The Privilege of the Yay Life Tribe

In cultural appropriation, music festivals, spirit hoods, white privilege, yay life tribe by Adrienne K.101 Comments

 (screenshot from the Yay Life documentary trailer…not exploiting Native cultures at all, right?)

Someone posted a link to the “Yay Life Tribe” on the Native Appropriations Facebook page a couple of days ago. The “Yay Life Tribe” is the brainchild of a 20-something named Tucker, who got a spirit hood, it changed his life, and then he quit his job to devote all his time to spreading the message of loving life and positivity. The way he plans to do this is through selling Spirit Hoods, having a blog, twitter, and facebook page, and traveling around to music festivals this year where he will spread the gospel (and make a documentary while he’s at it).

I spent a fair amount of time that night looking at the facebook page, clicking through fan photos, and watched the trailer to the documentary. When I was done, I shrugged, and thought “I’m all for positivity and loving life. If this is how they want to do it, whatever.” I was perturbed at the use of the “tribe” idea–but I’m clearly not going to claim that American Indians are the only people who can use the word. There was also something else that really bothered me about the whole thing, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a comment on my Spirit Hood takedown from the founder of the “Yay Life Tribe” himself, Tucker Gumber:

You guys are amazing. You are taking a product that actually adds happiness to the world and make it come off as some jab at native americans. Spirithoods have changed my life and inspired me to start a movement to get the world to realize that being happy is a decision (one that it seems like many of you on here need to make). Just google Yay Life Tribe to find our Trailer to the documentary we are making. You should also get used to seeing Spirithoods…. this is only the beginning.

I would be honored if you would join our tribe.

Tucker, Chief Of The Yay Life Tribe

I really had to take a step back here, and read the message twice. It’s rare these days, when I get constant emails of horrible outright appropriations and stereotypes, that I get a burn of outright rage in my chest. For some reason, this did it.

The bottom line is, The Yay Life Tribe, and Tucker’s message, reek of privilege and self-promotion.

Unfortunately, I can’t conquer the complexities of power and privilege in this post. What I can do is offer my interpretation of his words, and point out how it makes me feel.

Tucker, perhaps for the first time in his life, has felt the pinch of privilege. All of a sudden, someone tried to burst his bubble–taking something that he is intensely proud of and protective over, and told him that it exploits an entire group of people, and continues to contribute to the oppression and marginalization of Indigenous peoples. That’s a lot to handle. So he reacts. He reacts by blaming me for being overly sensitive (a classic tenet of colorblind racism), that I’m “making it come off as some jab at Native Americans.” He tells us that we need to “realize that being happy is a decision,” and then, in closing, to “get used to seeing Spirit Hoods.” He was happy in his land of protected privilege–a land where he had the ability to quit his job, cash out his 401K, and spend the summer traveling to music festivals where he will hang out with others who have the ability to shell out hundreds of dollars for a ticket, and propose that we all love each other, and that somehow will change the world. Who am I to come along and burst his happy bubble? How dare I.

First of all, honey, I didn’t “make it come off as a jab at Native Americans”. The darn thing is called a “Navajo Black Wolf” hood, and the founder of your beloved Spirit Hoods confirmed that he is “influenced” by Indian “culture.” I didn’t make that up. I’m really glad that a disembodied animal head changed your life. But for someone who is all about happiness, your message really hurt me. You dismissed my opinion, didn’t listen to what I had to say, and basically wrote me off as a party pooper trying to ruin your dream. The tone of saccharine laced with malice is what gets me the most. A “get used to it” threat in closing does not paint you as a peace-loving happy freak.

And then, THEN, you have the audacity to list yourself as the “chief” of your “tribe”. I’m sorry. Chiefs of our communities are respected, honored, revered figures–leaders who serve the people, not 25 year olds who run around with stuffed animals on their heads.

The thing is, I honestly don’t give a flying eff about your campaign to change the world one drunk music festival goer at a time. But there is absolutely no reason to bring Native cultures into this. Celebrate loving life, talk about how awesome you are for giving away your iphone, promote the hell out of your documentary, paint yourself as a martyr for the cause, gain some of the fame you clearly desire in the process, but why do you have to call yourself a “tribe”? Why do you have to paint yourself up and wear a breastplate? Just wear the animal on your head. Leave it at that. There is nothing that inherently screams cultural appropriation about “Spirit Hoods”–the cultural appropriative and exploitative aspects have all been added on after the fact–and that’s what bothers me.

So no, I won’t be a member of your “tribe.” Sorry. #yaylife?


  1. greeniezona

    THIS ADDS HAPPINESS TO THE WORLD!! Which TOTALLY cancels out your unhappiness! So Shut Up Already!!!!!1!!!eleventy!!!!

  2. Amber

    I like to think of him as a hipster who jumped on the Urban Outfitter bandwagon a little late.

  3. Derek

    Hey Adrienne,
    This is Zimmerman- I’m Tucker’s partner at the Yay Life Tribe- I’m the winged Panda you have featured in the image at the top of your post here.

    There are a lot of feelings that are stirred in me by this post but I think first and foremost the most important one to express at this moment is a feeling genuine mutual respect. We’re not out to offend anybody and we certainly have no interest in exploiting any culture or beliefs for personal or financial gain. So let me expression our deepest regret that our expression have offended you.

    Issues of racial inequality and cultural exploitation can be really sensitive subjects for people and to wit one can never really know who one is talking to or what experiences that person carries with them that have lead them to feel a certain way.

    I used teach a course and run discussion groups on Race Relations at Penn State University so I have quite a bit of familiarity with exploited cultures. But more importantly, I felt compelled to respond because American Indian culture is something that is of a very deep personal importance to me.

    I’ve spent quite a bit of my life working with American Indian tribes- most notably on the Leech Lake, White Earth, and Red Lake reservations in Minnesota, and also worked the Houma Indians in Houma, LA.

    The comlete desolation and abuse of the American Indian culture is not lost on me- I’ve seen the poverty, I’ve met the sick, I’ve talked with activists like Dennis Banks (of the American Indian Movement) and Winona Laduke, I’ve worked to expose toxic waste dumping on Indian lands and I’ve witnessed first hand the wretched racism that is thoroughly abundant in this country.

