work hard in school to earn my degree that will allow me to give back to Native communities and assist Native students–and these incidents of racial microagressions, ignorance, and misunderstandings are just one part of the complicated system that I’m fighting against.

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

    And to the anonymous girl from the photo who posted, the internet has a very short memory. This post, this incident, may feel like the biggest thing in the world, but next week, no one remember. I’m not saying that to dismiss your feelings, I’m saying that to let you know that this small post, with limited readership, will not power to prevent you “from the accomplishments that [you] had hoped to achieve in the next lifetime.” Especially as you yourself note you come from an affluent and educated family background. This is just a flash in the pan in what you will undoubtedly go on to achieve because you have been given the opportunities.

    But in all of this back-and-forth with these anonymous girls and families–no one has apologized. Regardless of if how you feel I represented the incident was unfair or exploitative, you must recognize that it has caused some hurt. I’m not sorry for posting. Even if you meant no harm, what you did was hurtful, and perfectly illustrates the mission and practice of this blog.

    I am not usually one to put my foot down–and I hate that I made anyone feel humiliated or angry, I am very much about harmony–but this is one time I feel I need to stand up for what’s right.

    If legal action is brought against me and I am forced to take down the picture, so be it. But the words and the post are my intellectual property which represent my thoughts and opinions, and they’re staying.

    Wado,

    Adrienne

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

    (sorry that was way more long winded than I realized)

  • Anonymous

    Adrienne, you seem to really care about the contents of which you are writing, and it is a topic that certainly deserves more attention. However, this picture just did not need to be posted, it is that simple. You chose to humiliate these girls for the sake of making of a point, when in reality there were so many other ways to do it. They made you angry by humiliating your culture, so you stooped to their level and posted a recognizable (the eye block out doesn’t do the job, unfortunately) photo of them in their dress. You couldn’t have described what they were wearing, or fabricated the school name? I mean its all well and good if YOU think they aren’t recognizable, but imagine if people in their town get a hold of this. Names could easily come out in this ordeal, which would be a shame, considering the amount of lectures and embarrassment these girls have already gone through.

    These girls may have learned more about what to do and what not to do when interacting with Native people of America, however, judging from afar, I cannot imagine there has been much respect gained on either side, and your decision to post the picture has only distanced your effort to shrink the gap the two cultures already face.

    I can imagine this type of behavior can get old, especially from high school aged people who obviously do not understand your culture. But I urge you and your friends, instead of tricking these girls and publicly humiliating them in order to make a point, teach them about what makes your culture different than what they believe, and why it is as great as you have made it out to be in your well written blog. If this was gone about in a different way, possibly a way that preaches patience and understanding, I can guarantee that your efforts to bridge the gap between cultures would be just a little bit closer today.

  • Melissa Reisbeck

    Man, that girl is smart….

    Just checking in on your blog, nice to see your still fighting strong for your beliefs and not wasting anytime there at Harvard :)

  • Stanford Student

    The girls in this picture should be thankful that Adrienne has been so gracious as to protect their identities, not everyone would have been so meticulous (i.e. their own parents). The girls agreeing to pose for a ‘newsletter’ and not inquiring further obviously could have cared less about who saw the picture, so I can’t feel bad for them.

    In general, the girls should also be grateful that they were merely high school students and not older college-age (particularly Stanford-going) students. Had they been Stanford students, there certainly would have been more serious repercussions for their carelessness and thoughtless ignorance. Stanford takes these kinds of ‘Acts of Intolerance’ on campus, very seriously and as a current student, I would have been only one of many students who would have filed a complaint with the administrators in-charge of handling such offenses. The actions of these girls, while ‘unintentional,’ was not insignificant. Their disrespectful representations were known to most at the powwow before the end of the night, and while most mentions were in good humor, they were also, understandably, ones of frustration.

    This blog post is merely one example of the kind of disrespect Native Americans are (according to some) supposed to take because others are ignorant of, and uneducated about, the world they live in?–That line gets old, fast. This is a conversation that is important and needs to happen. It’s a learning experience, so take it at face value–learn from it, help inform others, and act accordingly in the future.

