Oh Spirit Hoods. One of those fashion trends that makes me pause, cock my head, and say “really??” If you’re unfamiliar (meaning you’re not one of the 15,000+ people who “like” the brand on facebook), Spirit Hoods are furry animal hat/scarf combos that are all the rage with tweens, celebs, and hipsters alike. I’ve gotten a few tips recently about the company, particularly their use of the tag-line “join the tribe”:
At first, I was annoyed by the tag line, but found the whole concept of wearing an disembodied stuffed animal on your head so ridiculous, figured it wasn’t worth the fight. They also don’t focus solely on what I would call the stereotypical mystical, Native animals (wolves, bears, deer, buffalo, owls, etc), they have pandas, leopards, and lions as well. But then, I started exploring their site further, and I got a tip about their new “Navajo wolves” line. And boy did I change my mind.
The “Navajo Wolves” collection are the wolf hoods, lined in Pendleton-style fabric.
For each “animal” they provide a description of what the “animal spirit” represents–traits and characteristics that the wearer will somehow embody. And the accompanying description for the “Navajo Black Wolf” is just fantastic:
Mysterious » Shapeshifter » Beauty
The black Wolf spirit has unmatched ferocity, cunning, stealth, confidence, and loyalty. They howl at the moon and are great communicators with a strong appreciation of music. This animal spirit feels at home within order and chaos. Often a teacher or dancer with keen senses, these warrior spirits will also defend their ground. The Black Wolf is in touch with lunar influences and the shadow within. This healer brings the magical spirit-medicine.
Deep breath. Ready? Let’s looks at this critically. How many stereotypical “Indian” traits can we fit into a short paragraph? So apparently Navajos are described by the terms “mysterious, shapeshifter, beauty”–because we’re all like twilight and turn into wolves. Though, it’s an interesting reference to skinwalkers too (f you want to be scared s***less, have a Navajo tell you some of those stories. ::shudder::). Then we’ve got the “warrior spirit” and “brings the magical spirit-medicine”–basically every line of this description reads like a bad Indian fantasy novel. We’ve got the warrior stereotype, the connected with nature and the environment stereotype, the wise teacher stereotype, the mystical healer stereotype, the musical stereotype…on and on and on. “But,” you may be saying, “it’s about a wolf, not an Indian, you silly blogger-woman!” I think it’s fairly obvious the connection they’re trying to make with the Pendleton fabric and calling the darn thing a “NAVAJO” wolf.
So, a few brave Native Approps readers took the issue head-on over at “Kingdom of Style”. Look for the comments by “Mea.” The fascinating part comes from a comment by the Co-Founder of Spirit Hoods–this is the philosophy of the company, straight from the horse’s mouth. Another deep breath may be necessary, and try to read past all of the misspellings and grammar errors:
This is a good topic for discussion, and in fact we at SpiritHoods have taken a lot into consideration when it comes to Native American culture. In no way are we trying to demean or prostitute Native American’s, in fact their way of life has been so inspiring to us that it has forced us to evaluate our lives and everything we do within it. For instance us four owners went to a traditional native American sweat lodge out here in California together. If anything we are inspired by native culture and their respect for the land and it’s animals, but not just Native American’s, native’s all over the world.
The animal headdress is seen in many cultures, Alaskan natives, American natives, South American natives, African natives etc. The Spirit of the animal and our connection to it is seen in cultures all over the world and we believe it is innate within us. Hence the importance of Product Blue and why we give back to non-profits that help in the rehabilitation of these animals.
Native American’s see this duality and the importance of our co-existence and protecting it. If anything we are trying to help perpetuate that.
We try our very best to respect all people and cultures in everything we do, we are inspired by their designs, their philosophies and what we want to do with SpiritHoods is embrace self expression with a foundation of giving back.
If your interested in more about this topic here is a good read:
and check out out http://www.spirithoods.com/problue/ to learn more about how we support the animals
CO-Founder/Director of Design&PRSpiritHoods www.spirithoods.com/problue
Wow, thank you, Alexander for telling all of us what exactly Native Americans (all of the millions of us) think! and thank you for realizing that there is only one “Native American culture” and that we are all exactly the same! and thank you for finding our way of life (since we only have one!) “inspiring”–since marginalization, colonization, and ongoing poverty are awesome, right? and thank you for going to a “traditional Native American sweat lodge” so you now have the first-hand experience and knowledge to speak for all of us! and finally, thank you for considering the animals first. I’m glad to know your “foundation of giving back” doesn’t extend to the people that your product is so clearly “inspired by”–that would be silly!
Dripping sarcasm aside, I love the irony of him linking the SocImages post that’s a summary of my blog. Talk about missing the point.
Honestly though, it’s a hard line, because clearly Alexander and Spirit Hoods don’t think they’re being offensive. They truly believe that going to a “traditional Native American sweat lodge” is enough to force them “to evaluate our lives and everything we do within it,” they truly think they are showing respect to Native peoples and cultures.
So how do we go about addressing something as deep as this? That’s a struggle I have with many of these examples–if the owners read this, they are going to get defensive and dismissive, and not actually think deeply about what effects their actions are having on the collective American consciousness about Native peoples. Especially when their products are making them hella cash (each retails for $150) and are all the rage–what motivation do they have to change? So if we can’t change the company, let’s change from the ground up: Don’t buy from Spirit Hoods, because they promote the stereotyping of Native peoples, the appropriation of our tribal names and traditions, encourage the problematic practice of “playing Indian”, and the company philosophy is based off of a harmful romanticized vision of Native cultures.