    For a time, I lived on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota- my Ojibwe name is Doonoo-Gaabawi (it means Standing Bull)- and I have come to understandings and beliefs about the world that have forever altered my life. The amount of revere I have for the first nations is insurmountable so when I wear a spirithood or tribal attire it is with the deepest admiration and respect.

  4. Derek

    But there is much debate to be had, even among first nations, as to what is or is not “acceptable” or “okay” in this respect. And while I highly respect your opinion I must whole heartedly disagree.

    A pipe carried that I became involved with in Minnesota told me a story once of meeting of nations where leaders from tribes across the country met to discuss the future. There was much yelling and decrying and hatred- “you did this to my people” and “you did that to our people” and at some point this man got up to speak and asked one simple question:

    “Where is the love that brought our people together?”

    You see, he realized that all that negativity, the accusations, the hatred and the anger were only serving to push people away rather then bring them together. This moment struck me and continues to drive my actions as a person. It is easy to get caught up in your emotions- the world can be a very difficult and unsympathetic place. Believe me, the life I’ve lived has hardly been one of privilege- I know too well the weight of the shame of defeat that the world and society can put on you.

    And it is PRECISELY for this reason that we are doing what we are doing- this world needs love. Period. And that is our sole goal- to love and to express love to anyone and everyone. Agree with us or not, that is our message and this is exactly what Tucker was trying to express in his note to you.

    You may disagree with our use of the word “tribe” but I think you’d be hard pressed to defend any argument claiming ownership of such a concept as a tribe. A tribe is a naturally occurring conglomeration of like minded people and to consider one’s self a “chief” is merely acknowledging a leadership position within that conglomeration.

    I would have to point out here that these are ENGLISH words, not native words. As a Cherokee I’m sure you’re very well aware of this distinction as many prefer to refer to themselves as Tsalagi rather then Cherokee since Cherokee was an English name bestowed upon them. For that matter, the words “tribe” and “chief” are also not native words- the very concept of titles are not exactly terms of endearment. But all of this is simply a semantic issue and I would ask you to look beyond the surface reaction that bothers you and take heart the words the I am giving you here.

    We mean you no harm or disrespect and we would love to continue this discussion because I think it is one that is VERY important for today’s society.

    So if it’s okay, I’d like to continue this dialogue- perhaps through a facebook forum and maybe with some additional blog posts. I really respect all that you’re doing here- this is a voice that needs to be heard. I think ours is one that needs to be heard as well. And think we may find that you and I have a lot in common.


  5. sincerelybrooke

    wow, between zimmerman and adrienne – this sounds like an interesting and unique opportunity to have a dynamic and important conversation. please keep us devoted readers in the loop if any forum or the like is put together. sincerely, brooke

  6. Sarah C-L

    Adrienne – great post.

    Derek – good for you for stepping forward to enter the discussion with an open mind. I think a lot of people can agree that love is a good thing and that positivity needs to be focused on in this crazy world, but part of being a non-Native person who cares about Native issues is the need to understand your own privilege as a White (presumably male) person in this society. As a non-Native, you will never experience how it FEELS to be native in terms of directly experiencing discrimination and being part of a community that has been subjected to purposeful policies that have created the poverty that you speak of.

    Whether you like it or not, you and Tucker are in positions of power – even if you decide to turn on, tune in and drop out. Due to the differences in your realities, it is difficult for you not to come off as condescending when you suggest that Adrienne should just chill out. If she feels offended and angry, she has every right and the reason her blog is so popular is that a lot of people find her reactions to be based on a deep understanding of power, history, economics and notions of privilege.

    Not everyone is going to buy into your message, even though you have good intentions. At the end of the day, after you get your honorary name and learn from the Native leaders, you get to go home, rather than live on the rez or ever get discriminated against for being an “Indian”.

    Why not just participate in something totally NEW of your own making, rather than using imagery and terminology from people that your country continues to oppress in various ways? (I am speaking of the use of “chief” and “Navaho” rather than your use of “tribe”, which I agree is a broader concept.)

    Just my two cents and something to think about. Some additional sensitivity might be in order – but it’s always preferable to participate in a discussion than stew in silence.

  7. greeniezona

    Derek — as a fellow white person, I just want to ask: Did you just come over here and make a tone argument? Because I read your whole long discussion a few times, and how it broke down to me was this:

    1) But we didn’t mean to offend anyone!

    2) A whole lot of establishment of your “Indian cred.”

    3) But you shouldn’t be angry, you should be happy! Where is the love?

    You say your company’s mission is “to express love to anyone and everyone.” But in practice it seems like your mission is to express love to those who are already on board and of like mind. Tucker’s response to the first post was dismissive and threatening. Your response seems to me to be along the lines of “I am more native than you and you are wrong about how you feel.” Both responses are cliche positions of privilege.

    Okay, sorry. You know what it’s like to not have $5 to chip in when someone asks you to pay their way on a coast-to-coast roadtrip. I guess that means you aren’t privileged.

    But seriously. None of these things address the fact that you are clearly trading on native culture by naming one of your products Navaho, even though there is no affiliation with any Navaho tribe or people as far as I can tell. Selling such a product for $150 to musical festival hoppers… and you can’t even acknowledge that some people might find this offensive?

  8. Shayan

    It’s pretty typical of exploiters to try to out-talk their mistakes and come off as nice. I guess when it comes to every would-be Dances With Wolves type with a “_____ name” I’ve stopped caring about being fake nice in return when the bottom line is they’re making a profit off of a marginalized culture’s identity (or their distorted representation of it).

    Derek, my “Lakota name” is Heshma. It means fuzzball, since I am hairy. I got it from my future padre in law. I met my future wife (inshAllah) while working on the Pine Ridge rez for 5 months, so clearly, in that short 5 months, I got a complete understanding of both Native culture (as if it were homogenous) and growing up the most destitute demographic in America. Also, it obviously gave me the right to do whatever I want with other cultures for a profit.

    And Derek, I doubt you’d tell Jews to feel love towards the Nazis (and if you would, wow…) so why tell people whose cultures lost millions to white genocide and diseases that they should calm down and love the perpetrators, who continue to make profits off of idiot products marketed with perverse distortions of their culture? If you think indiscriminately whoring Native culture out to hipsters is emulation and not appropriation, that’s on you.