  • Anonymous

    I think the smartest thing for the girls to do would be to post here about what they learned from the incident, and how it has shaped their views on Native culture, etc. The first step in growing up is to recognize what you have learned from a mistake. It might even help them in the college admissions process on a ‘when was a time you made a mistake and learned from it?’ type question. In sum, they shouldn’t let their anger get the best of them. Sometimes it’s best to just admit: ‘Hey, I was wrong, so I can take this situation and grow as a person?’

    Keep up the good work Adrienne! I think this blog is great!

  • Anonymous

    Yet again, I’d like to remind everyone these are merely 14 year old kids that have been through many lectures and have issued many apologies. Why should they have to now issue further apologies online to this blog to the writer?

  • Anonymous

    I can’t resist responding to the people who objected to the use of this photograph or threatened that there might be legal consequences of posting it. People should understand — there is no right to privacy when you are in public! The person who took the photograph is the sole copyright owner, and can do whatever he or she wants with it, including post it on the Internet. If you are in public, then you should understand that people can take your photo. There is no exception for minors.

    (I do agree that deceiving the girls to get them to pose for the camera is a little underhanded. It would have been more honest to simply take a candid photo.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03048576220830755440 soonerscotty

    Adrienne…your rebuttal was gracious and dead on. You are doing a great service to all of Indian Country with this blog. Keep it up, stand your ground, you were absolutely right and haven’t exploited anyone.

    If anyone was exploited it was the Stanford Native community and the rest of Indian Country.

    Also…perhaps it’s time to disallow “anonymous” comments. Just a thought.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got the solution to end all of this: The Injuns need to get their drink on with their firewater and get they smoke on with the peyote and just start chillin’ on this whole deal. Peace……

  • 1/16 European Princess

    haha…”1/16 Cherokee”…if I only had a penny for every time I heard this claim to being “Native” I’d be rich enough to cover the national deficit and then some. And oh yeah, my greatx16 grandmother was “a full-blood European princess,” so that makes me 1/16 European Princess….see how my connection to my European heritage is now validated?

  • Anonymous

    I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from reading this – I’m never going to one of these powwows that are ‘open to the public’. Despite their claim of being interested in educating the uneducated, it seems that if you show up and show that you are indeed, uneducated and ignorant of native american culture, there’s a very good chance you’ll get ridiculed and tormented rather than educated. Nope, way too dangerous for me to attend something like that. So while you’re removing anonymous access to this blog, maybe you can eliminate public access to your powwows too. The rest of us will go on being uneducated (and afraid to get educated too, I guess).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16052055884378768202 redstar

    This is ridiculous. I just sat here for about ten minutes chuckling softly at the comments written here.

    Adrienne, there is absolutely no reason you should feel bad for posting an anonymous picture without names and faces to your blog. Though the girls and their parents know who they are, I don’t have any clue who these young students are. Nor do I care. They could be one of a million different teens doing the same thing. That being said, I think this is the most appropriate way to call out their choices and the random collection of “tribal” or “native” garb they have on. It looks like they walked into a Disney costume shop and grabbed the most stereotypical items possible. My favorite touch is of course the paint hands that are so decoratively adorned on their skin. Hahaha. So funny. And deeply disturbing. Ridiculous.

    If only it were that funny. It is young people like these that will grow up and think that mocking or trying to imitate Native people is ok – always in a strange and cartoony manner. And when nobody calls them out on it, of course they are going to think that it’s ok. Take it one step further and they may be leaders of a company, hospital, school, or best – the government – and when a Native steps through the door, this type of activity will lay the foundation for how they treat a fellow human being. Remember that time we dressed up like Indians?

    It’s strange… I can just feel the white guilt emanating from these responses. And the conversation that you strive to have here has been fair, well-reasoned and discursive. The difference is that you are willing to share your real feelings with your readers, while the dissident responders (and parents!? haha) are obviously feeling attacked because they didn’t know better. I can understand feeling badly, but why not take this as a learning opportunity and actually believe that this is a huge deal to Native people for complex reasons? Children learn what’s appropriate from their parents – and when no one has stepped in to question whether the black face their child dons is right or wrong and is rooted in a history of oppression where thousands upon thousands of people have died, then of course it is going to matter. They should be thanking you for taking the time to teach them in a patient manner, while NOT exposing their identities or making huge character assumptions. I’m sure on a daily basis these girls are nice enough individuals. But what they did is wrong. And the path to hell is paved with good intentions. I would question the parental style of anyone who blindly defends their children’s every action at the cost of ridiculing a huge group of people. It’s clear that these families are not used to being scrutinized and their privelege affords them safe distance from any moral lashings in their school, neighborhood or community. The safe vantage point that they view this conversation will never actually enter their home or their sphere of friends and the only face-to-face conversations they will have about this will likely never involve a Native person again (as if ONE native person represents an entire viewpoint even). Which is exactly how they would like it to be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16052055884378768202 redstar

