Random Appropriation of the Day! (JCrew Storefront)

In jcrew, random appropriation, tipi by Adrienne K.6 Comments

Just a quick post for today, check out the tipi in the storefront of JCrew out here on the East Coast. We love to encourage “playing Indian“, right?

I’m still pulling together a big post on the major transgressions over at Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, but this is just a preview of what the mainstream fashion scene is doing this season. Yikes.

Baby Teepees are like, totally, in.
Hoya Hoya Cultural Appropriation! or why suburban white folks shouldn’t play Indian. 

(Thanks Tiffanie!)
  • eek

  • You would not believe how often I type in a comment and then delete it before hitting send. I should probably do that today, but I won’t.

    I follow your blog because I’m trying to understand better what it is that shapes the arguments you make and the the concerns you have, but sometimes I just can’t sympathize.

    Under what conditions can I draw or display a tipi? Surely hyper-accurate dioramas at an approved historical museum aren’t the only place for such displays. Certainly at some point bits of one culture become parts of other cultures without having been offensively annexed.

  • Hi Douglas,

    The thing that most people in Majority Society fail to understand is that when other people take pieces of our culture, they TAKE them. They can’t stop at just appreciating, they have to end up appropriating. If one person does it then another feels as if they have a right to do it to. It never stops with one person. People also fail to realize that Native Culture is not a “missionary culture” much like European culture and Christianity is. We are not out to “spread the good word” and share everything we have with everyone because it starts to lose its meaning, much like playing the game telephone.

    One might ask “Well, what AM I entitled to then?!” The answer is: Nothing. Anyone outside of the culture is not entitled to anything, actually. The tipi in this storefront window is not an accurate representation of a tipi. If it’s not an accurate representation, then what is it? It’s a mockery. You might say: “WELL, it’s just a TIPI!” But in the end, it’s about more than that. It allows people to decide what to do with my culture since I am Oglala Lakota, a plains tribe from wich the tipi comes specifically.

    When others start to misrepresent our culture in an inaccurate way it allows for others to misrepresent it as well, until the image is no longer correct and our cultural items are no longer associated with us. That is the danger. People are associating Native Culture with fashion and hipsters, and it’s not, it’s ours.

    And as for creating a tipi: What would be the point of making one if it isn’t accurate? If it’s not for a respectful purpose (most of us use tipis anymore for ceremonial reasons because we live in houses and they’re special to us) then why would you be making one in your spare time? Because it’s exotic, that’s why. Because people want to “play indian” and that’s SO harmful and hurtful as a native person. I don’t play indian, I live indian.

  • People assume that it’s enough to say “I have a great great grandmother who was some kind of Native” but it’s just not enough. Blood doesn’t entitle you to everything. Once you truly accept being Indigenous, whatever tribe you belong to, then you are responsible to your people for the rest of your life. The rest of your life. It is not enough to say that you’re Native, or to take our culture when it suits you. How often do you visit a reservation? How often do you fight for Native rights? How much do you know about the Tribes in the area in which you live? If you don’t know much, then how could it be right to steal from them?

    People are willing to use our culture for “fun” and for their own benefit, but we are real people living real lives and many of the things we face in society aren’t fun at all. People are willing to admit being Native, but they are often unwilling to go back to their own reservation to help their people (scared of belonging or not). They are willing to accept all the “cool” stuff but they dont’ realize that it comes along both with responsibility and unfortunate statistics:

    -Highest mortality rate
    -Highest poverty rate
    -Highest diabetes rate
    -Highest suicide rate
    -Highest rate of “uneducated”

    The goes on and on. And we still have to deal with seeing racism every day, because it’s still acceptable to “not understand where we’re coming from.” People might not understand where an African-American is coming from, but if they have common sense they’d never step over the line of actually committing a racist act. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Natives.

    If you want to know how to properly display a tipi or the proper ways in which you are allowed to use one, you go and find an elder in your area and ask them how. Be prepared to hear “no” and be an adult enough to realize that if you can’t have something, you can’t have something. Also be aware that this elder might have no idea about tipis because it’s not a part of their native culture.

    What this store is doing, and most other places that display things like this, is making a mockery of our culture so that when our own children look through windows it distorts their own idea of who they are, and they have it hard enough trying to find their place in the world without everyone else claiming that their culture is just a game.
    It invalidates and trivializes our humanity.

  • Whoo! Sloane, like a buddha with a enlightening bitchslap. Your comments deserve a quoted post of their own.

    I’m overstanding you.

  • Thank you Sloan for your words. This is sick and the majority culture is sick, seems to be getting sicker everyday.

    I am not a mainstream person so I hope mainstream fashion can be stopped and SOON! That would be an organization to start, one called, Cultural Appropriation Watch!