    Also, to abuse the War Bonnet as a drunken party accessory is not respect any more than pissing on Bibles or burning Qurans. It’s straight up bull.

    An Iranian tired of our own Dances With Wolves types, (we call them Lawrences of Arabia)

  9. the default attorney

    Dynamic and important conversation about what? If you want to go convince people (who have already shelled out hundreds of dollars for music festivals) that they only need to choose to be happy with silly shit on your head, that’s totally fine. Although I think that’s what a lot of people at music festivals have already done by, you know, choosing to go to music festivals. So I’m not sure what you’re trying to accomplish. And there are worthier causes that try to make people happy by providing people with such things as food, clothing, shelter, and employment. I think your desire for a forum is just to generate page views and to suck a few more people into your self-promotion ponzi scheme. The appropriation of native symbols and terminology is one thing, but the ease with which you defend your use of it for such self-serving reasons is most disturbing. And before you start selectively quoting the Dalai Lama (yes, I admit it. I watched the video), you might want to read up a little on the Eightfold Path. Like native cultures and spirit hoods, there’s a bit more to Buddhism than festivals.

  10. Kristin

    Why Derek, I can’t say that I have ever seen a finer example of Mansplaining than your lengthy posts. How lucky Adrienne, and indeed, we all are, to have you come and explain to us the current situation of First Nations peoples, and how in tune with them you are, and therefore, how totes cool your hipster-exploitation of indigenous cultures is.

    If I had a dollar for every white person that told me their ‘indian name’ as a supposed cultural marker of how ‘down’ they are with ‘indians’, I could afford myself a pretty fancy war bonnet and some hairpipe armbands to wear to Coachella next year.

  11. Ayiman

    Why do white people give themselves the most majestic indian names possible?

    Why was this guy named “Standing Bull?” Who named him? That’s a warrior’s name. What battles have you had to fight, like, ever?

    See, this all comes off as a “we can do whatever we want because our cause is just” sort of thing, but from my perspective, you’re just a bunch of proto-hippies who dropped some magic mushrooms and want to spread the word. Which is fine. I used to eat a lot of shrooms too.

    That you and yours are dressing yourselves up in what is obviously native inspired stuff in your little campaign means that you’ve inextricably conflated your cute little message with a ridiculous and insulting pastiche of Native culture and spirituality made me throw up in my mouth a little.

    See, I think the crux of the issue is not that you’re using tribe and chief in the way that you are (and by that I mean, superficially), it’s that the use of the words ‘tribe’ and ‘chief’ along with the ‘inspired spirit hoods’ and the breastplate, all happening amidst a disgusting fashion trend perpetrated by folks like yourselves? Well, let’s just say that it stops being a question of semantics and becomes a question of semiotics. If you can’t understand why this sort of thing would piss us off, I invited you pull this nonsense where I grew up (Fort Vermillion, if you’re curious). Don’t be surprised of your platitudes fail to calm anyone down, no matter how ‘down’ with Native folks you seem to believe yourself to be.

    How nice for you guys though. Teaching stoned and drunk festival goers about peace and love by wearing stuffed animals on your heads is obviously the way forward. Just don’t piss on us while you do it.

    Oh, and before I forget, your new leader there? His new Cree name is Sîsîp-oskisik. It means “Duck Eye”

    That it’s translation sounds remarkably similar to the Cree word takay is of no coincidence.

  12. Derek

    To all:
    I sense a lot of anger and frustration in your words and yes there is only so far that experience can take someone- I will never fully understand what it is like to be an Indian living their entire life on a reservation. Just the same, you will never understand what it is like to live the life that I have. The door must swing both ways and in order to have an honest discussion it’s important to try and set aside the notion that you “know” anything about anyone. I don’t presume to know anything about any one of you, and I wholeheartedly respect your opinions.

    I laid down a number of the experience I’ve had not to presume authority but to express a level of compassion I have for a people. Remember I came into this discussion already being accused of being a “drunken” “d-bag” so I think I’m within my right to share with you some experiences I’ve had that I feel show otherwise.

    This post talks about “white privilege” and the abuse that minority nations suffer at the hands of ignorance. And that absolutely happens. I think it is fair to say that the majority of Americans know very little about Indian culture and history.

    But just as many people on the other side make a LOT of presumptions about white culture that lead them to form misguided opinions.

    So what I’m saying here is that a lack of understanding and empathy is the single most problematic barrier between two people (or two groups of people). I think this is an important topic and an important discussion and I’m simply trying to extend a hand a friendship. I mean no offense nor do I presume any authority- but there are two sides to every coin and both sides must learn that they are simply one in the same.

    So believe me, friends, we are all one in the same. I believe that in my heart, and that is why I believe so strongly in what we’re doing. It is not about conformity- quite the opposite in fact.

    And for the record, the Yay Life Tribe does not make Spirithoods and we do not sell the “Navajo” branded hoods.

  13. Derek

    Re: Ayiman

    I wanted to specifically respond to your comment here as there are a few issues I wanted to address:

    – I did not give myself my Ojibwe name, it was given to me during a sweat ceremony. It carries a very deep and personal meaning for me. I would never think of attacking your name or presuming anything about you and I don’t think it’s very fair to attack my name and to presume I’ve never fought any battles. What knowledge of me qualifies you to say this?

    – When you say what we’re wearing is “obviously native inspired” I think you’re looking through a very narrow lens. I don’t believe any Pandas were worn by American Indians and the concept of wearing animal fur is not an American Indian concept- it’s a human concept that has been used for hundreds of centuries. You don’t simply get to lay claim to it simply because you have a cultural affinity for it.

    I do not feel that it is a culture’s place (or a person speaking from a culture) to claim ownership over beliefs, ideas, looks, or words. To wit, the words “spirit” and “tribe” are english words, not Indian words and the concepts span a mass of diverse cultures and societies. To claim ownership over these ideas and to demand retribution from those who express them, to me, is not aligned with the harmony of how things are.

  14. Derek

    Kristen, exactly what “privileges” do you think I’ve lived with that makes it so impossible for you to even consider what I’m saying? Is there some measure of strife and difficulty that would qualify my opinion as something worthy of your respect?