    And to the person who posted the comment right before me. I think the very same thing applies to you. If you would never like to attend a powwow again because you were thinking about dressing up like this – then please don’t ever show your face in public again. It sounds like you never want to be wrong or learn – for true learning comes from engaging mistakes. It’s ok – sit around the same people from the same culture and income bracket and the same mindset and then make threats about shutting down on blogs at the safety of your home/office computer. Good luck. Your tactic may afford you the ability to never have to feel responsible for offending anyone ever!

    Of course, you can always just come to a powwow as the person you are (NOT dressed up in ridiculous costumery) and be treated as a regular human being who is not trying to offend anyone… then learn. But no, that would take all the fun out of the powwow! Better just stay at home.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with everything Redstar said except the part about this being the most appropriate and effective way to teach the kids a lesson. I think it will backfire and cause them to be grown and be resentful from this experience of humiliation at this level. Apparently, they were already spit upon, yelled at, punished by the Dean of the College, punished by their own parents and already have issued apologies. They are learning, they are young. They were not mocking. A valuable lesson was getting through. However, public humiliation to this degree is not the best way to treat 14 year old children. Remember your mistakes of insensitivity or worse when you were 14? Imagine having all the above punishments then having your picture for all of your peers and classmates and friends to see? How long shall it go on? How long shall the humiliation continue? How many nights shall each child cry until this blogger is satisfied that each girls has been punished enough? That’s why I say that she is not promoting peace but an anger in the children. The resentment will surely grow.

  • Anonymous

    I love how you deleted your twitter about calling them “white bitches”… way to stay classy Adrienne K!

  • Anonymous

    I’d just like to point out that it isn’t safe to assume that all “white” cultures are “not an ongoing state of continued oppression”

    If you knew anything about European history you’d know that calling some a “Dirty Mic” can cause some real hurts … the result of centuries of cultural oppression that IS still ongoing in Ireland, the UK and North America today.

    Scotland is STILL a conquered nation under English rule. The reason my white butt sits in Canada today is because MY ancestors were driven off their lands in the Scottish highlands by wealthy nobles and put on ships sailing for the New World with nought but the clothes on their backs.

    As my Italian-American friend tells me “The Italians were niggers before white man came to Africa”

    As someone who struggles to practice the spirituality of us white folk before the religions of a foreign god took over (Christianity)I get called a Satan Worshipper all the time, and have even lost jobs for it.

    I also get told I am stealing from the Natives … when in fact, I am stealing from the Celts. Try explaining to a group of angry Natives who are spitting on you and throwing rocks at you that your “war paint” is actually traditional Celtic woad.

    I am not trying to dismiss the horrors and disrespect that Native people have and do still endure .. I am merely trying to point out that assuming white folks never face prejudice, cultural oppression or racism is bullshit.

  • Anonymous

    This is ridiculous. I don’t understand why you would feel the need to inform people IN THIS WAY. I understand informing people on culture, but PLEASE be more civilized about it. Not using the example of 5 harmless girls. Even though the color of their skin is white you know nothing about them and their heritage.

  • http://laetaris.livejournal.com/ laetaris

    I see an awful lot of complaints here about how the feelings of those girls were hurt b/c they were criticized (and rightly so) for what they thought was a fun way to dress for a powwow. I’ve yet to see these people mention the damage this ignorance does to native kids– high school age and younger– who have to endure it from classmates and teachers every day.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09639042549905830113 Carol

    The above comment is right. When I was in grade school, Jr. High, and High School, I never told anyone I was Native American. When I was in High school, anyone who was Native American was asked to meet. Later, their group picture appeared in the school paper. Not more than five students showed up. And I was glad I did not go. Sad.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00424824362780099576 TheGrouch

    Jenny mentioned this particular posting… all I can say is wow. Great job on the blog. You inspire me to work on my own.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00036411770153092809 Makamae

    How’s this for personal information: I’m a Stanford student and a member of the Native American community. If you’d like a picture, without my eyes blocked out, I’d be more than happy to provide it. Here’s my email: mkahawai@stanford.edu.