    I did not get to choose where I grew up or what the color of my skin was. It was the life I was given and yes I feel blessed to have been given the things that I have. However, I find life much more interesting by engaging with people who disagree with me (rather then simply cut them down). I genuinely am interested in what exactly it is that bothers you so.

    But this is a two-way street.

  15. alias chase

    Once again, brilliantly argued. Thanks for taking this on. I’m sorry there are so many who still do not comprehend nor understand the basic concept of “privilege”… Sigh. I suppose that is the nature of the beast though – those who are most benefiting from their privilege are least able to see it. Thanks for speaking up and speaking out – your voice is an inspiration!

  16. snuffycup

    Yes Derek, you’re right, you didn’t get to choose where you grew up or the color of your skin, just like the rest of us. HOWEVER, you do get to trade every single day on the privilege of being white and male in this society, something that again, you didn’t choose but that, nonetheless, is absolutely real with real consequences for anyone without those privileges.

    If you’re seriously still questioning the fact that you have privilege, don’t come at a marginalized person with some pitiful “but you don’t know what it’s like to be meeeee” bull, for real. You’re right, I don’t know what it’s like to be the most powerful thing in society, jeez, I should feel so bad for you now!!!!

    As a Native woman, I have to know everything about white society to survive in it. I don’t get to just pretend like white people and white society don’t exist or only exist when it’s convenient for me to use for my own profit-driven devices and then cast it all aside like an old, worn-out pair of shoes. But you do get to do that. And no, not every Native person will necessarily have a problem with you, because we’re not a monolith (shock, I know!) and because we, having lived for hundreds of years with constant systemic oppression and racism, can be blinded by society to your privilege, just like you apparently. That still doesn’t erase your privilege.

    You have privilege, whether you want it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not. If you truly want to make the world a better place, acknowledge your privilege and try to help dismantle it.

  17. patriceviI

    “I will never fully understand what it is like to be an Indian living their entire life on a reservation. Just the same, you will never understand what it is like to live the life that I have.”

    Derek please allow me to break down these privileges for you since you are white and unclear on this situation.

    You’ll never know what it’s like to NOT experience mass discrimination because of your skin colour.

    You will never know what it’s like to have authority figures (be it job opportunities, promotions etc) look past you despite you are the best person for the said position because of the colour of your skin. And you might pipe in Affirmative Action and such programs, but this is only so whites can say they are doing there best to incorporate “visible minorities” whom for centuries they have tried to push out, into society.

    On that topic, you will never be called a visible minority in your own country despite the fact that you stem from European ancestry. We’ve lived on this land for centuries and I’m a minority on my own land. Ever felt that in your life, try feeling it, it’s alienating.

    You will never know the awkwardness of history class. To discuss the expansion of the west, knowing your ancestors were massacred for farmland to house people America/Canada saw fit.

    You will never know what it’s like to have horrible racial slurs yelled at you because of the colour of your skin. Have you ever been called one of these names?

    You will never know what it’s like to have horrendous sexual and societal stereotypes, and stupid beliefs applied to you before opening your mouth because of the colour of your skin.

    You will never have any of your friends accidentally make racial comments in front of you that are offensive. The reason they said it was because they didn’t think it was that bad. (Eeny meeny miney mo, catch a n***** by the toe. Or do you say tiger?)

    You will never be beat up, bashed or even murdered in a crime of passionate hatred because of the colour of your skin.

    You will never be battered into feeling ugly because you do not conform to European beauty standards.

    You will never experience self-loathing because you are not white, and all non-whites despite how confident, well taught about the absolute importance of their culture will be affected by this at one point. We just fight to overcome it.

    You will never experience the destitution and poverty that come with being a minority, not saying all whites are rich, but since you’ve spent time on the reserve, you’ve obviously seen the way of life.

    You will never experience the feeling of hopelessness and not being able to right your living situation because the economy around you is stifled with no job opportunities are available. Not being able to feed your family with nourishing healthy food because all the fresh produce is sold in grocery markets in more affluent areas. (predominately white)

    Need I keep going because I can. And please don’t take this as a racial attack or animosity towards you because of your ignorance to your white privilege.

  18. patriceviI

    As the quote I selected from your passage said you will never know what living on a reserve is like. That’s right, you will never feel the hurt and pain when you look in your grandparents eyes because the superior white society, bringer of civilization to the savage world chose to inflict (yes like a wound) ideals that were against their hearts and minds.

    You are right Derek, I will never know what its like to live without having to encounter any of these common happenings in the world (and this does not encompass all that white privilege is but I dusted a bit off the bookshelf) Please take the time and realize that the whole world did not at any point in time ask for Western European ideals to be spread all over the world and applied to peoples whose concepts, societies and traditions were acceptable to them, and this bullheadedness of -as I call it- cultural vacations that -almost always- white people take gives them a sense of belonging that they can never ever grasp or even fathom comprehending.

    I appreciate your interest in my culture but please don’t make a mockery of it just because you had one session in a sweat lodge and were bestowed with an “Indian” name. I believe as a former teacher, you should be above this ignorance.

    I don’t want to be a member of your pseudo tribe because of it’s basis of false beliefs and your failure to understand pure ignorance.

  19. Rob

    Can we start a Boo Life Tribe to diss people who appropriate Native cultures? Or would that be wrong?

  20. Bird Wicks

    Fabulous post, great discussion. Derek, I don’t even know where to begin with you so I won’t, other than to say that just because you say “we are all equal” doesn’t mean we are. In fact, I’d say that in the course of this conversation you and Tucker (from his message to Adrianne) have shown your privileged position in society. You don’t get it and by way of you status as white men you think that just because you say you are right it means you are. Not everyone thinks like you just because you say they should. No matter how you look at this situation native appropriation is happening. You are correct in claiming that natives didn’t wear “winged Pandas” (since Pandas neither fly nor are from this continent I am certain the Panda is not actually part of this conversation) but they certainly wore breastplates. Rather than pretending like you don’t know what people are talking about, wake up, acknowledge that you’re appropriating native culture and then come back to the table. Maybe people would be more willing to talk to you then.

  21. MB

    Oh, dear.

    Derek, if you seriously used the phrase “Native culture” to refer to the hundreds of VERY DIFFERENT tribes in the United States, then it just shows that you do not know the first thing about Native cultures. (Note the plural there.) Apparently all that time you spent living in proximity to different tribes didn’t actually teach you anything.

    For another, it quite frankly doesn’t matter whether you don’t mean to be offensive if what you do is offensive. And guess what? You don’t get to arbitrate what is and is not offensive. When Native people tell you that your appropriation is offensive, you don’t get to say, “But I’m honoring you / But I have Indian friends / But I don’t mean to hurt anyone / But [insert white privilege justification here].”

    And, by the way, how incredibly offensive for you to to say, “The complete desolation and abuse of the American Indian culture is not lost on me.” Yes, my tribe, like many, may grapple with issues such as poverty and drug and alcohol abuse. Maybe that’s horrifying and “desolate” to someone from a privileged position like yourself. But despite all of the challenges that we face, our cultures still live on. We are still here. We are not vanishing.

    As a Native woman, I’m with Adrienne — why on earth do you need to try to appropriate Native cultures in this “spirit hood” nonsense? If wearing them makes you feel great, more power to you. Spread the love. But make it about you and your experience, not half-baked stereotypes about American Indians.

    I mean, why go there? Stereotypes don’t “honor” us or show us respect. Rather than saying that you don’t mean disrespect, why don’t you actually do that?

    Wearing a stuffed animal hat has nothing to do with Native American cultures. Spreading “love” and “happiness” has nothing to do with Native American cultures. Stop trying to drag us into it in an attempt to seem meaningful.

  22. MoonInLibra

    It sounds like white people are being blamed for being privileged which, even if we admit to, we can’t easily change.
    I understand the principle behind the Nazi analogy stated earlier, but its use was not a valid comparison of the situation at hand.
    Furthermore, it appears that whites are being stereotyped as well as minorities…we may not have experienced racism to the extent that you have, but we are currently discriminated against based on the fact that we emerged as the discriminators. I’m not saying we’re not automatically privileged in society, but I am pointing out that using racism in an argument against racism just doesn’t check out.

  23. Heelbiter

    Oh my, this thread is so full of specialness. It’s racist to call white people on their racism! It’s mean to criticize us when we’re just having fun! Here, let me explain how society *really* works to all you benighted non-whites and ladies! But of course, this:

    “I used teach [sic] a course and run discussion groups on Race Relations at Penn State University so I have quite a bit of familiarity with exploited cultures. But more importantly, I felt compelled to respond because American Indian culture is something that is of a very deep personal importance to me.”

    –was probably the most special, precious moment of all.

    The thing is, super-privileged people come back to this stuff and say, “But you weren’t nice when you said that. You should have been gentler. You should have thought of our feelings when you called us out on our oppressive, hurtful behavior.” And then, when we try to discuss and educate, these folks simply refuse to listen, as we can see from Derek’s never-ending, -splainy replies here.

    The point, really, is that they don’t really want to hear about this stuff. They don’t want to engage. They don’t want to listen. They will never, ever admit that any perspective or life experience which differs from theirs could be legitimate. The tone argument, the “please just explain to me” tactic–those are silencing tactics. What super-privileged folks want is not for the rest of us to educate them, but for us to shut the hell up.

  24. Kristin

    MoonInLibra, white people are not being blamed for being born white in this thread. Rather, they are being blamed for *using* that condition as a means of dominating others. It is the difference between earned strength versus unearned power that is so problematic. If you have never read it, I recommend Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack as a start to understanding how white privilege works.

  25. Jessica

    I find this “I have an Indian name” thing very puzzling. I have never, nor has any member of my family, felt compelled to bestow a name on a person who was not family. There is no reason to. They have their culture, we have ours.

    If you hang out with people of Asian descent, do they give you an “Asian name”? Does spending a summer knowing a group of Koreans give you insight into all Asian cultures everywhere? No, of course not.

    In my experience, those who are in the business of taking white people into sweat lodges and giving them warrior names are, in fact, in business. They are doing it to take advantage of whites who want to be part of something more exotic than their own dominant culture. If you “made a donation” or something along those lines to go in a sweat lodge, to go on a vision quest, to sit around a fire and feel enlightened, congratulations. You just bought yourself a genuine fake Indian experience.

  26. descender

    If you are trying to honor native culture and native people TELL you in this post (and I can only assume elsewhere)that they don’t feel honored by what and how you are doing it…you could chose to listen and try as hard as you can to understand why, and before you speak to defend yourself listen some more.
    A man a tribal leader would need to be that wise. If your intention is to change the world learning the way of any powerful leader(s) more game changers are humble, have a real understanding of power and how it work and use every experience to build their knowledge of how their own power is perceived in the world.
    Native people on this blog are telling you alot about how your power is being perceived by them. They are saying they feel used by you, disrespected by you, misunderstood by you and your reaction chief instead of hearing is to tell the very ones your trying to honor that are wrong for not liking your interpitation of there culture they are uptight for not seeing it your way.
    If indeed you really want to change the world then stop acting exactly like every other defensive white guy who takes an intrest in native issue and somehow thinks that intrest gives him special rights. If you wNt to truly be an example of love: humbleness, respect by listening standing down, being quiet come before and are more powerful actions of love and leadership than long wordy defensive, condescending justifications.
    Real love is complicated learn as much as you can about it before you act you will save your self alot of frustration and embarrassment. Good luck, love is worth fighting for.
    (typed on my phone,sorry)

  27. Meghan

    Some people want to wear spirithoods and try to inspire other people to be happy. What’s the big effing deal? How, exactly, does this affect all of you who have commented? What difference is it making in your lives?

    Oh yeah, and I’m white, too. A short, fat, white woman.

  28. Sybil

    (This post is a reproduction of what I posted posted on the Yay Life blog)
    I don’t think you mean to, and I think there is good in your heart, but you do come across as incredibly privileged and condescending — along the lines of “I’ve lived among a few native groups for some short time, and therefore, I know more than YOU, an actual native person.”
    ” The complete desolation and historical abuse of the American Indian culture is not lost on me- ”
    Um, it seems to me that if you actually had an understanding of the groups you worked with (and *working with* does not necessarily convey *understanding of*), you might be inclined to refer to American Indian/Native American/First Nations cultureS in the plural, not in the singular.

    I think the poster A Jewish Woman makes the point quite succinctly.