    Now let’s get to it: I’m part Cherokee, even less so (blood-quantum-wise) than the girl who was photographed and who commented somewhere above, but I’ve taken the time to find out about my culture. It’s taken time for me to be able to identify with my Cherokee background because it doesn’t make up a large portion of my list of ethnicities, but it is one that I’m proud of.

    Similar to the girls in the picture, I’ll admit to having dressed up for Halloween one year like a native person/Pocahontas before I was able to identify with my native background. It was a mistake, and when my now friends in the community first saw the pictures, they berated me for it. I apologized. It was that simple. I admitted to my mistake and my ignorance, and I apologized. I know better now, and I look at that as one of the times in my life where there was something I needed to learn the hard way. Even to this day, when people see the picture, which is still posted on Facebook, I apologize. I was embarrassed and whatnot, but learning from one’s mistakes is the point of experiences like these. It shouldn’t have to be pushed under the rug and hidden away because you’re embarrassed; it should be embraced and owned.

    I was there at the Stanford Powwow when the girls walked in and they were prancing, let’s be straight. They sort of skipped, arm-in-arm, into the powwow for about 20 seconds, and then walked the rest of the way. They looked excited and happy, and I actually wondered whether how things would work out for them once they had made their way through the crowds. Like Adrienne, I’m not expert on all things native, but I personally feel that many native people are more tolerant of these sorts of incidences than non-natives give them credit for. It’s not like someone threatened them or followed them home and beat them up. In regards to the lying about the picture being for a “newsletter,” I agree with a previous commentator that the girls never asked about what context the picture would be put into, they didn’t ask about whether or not they were going to be put into a negative or positive light, and they definitely didn’t ask if whatever was written was going to be online or not (and I know this for a fact because I spoke with the people who actually took the picture). I didn’t observe the taunting or the spitting that happened to them, and I agree that it’s not a good way for natives to be represented. However, at the same time, their costumes weren’t a very appropriate way to represent themselves either, good intentions or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00036411770153092809 Makamae

    Ms. Latour, if you ever read this, I’m sorry that your daughter and her friends had to so abruptly be faced with this experience, but from having had to watch them be there and not notice their surroundings, I can’t say it wasn’t deserved. I can’t imagine that they would get to the powwow grounds, look around, and NOT realize that NO ONE else was dressed or painted as they were, even before the apparent taunting and spitting. That, in and of itself, makes it seem as if they just didn’t care that they could potentially be offending people. You also mentioned other ethic festivals and gatherings where costumes are encouraged, but I’m sure that the outfits worn to those events were more accurate and less offensive to the people of that race that were present. In this case, when looking for something to wear to a large gathering of native people, wouldn’t it have been more prudent to look up accurate representations of these native people rather than showing up with “war paint” on and in tie dye, very short “native” skirts, and fringe that looks like it came from a costume shop (and we all know that costume shops are stereotypical and FAR from being accurate)?

    Many people have commented on how they’re just young and they don’t know any better, and that’s so true. But that one truth aside, while these girls were humiliated, the truth is that they definitely offended other real life people. Just because they’re young doesn’t excuse them from finding out that they made a bad decision; if no one tells them that they’re being offensive and rude, then what’s to stop them from doing it in the future? They had to learn the hard way that their ignorance was offensive, better sooner than later.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09217602623028958765 Nathan

    There is no measure to how ridiculous this manufactured controversy is. What we have here is a self-righteous, militant extremist attacking a bunch of 14 year-olds. Real brave. It says a lot about your character that you can’t even be honest with a crew of little girls who are probably, in reality, trying to learn about a new culture rather than offend its members. Sorry they didn’t fit the bill for the thin-skinned folks who they would subsequently offend. To defend the actions of an adult who lied to children to snap a photograph (which I know for a fact has led to the discovery of their identities in their local social circles) is dangerous, irresponsible, and potentially illegal. Your actions mimick those of a pedophile, quite frankly. If any harm should come their way, you will surely and deservedly be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. You demonstrated a level of classlessness and intolerance that far outdoes the alleged bigotry of these teens. Shame on your vicious attack on children! Those who support you have a duty to look in the mirror and question when it became acceptable to lambast minors in an online public forum for petty agendas. All these girls did was hurt the feelings of some over-sensitive lunatics on the fringes of the politically correct psycho-babblers. But you, in posting this picture with the meekest of identity protection, have actually endangered their physical safety. That’s a shame.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16052055884378768202 redstar

    Snaps, Makamae.

    Nathan you are ridiculous. If this blog were so egregiously “vicious”, why aren’t more people offering dissent? Did you seriously just draw an analogy to a pedophile? Really? I am fighting really hard to suppress my laughter right now. Hahaha, you make it sound like Adrienne should just go to jail or something… you need to chill out. And that’s all I will say about your foolishness analogy. Lets just hope you never run for office… you sound like you’d be as effective and inept as Sarah Palin. Or maybe a dictator…

    Second, this is not illegal because their identities have not been revealed. I hope someone can find a lawyer that will take a case this ridiculous up, hahaha, because if this were the case (no pun intended), people would be getting sued for posting pictures of other people on their facebook walls too. Or better yet newspapers or publications and magazines! And what about People and US! So, maybe this would make it to the supreme court in a historic case of public humiliation via a little-known blog that would change the blog world! It would be epic. Haha, EXCEPT for the fact that there are no names attached to this photo and their faces are obstructed to the point where I, as a person living outside of Palo Alto, would have no clue in a million years who these girls were, nor would I ever have the ability to find out. Ever. hahaha. Unless of course one of their mothers reveals their family identity themselves… haha. But even so, who would ever want to find out who these girls are?? They could be one of a bajillion people dressing up like this! That’s the point… you fools.

    And not to suggest that you don’t have a giant readership Adrienne, but are any of the people these girls know going to read this blog or call them out…? Is the native appropriations blog their high school reading material or something? Or maybe it was announced at their school as a racist incident over the intercom? Who is ever going to publicly call them out on the streets of Palo Alto or anywhere for this blog?? and EVEN if those people knew about this blog – how many people would even deep down care to ruin your future? That’s not the point – have.you.been.listening.at.all. That’s why this blog exists – cause people don’t readily problematize this imagery. Unfortunately, you are not alone. Think of it as doing some good – your picture is HELPING Adrienne educate other people (while not pointing any hateful language or identifying you in any way) to other people like you who do not yet understand.

    It sounds like people need to grow up in more ways than one and see that there are actually more important consequences in life and bigger mistakes and issues you will have to deal with than an obscure blog post with a disguised photo of your teenage self that you will forget exists in a year. If this will be one of the most awful things that you will ever endure, give up now! Please remember that this photo wasn’t posted for the purpose to humiliate youuuu. Adrienne even took the time to write really lengthy, thoughtful and carefully worded essays explaining herself and her language to you. It is meant to educate people – that is why the girls’ anonymity is key! So please all, grow up and start threatening legal action over something actually worth the moral assertiveness your self-righteous attitude can actually aspire to (it would actually help if it were illegal).

    And I’m sorry Nathan, but the only people who sound most capable of doing something physically endangering to anyone would be you Nathan – I hope you’re not planning to seek out the only person who isn’t actually anonymous on this website, Adrienne herself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16052055884378768202 redstar

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16052055884378768202 redstar

    Something I just realized – Nathan, are you also suggesting that any Native people would EVER beat up any of these kids over something like this? If you are, that would also be really really racist of you.

    Oh yeah, if they were going to be beat up or ridiculed, they probably would have encountered that possibility at the powwow already… which they didn’t… Because the Natives there were clearly nice enough to have tolerated these costumed presence with what sounds like a healthy heap of decency. Before you talk about the consequences of physical danger that this blog post will have, I hope you did not mean to suggest that Native people are inclined to engage in violent crimes. Because the Cherokee woman who wrote this blog is so clearly violent – and I guess you never know what type of dangerous types linger around Palo Alto delivering physical harm to those who dress up in racial stereotypes. Or is your view of the world really that warped?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02320073281619089715 Kayla

    I guess I am an oversensitive lunatic on the fringes of the politically correct psycho-babblers… :)

    …to have known that when I saw these girls come in from the parking lot to powwow, and notice the looks on the faces of all the people around me (are you serious?) that we might have a situation on our hands. (?)