    I think you need to read up a little bit on White Privilege, & respectfully suggest and — those of us carrying around privilege (and I have it too) often have a hard time recognizing and admitting to it, but it’s the first step in true empathy with others.

    Thanks for working through this, even though it’s undoubtedly really uncomfortable for you.

    Just Me
    PS> Re: ” to love and to express love to anyone and everyone. Agree with us or not, that is our message and this is exactly what Tucker was trying to express in his note to you.”
    Tucker’s note, assuming what was printed on Native Appropriations is accurate (and I have no reason to doubt that), was NOT in any way, shape, or form about expressing love. An expression of love is an expression of CARING about another’s feelings. “Get used to it,” is pretty much equivalent to “screw you.”

  29. Erica Alvey

    This is a beautiful and important discussion. I’ll admit I had a very hard time not tuning out Derek’s responses once he began listing off his litany of “native cred”, which is a classic tactic used by white people to try to make it seem like they have some kind of entitlement to a marginalized culture. Gross.

    As someone who is a white ally but does deal with mental illness, can I also just point out how gross it is that these people are going around telling people that being happy is a choice, and it can be yours, too, if you just buy this stuffed animal hat, cough, I mean Navajo Spirit Hood? For plenty of people, happiness is NOT a choice. When I’m having a panic attack, hyperventilating, feverish, and heart-poundingly terrified for no reason other than I have an illness, “just calm down and be happy” is not a choice I can make. When someone with depression is feeling bleak, hopeless, numb or filled with despair… they cannot CHOOSE to be happy. They are *sick*. And yeah, we do get told all the time “just calm down” “just make the choice to let happiness into your life”, and those are the sorts of things that can ONLY be said with people who have had the privilege to never deal with mental illness.

    So these guys are basically selling a philosophy that’s deeply offensive to people with mental illnesses, not to mention hurtful to them (how many mentally ill people can’t find treatment or help because everyone around them says they’re just “making a choice” to be unhappy? a damn lot), and they’re using distorted “Native” culture to do it. At music festivals, no less. The whole thing is like one big, offensive joke.

  30. Talia

    @Meghan – You ask “How, exactly, does this affect all of you who have commented? What difference is it making in your lives?”

    I live in Oklahoma and am a Cherokee citizen. It affects me, because it perpetuates a stereotype that still exists today in the heart of Indian Country. I’ve listened to people tell me that my friends and I couldn’t possibly be “Indian” because we live in a house and not a trailer, because we’re educated and don’t have a substance abuse problem, because we don’t dress live “Indians” – the list goes on and on.

    When people wear SpiritHoods, they perpetuate the Hollywood movie image of Native Americans, and that affects us DAILY.

    You mentioned, “Oh yeah, and I’m white, too. A short, fat, white woman.” You didn’t have to do so. I knew you were white because your comments indicate an unawareness/ignorance of the issues, stereotypes and racism that Native Americans still face.

    Do I think what Tucker is trying to promote – love and happiness – is bad? Of course not! Don’t we all want to be loved and feel happy? Sure, we do. What bothers me is Tucker contributing to – inadvertently perhaps – a continued stereotype.

    I will give him props for his post earlier today. I think he’s taking a step back to evaluate what he’s hearing and that elevates my respect for him. He’s not adverse to admitting a mistake.

    Let’s see where he goes from here.

    I, like Tucker, want love and happiness for all. But I also want all Native cultures to not have to face racism, even when it’s metted out unintentionally.

  31. Johan Sandberg

    Derek, did I just read ‘I got my Native name in a sweat lodge ceremony’?!
    And you ask why people find your appropriating Native American cultureS wrong?

    First of all, you got a Ojibwe name, cool for you, it still doesn’t give you the right to mansplain your privilege away – I am part Saami, and part Gael and I have worked with several indigenous peoples around the world, and have both a G//ana, a Yanomami, and a Spokane name – this does not mean that I get to appropriate these peoples’ cultures for my own monetary gain.

    Second of all, the sweat lodge ceremony is not something you participate in in order to get a Native name, and it is rather ignorant of you to think a name bestowed upon you in a cliché re-enactment of something only a few select were allowed to participate in in the first place gives you any right to tell Native people to not be offended by your appropriating of their cultures.

    Doonoo-gaabawi, my ass – doonoo dibikaadizi or possibly gichi-mookomaan giiwanaadizi seems more appropriate.

    Just realise that when someone who’s Native tells you to stop, you do,as you, as an outsider don’t get to decide what’s offensive or not.

  32. Lindsay

    Derek said:”I do not feel that it is a culture’s place (or a person speaking from a culture) to claim ownership over beliefs, ideas, looks, or words.” But…..that’s what is happening here though, right? And, um, kind of spoken like someone who has consistently had the privilege to appropriate without any consequences? Yeesh….my brain just exploded a little over this one….and, yes, I do have a lot of anger and frustration. I am angry and frustrated and so, so, so tired that I, amazing people like Adrienne and all the other commenters here have to use sooooooooooo many words to explain such a simple thing: If something’s not yours, don’t take it. If you took it, say you’re sorry, give it back, and figure out why you took it in the first place. And yes, I am frustrated, angry, and so so so tired of hearing sooooo many words telling me something else very simple (but oh so dangerous): I should like being appropriated.

  33. tbreath

    IMO, the folks behind this “Yay Life Tribe” may have the best of intentions, but even so, everything they’re “doing” here trivializes Onkwehonwe People – whether they’re willing to accept it or not.

    Life isn’t about being happy, it’s about living well, being responsible, and learning from your mistakes.

    If these people are so interested in making the world a better place and improving people’s quality of life, they need to give up this infantile adventure that wreaks of colonialism.

    Perhaps, instead of having “fun” they could do some real work. For example, they could start teaching average americans about their own histroy, and empower them to live healthy lives within their own culture. You can start by tracing back to pre-colonial Europe. Or, if you still have this burning need to work with and walk along side Onkwehonwe, you could go buy a camera and start going to reserves to record what people have to say. Even better, you could help start a new participatory media project and raise funds to get camera equipment to communities so everyone can start sharing their voices with the world.