    I counted to ten, looked away for a minute and they disappeared. I had hoped they got the hint and left to change AND come back, take it all in good stride, a mistake learned, but apparently it didn’t go that way…

    How did they not notice this too the moment they walked in? People were saying “Are you serious?” and some were laughing, others annoyed, but I think they actually liked the attention they were getting until it was pointed out that it was negative. Yes, the hollaring from guys was negative, the looks from everyone was negative, guess we’re too damned polite.

    I didn’t see it get ugly, not to say someone didn’t spit on them, I wasn’t following them or anything to know that, though I was trying to! Before I gave up on finding them, thinking they left, I was running around in a go-cart trying to find them so that Winona could talk to them before just one or two imbalanced persons in a crowd of 10,000 to 30,000 went off on the inappropriately dressed girls.

    I thought we as students successfully avoided an ugly situation by doing that eventually. Eventually, they emerged from the crowd behind the announcer’s booth and Winona talked to them. Its too bad Winona or someone else didn’t find the girls before their picture was taken, but I am glad that embarrassment they initially didn’t feel until talked to, and a blog, was the extent to the situation.

    There are “interesting” people that come to powwow all the time, as the video shows (lol) and I think the Native Community is really good about being tolerant, but with this particular situation, the girls were actually disrespectful on a lot of levels that I am not sure this blog has touched on…
    (continued below)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02320073281619089715 Kayla

    The costumes the girls were wearing are sexualized stereotypes of Native Women, stereotypes that are not harmless. They come out of a historical context that we can’t forget. As a California Native woman, I see these sexualized costumes and think of what my grandma(s) have had to endure as targets of rape, murder, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Men who came from all over the world after the gold rush did not bring their women with them, and in the process of clearing the land of the 100+ tribes of california, did whatever the heck they wanted with our women. This is remembered in our culture some of our songs, but also in our bodies today, the abuse passed on through the generations. The rates at which Native women face the same issues today with rape and sexual abuse continues to be high. In some places, yes, murder too.

    You might think that, well, that’s nothing special. These girls don’t know that. They just think they are being sexy. Ok, well, I can see that in dominant culture, sexualized images of women are everywhere, even of teenage girls, or perhaps, especially. That doesn’t make it better though. That just says something more to the fact of how misrepresented women are everywhere in a consumer culture in which sex sells, especially to teenage boys and girls still figuring things out, in need of guidance from their parents on these issues. Our parents should do the same in regards to tolerance, and cultural sensitivity, but I guess we don’t.

    SO… the problem is that these girls didn’t leave those sexualized images of Native Women at the gate to powwow, a powwow held on Mother’s Day weekend, honoring our Native Women as we know them to be – not the sexualized images sold in costume shops, in the Pocahontas Disney movie (which I hated at the age of 8 , 9, 10, however old I was when it came out, i was so disappointed and even was sad), in advertisements everywhere. Instead, they wore them, not knowing.

    Now they know.

    I don’t agree with Adrienne’s choice to post this particular picture. (Sorry Adrienne girl, love you) but I do support Adrienne’s goals of educating people on these issues that aren’t harmless. The fact is, these could have been any girls, at any college, at a theme party/halloween, or at Coachella, or hell, Kesha is down with this too in constructing whatever the hell image she’s trying to create… how blissful it is to be ignorant of these things.

    The fact is that these are hurtful because they have contexts in which we can’t forget, even if those like these girls have forgotten them, or just didn’t learn our cultures’ shared history. Its not always pretty and sexy as people would have it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02788673853394723270 Christy

    Adrienne, as a former high school teacher, I think these girls and their families should be thanking you for teaching them so early that actions have consequences and ignorance is rarely a sufficient excuse for bad behavior.

    Too many teenagers (and people in general) believe that simply admitting a mistake should absolve them of blame and prevent them from having to face any consequences for their actions. That isn’t how the world really works, and it’s a good lesson to learn early.

    And Miss Latour, if you genuinely believe this is worse than having nude pictures of yourself distributed by a former lover, your priorities are seriously out of whack. Have your parents really taught you that being chastised publicly for bad behavior is worse than being violated personally and sexually by someone you trust?

    Suck it up, sweetie. Instead of letting this minor perceived injustice overshadow and excuse your atrocious behavior, be smarter than that. Choose to let this make you a better person. Let this be one of the top 5 influential moments in your life.

    Learn to think about the messages you send with your clothing, with your actions, with your words. You don’t have to love Adrienne, but learn to appreciate what this experience has taught you and will continue to teach you in the coming weeks if you let it, and what it will help you avoid in the future. Use this as a starting point for truly learning about your heritage and privilege. Put it all into a killer essay for your college application. And then use your knowledge and education and wealth and privilege to make something in the world better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12907513544482038106 K.

    WHAT was going through the heads of those six girls. I refuse to believe not one of them realized the ignorance of their actions. Hipster culture is plain out shallow and meaningless. I say that from an inside point of view.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18374035050405710522 John

    You seem to be seriously confused. You don’t understand the difference between culture, religion, and race (the latter of which isn’t even real). You mistake enthusiasm for mocking. And you substitute your own personal values for that of the entire world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02320073281619089715 Kayla

    @John..

    …Because there is a clear difference between culture, religion and race? DO explain! I’d love to hear how your worldview compartmentalizes such things and for what purposes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17183927758292980912 Alex

    Extra! Extra! 0.3% of Palo Alto High School students totally ignorant of Native culture!

    Doesn’t sound so exciting does it. Out of 1863 students at that school 6 showed up dressed as Disney ‘Indians’ but there’s a sample bias since you only see the idiots.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06876793751661989085 Nomi & Derek

    Yeah, what Christy said! “Let this be one of the top 5 influential moments in your life.”

    As for the spectator dance, If they are completed in one song, I feel they give the spectators a chance to truly appreciate the work that goes into dancing. But being a dancer myself and having to sit through the LLLOOONNGG 8 song “specials” I start to feel uncomfortable (and bored) myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11492833543705132714 Special K

    Dear “Anon” parent/friend of pictured girls.

    Basically get this, if the Native American people say you’re misappropriating their culture, you are. Period.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11492833543705132714 Special K

    Take a look at this if in doubt: http://www.aistm.org/cartoons8.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09953144911345296350 rayna88

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09953144911345296350 sj bluebird

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say those girls were exploited. Obviously, they wanted attention if they went to a pow wow dressed like that, and that’s exactly what they got. The blog may be harsh, but it got the point across. If I were them, I would write a formal letter of apology, and do my research before going to a cultural event next time.

  • http://holy-toasters.livejournal.com/ holy-toasters

    As the personification of white colonization (seriously, my background could not be more United Kingdom-centric), I would like to reply to all the dissenters who cried age as an excuse for why the poor little white girls didn’t know any better.
    Age beyond infanthood is never an excuse for ignorance. From age 5 I understood that people with disabilities were not to be pitied or scorned. Sure, I could have never explained to you the cause of their disability but I understood that although different than me, people with disabilities were still people and should be treated as such.
    By age 14, the age that most of the previous angry commenters seem to be suggesting these girls were, I had spent two years in middle school learning the history of genocide including Canada’s oppression and slaughter of our Native people, the struggle for black civil rights, the persecution of the Jews and much more. Yes I went to a specialty school that afforded me such education but my parents were also very forward in educating me about other cultures.
    So Mrs Latour, if these girls all have Native heritage as you claim, should someone not have educated them on their heritage so they could understand why dressing in such a culturally demeaning why might be viewed as disrespectful by people of that culture?
    We can always learn from those around us; I never considered why a Caucasian hipster wearing a keffiyeh would be disrespectful until a friend of mine from the Middle East mentioned that he could not wear his own keffiyeh for fear of being associated with uneducated people like that.
    The way these girls learned they were wrong may have been harsh but instead of threatening vague lawsuits or claiming they were “abused” they should accept this minute humiliation for what it really is – a learning experience and then move on… when people of a culture that you misappropriated are telling you you’re wrong in your actions, guess what? You always are. They are from that culture and therefore they likely know more of it than you, even with your “Native heritage” (I’d predict about 1/16th or less?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15893177426503458786 maryam

    Wow. This is just pathetic. You lied to a bunch of young girls, then posted a picture on the internet so they can be forever humiliated? This is just sick and wrong.