    In any case, “Tribes” aren’t magical groups born out of thin air. THey are political bodies grounded by language and Ceremony that enable us to maintain OUR way of life – free from the savagery of modern civilization, if we get serious about it.

  34. 8mph Ansible

    Not feelin honoured or respected, just insulted and mocked. Not feelin any love when happiness and joy comes at the expense of me and mine.

    Also, intercultural knowledge is not a tit-for-tat/equal exchange matter. In order to competently navigate a society minorities MUST learn the ins and outs of the dominant culture. This leaves little in the way of misunderstanding or mispercieving members of the dominant culture. On the other hand, members of the dominant culture are not required to know shit about any mintority culture within their society.

    In other words, Natives have to know about white folk and their culture, but whilte folk never have to understand a damn thing about us and our cultures.

  35. Shayan


    “Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination – by starvation and uneven combat – of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.” P. 202, “Adolph Hitler” by John Toland

    The analogy stands. Hitler was defeated, but the US government and its dominant white culture are what Native peoples have to live under every day. If you think the analogy is extreme, visit Pine Ridge for a week. It is none other than a concentration camp where the average lifespan is around 45.

  36. Meg

    To the mod: Let me know if anything I have said is wrong, out of line. I certainly don’t want to derail or make anything worse in this discussions Feel free to delete this comment if it is not wanted.

    I second all the people who have listed the reasons why the Yay Life Tribe, the spirithoods, and Tucker’s response are complete garbage, why it’s whitesplaining, white privilege, and cultural appropriation of the rankest kind.

    Frankly, if the picture (which looks no different to me than any I’ve seen of frat boy hipsters doing all the time) didn’t clue me in to how much fail was here, it became clear when you said “I got my name in a sweat ceremony” (I laughed hard so hard at you when you said this. You obviously don’t get how this marks you as clueless, ignorant, bumbling, and ridiculous in the extreme. You just cannot be taken seriously after a statement like that.)

    The fact that a white Anglophonic person is lecturing and scolding a Native person on using English words (and apparently doing it wrong) without realizing exactly how much asswaving in inherent in that was enough for me.

    I mean, just wow. Really? You’re going to go there? Because that’s a can of worms that does NOT bode well for you, Tucker. A can of worms because there’s a reason why so many Native people use (and have to use) English words and phrases and concepts and it’s because we white people from the late 1400’s on have been doing their best to annihilate Native peoples, their cultures, and their languages.

    Go do some reading on how in the U.S. and Canada in the 19th/20th centuries, Native youths in many places were taken from families, put into abusive boarding schools, and sometimes abused until they were dead in attempt to strip everything “Indian” from them.

    What you are being told by this blog (and the owner, who I commend for running such an excellent site!) is real, it is important, and it is RIGHT. You need to put down your entitlement minded defensiveness and listen closely.

    Because you’re not Tribe Yay Life. You’re just Tribe Yay White People and you have the nerve to come here and ask why people who have had to deal with white people’s atrocities and racism and ignorance and privilege aren’t applauding you.

  37. Ms Renee

    I was writing this before reading Tucker’s most recent post at (please read it, too, and am really happy to read Tucker’s post because it shows that he has, in fact, entered into the beginning stages of awareness as a result of Adrienne’s post and the interaction that has followed. His response still has many problematic aspects (as many response posts point out, and he has much much more work to do, but he has realized that he has work to do and I’m willing to give him (and any other white person who has an experience that knocks them into a deeper understanding of their privilege and it’s effects) the space to do that work.

    I’ve known Tucker for many years (but I don’t know Derek); he has always been an outgoing, optimistic, ever-smiling, live-music lover. His drive to create and develop his Yay Life Tribe is borne of a lust for life and need to maintain a happiness that he found through the attention he received while wearing his spirit hood. This happiness was found after a long period of depression, and when he felt the positive impact of the attention he received on his life and outlook, he ran with it, without stopping to critically consider the impact of the trendy hat he wore, or of the breastplate someone gave him to wear at a music festival. For him, it was as simple as that. I am not excusing any of his choices; his ignorance of impact and historical legacy does not legitimize or justify him continuing to make such choices (nor does it grant him a “free pass” to continue).

    I write all of this in an attempt to request from him patience and continuance in his process of coming to awareness–and to remind the rest of us that the process we are requesting he go through takes time. I know we’re sick of explaining it, but unfortunately, we must continue to explain it with as much patience and tranquility as we can (not because the privileged ones require or deserve our patience and tranquility, but because patience will help keep us sane as we explain better than anger will).

    Those who commented on the “side” of Adrienne differ in what they want from the Yay Life Tribe (some want to stop the use of certain words, like tribe, some comments focus on offensiveness of the Sprit Hood itself). But overall, these posters seem to want the leaders of the Yay Life tribe to reconsider and, ultimately, stop wearing the breastplate and to stop wearing and promoting the Navajo hat, but want them to do so because of Yay Life’s recognition that their use of these objects is offensive and part of a legacy of exploitation, genocide, colonialism, etc. This process of recognition takes a great deal of time to go through. It is not something that happens overnight, and it does not happen as the result of one conversation, though it does begin with one conversation/interaction/mistake and response. It happens as the result of many conversations like these, it takes many thousands of words of defense from them, many stubborn explanations of the rightness-borne-of-ignorance, many misunderstandings and epiphanies, many more explanations from those who are not privileged, and many subsequent experiences filtered through a developing awareness of privilege.

    (More in the next post…)

  38. Ms Renee

    Tucker’s life has not exposed him to or immersed him in a variety of cultures nor did his college education challenge the ideology of white privilege from which he benefits. Derek’s life seems to have exposed him to more, but we can see that his process is still underway. Adrienne, your post about the Yay Life Tribe was probably the first time in Tucker’s life that anyone had ever pointed out to him that he was unknowingly exploiting, appropriating, and offending another culture. It may have been the first time that he was prompted to think about the origins of his fashion choices, or of the historical legacy of any object in popular culture. It was probably the first time that he was stirred to consider the fact that even this simplest of choices is connected to a living, breathing web of humans.