  • http://openid.aol.com/Shogurt Shogurt

    Only natives should be allowed to play dress up and pretend we’re living 300 years ago eh?

    Also you posted “would these girls have dressed in blackface to go to a African American community gathering?” No they would wear African tribal paint and outfits
    and you continued “Wear a sombrero, poncho, and drawn on mustache to a Ballet Folklorico concert?” Yes they probably would.

    To sum up my comment your poor spelling indicates you were very angry at the time you wrote this blog. My guess is you’re the real racist here, only looking for an excuse to vent your racism while making it seem like something else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04624813675684993708 Jon

    Hey I’m considered “white” by my appearance but I still have a small amount of Native blood in me… Am I not allowed to my heritage? Please I would like to know, am I an outsider because I have European blood mostly?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09514887887029577094 Lexira

    Oh, bloody hell. As soon as I saw that picture, my diaphragm tried to curl up and settle between my lungs. It made me ridiculously uncomfortable, both because of the level of stupidity they’re exhibiting, as well as being very embarrassing. Cringe-worthy displays like that do not exactly help relations.

    And, to everyone else, how does “not knowing any better” suddenly make it okay, and suddenly make them deserve our sympathy? If you have absolutely no knowledge of another culture (as those girls clearly didn’t), how is it EVER a good idea to try and imitate it? I certainly wouldn’t be walking around Tokyo in a kimono and obi, because I’m WHITE. Similarly, I would never walk around a powwow in something that looks vaguely like fancy shawl or jingle dress regalia because I don’t have the right. It’s that simple.

    Adrienne, thank you for writing this article. I find cultural appropriation disgusting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02788652299734713113 apacheal49

    I think we as Native American people have the right to sue these girls, their parents and the schools for the lack of respect and knowledge this whole country shares toward our people about racism. It’s high time we put our foot down to the deformation of our culture. I’m sure if the girls showed up to an African American event with black paint on their faces, they WOULD be facing legal issues of racism from that community.
    That’s what is wrong with the mascot names as well. It allows “fans” to dress up like that too and hoop and holler “like the Indians do”.
    If the people are intoxicated and a Child see’s that, it leaves a deep impression of who they think we are.
    We do not dress like that nor do we talk like the way Stephen Coulbert talked on his show.
    It’s okay to chastise our culture with those actions and everyone looks the other way. Not anymore, we have computers too AND know how to use them. The day of the wooden Indian is over. How many white people still has a lawn jockey?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00612950889549668702 Anna

    For sure, they should have known better than to dress inappropriately.

    Also for sure, you should have known better than to post a picture of minors that you know was taken under false pretenses. That is a hell of a lot different than taking pictures of drunk frat boys.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04344685160375710889 London Mabel

    I should think, a year later, the debate over whether it was right to use this photo would be over. The farther we get from the actual event, the more this photo takes on value as an educational device. It shouldn’t have so much to do with those girls and what they did or didn’t learn; we can use this photo to teach classroom students or (of course) people on the internet why it’s not appropriate to dress up this way. In a time when University students still put on fake dreadlocks and headdresses for parties, these lessons still need teaching.

    These girls should be proud that they’ll serve as a lesson and a warning to so many others! ;-)

  • Obfuscated

    I’ve had some serious giggles at the expense of the butthurt girls and their parents who’ve posted here.

    These girls ignorantly thought that a Powwow is like a ren faire, and got schooled. Someone had to teach them, and clearly it wasn’t going to be Mom or Dad.

  • Anonymous

    Good blog, going back & forth is all we do everyday on issues such as these. I appreciate what Adrienne is trying to do, put a light on what native Americans have to deal with, which is disrespect. you always hear of different races discussing their issues but never gets as much negativity as we do when we open our mouths. You hear of black,latino etc history month but when it comes to us we get no appreciation,I get mistaken as Mexican all the time rather than native American …as if we don’t scalar and sometimes that’s how I feel. Ever since high school I been trying to be a voice for my people and future generations. I work with youth. I also believe in unity and equality …with that being said just open your minds, don’t argue or judge. just accept and respect Native Americans as u do other cultures. Get educated about our ways if needed we are open to help teach you for we are a humble race. MiiGwetch(thank you)

  • Anonymous

    *As if we don’t exsist