    It is Tucker and Derek’s responsibility to carefully consider what people are telling them about the impact of their choices, and it seems that they are carefully considering those concepts now (even though they began from a defensive/entitled stance). Having taught about white privilege in countless college classrooms for the past ten years, I can say that the realizations Tucker came to in just two days of this conversation are more plentiful and on-point than what many students come to in the course of a semester. As many posters already pointed out, his initial reaction and Derek’s ongoing defense posts are typical reactions before and during one begins this process of awareness. It is frustrating to experience these typical initial reactions, but for me, as long as they are not and end point but are instead the first step in an ongoing journey of awareness of and shedding of white privilege, they have worth. So, Tucker and Derek – keep tackling these important issues. I say this to you from a place of love and support: Even though you just gave up your careers in the hopes that selling these Sprit Hoods could fund your adventures, and you are probably scared right now about what this all means in terms of that income plan, you must keep tackling these issues and adjusting your plan based on your developing awareness of how your plan affects others. Instead of trying to find a way to justify your continued use/appropriation of native cultures, focus your energy on finding a way to discontinue the perpetuation of images that offend and significantly hurt/affect/negatively impact the lives of others. Remember that Adrienne’s reaction was based on a number of disturbing images and appropriations combined, not by one just Spirit Hood (it was the hood, the name of the hood, the breastplate, and “tribal” language use that combined to have such an impact).

    Yes, the Yay Life moments occur when we make mistakes, own to up our mistakes and learn from them by changing what we do as much as the Yay Life moments occur in the euphoria of a music festival or a walk down Santa Monica Blvd made livelier by wearing a cute, silly, fuzzy hat. These Yay Mistake moments are the real stuff of life, the real determinants/developers of our humanity. Tucker, I am proud of you right now because of the humility, awareness and blossoming maturity that your most recent post demonstrates. You’re at the beginning of this journey of awareness, and are bound to make more mistakes within in. It’s not easy to attack and dismantle one’s own white privilege (in fact, it is very hard and painful which is why so few people do it). It’s even harder when we realize that sometimes even after think we “got it,” we can still make mistakes and operate recklessly from the position of power in which we spent most of lives comfortably resting. The important thing is to do is to listen to the voices of those without privilege, to allow what they say to have an impact on us, and to let their words, reactions and experiences change us.

    (A little more in the next post…)

  39. Ms Renee

    The Invisible Knapsack article is a very good place to start. I also just read this older post from Adrienne which explains the problematic and offensive issues related to hipsters (aka privileged whites) wearing sacred/traditional/culturally significant items (set aside the anger present here and listen to the basic points she is trying to make within that anger).

    Written with love for all of the posters on this site and on the yay Life site. Thank you for engaging in important, though difficult, conversations like this.

  40. ...c.

    I think the illustration is fair. You don’t see people wearing Kippahs to drunken shindigs, nor being sold for $20 at Forever 21. If anyone tried, it would be a huge, huge scandal.

    In my experience as a Lakota girl living in the DC area, most of the general population do not seem to think that Native Americans are still around. Acquaintances are shocked to learn that I grew up on a reservation (which also happened to be the poorest county in America for most of my childhood). Our suffering is contemporary, not something that happened once a long time ago in a land far away. 1890 never ended for my family.

    Mr Zimmerman’s self righteous, self satisfied response left me sick to my stomach. You have no shame. And you sure as hell do not respect me, my people, or the millions that died so you might have a house in which to sit comfortably with a stuffed animal on your head.

  41. MoonInLibra

    @Heelbiter – It’s not racist to call out individuals on their racism. It is racist to call out an entire group and stereotype them as being racist. Not all whites actively use their white privilege to dominate others.

    @Kristin – I understand your point about white privilege, although that’s not quite what I meant. Please see the paragraph above. Thank you for the link, I will read up on it.

  42. Derek

    Hello everyone.

    I wanted to take the time to read and consider each and every one of of these comments before I posted another response. I’ve thought on this topic quite a bit….

    I make no claims to righteousness- to wit, I am not a righteous person. I’m not sure I could even tell you what that means.

    And when I read your words, it brings a great deal of pain and sadness to my heart. Not because the things said here are hurtful (they are) but because they have been brought here by a course of action who’s responsibility is none other then my own. There is so much anger and frustration among you that it’s hard to comprehend how to respond.

    It is true that I will never know the sting of racism or the shame of being treated as something less then equal to your fellow man. I will never know the struggles and the pain that you all have felt throughout your lives and it is most assuredly for this reason that it is difficult for me to FEEL this debate from your perspective. I did not come in here to start a fight or to enrage an already open wound- I came with a open hand of friendship in an attempt to bridge some troubled waters. If my words and my approach were misguided and misdirected then all I can do is humbly ask for your forgiveness.

    I did not highlight my background in an attempt to buy “credibility” with you- I have nothing to prove. I was hoping to share with you experiences and relationships in my life that have vastly influenced and inspired me as a person. I do not think of them as a misappropriated “badges of honor.” I am humbled and honored to have been able to work with and to learn from a culture that is so invaluable us as people. I had hoped to share these experiences in an attempt to find some common ground and sadly it appears it has only made things worse. And for this, I once again humbly ask for your forgiveness.

    When an entire group of people are writing about you, berating your character, insulting you, and chastising your pursuits and demanding of you any number of different actions, it is impossible to even know where to begin and which item to respond to first…

  43. Derek

    It is true that I can never understand where you have come from or what you have gone through and yes it is true that I as a white male have lead a comparatively privileged life. But I DO know the shame of being told that my culture is horrid and disgusting. I DO know what it is like for a black person or an Indian, or any other minority to look at me in disgust because they don’t see me, they see the oppression and abuse suffered at the hands of my ancestors. I have been very blatantly and hurtfully discriminated against by Indians because of the color of my skin. But I hold NO ill will towards any of them- in fact I was horrified to consider the fact that whatever discomfort and shame I have felt because of my white ancestry, it must pale in comparison to having to face this every day by a majority of the population. My racial struggles pale in comparison to yours, but that does not mean I fail to comprehend the sting of racism. I do.

    And I do know what it is like to struggle- to be homeless, to not be able to afford food, to watch loved ones fall to alcoholism and drug abuse, to be unable to afford medical care or even the most basic means of health. So when some of you say things like “you’ve never had to struggle a day in your life” it is spitting in the face of all that has happened in my life that brought me here. And I HAVE seen how love and compassion can carry you through the most torturous trials by fire. I have learned not to hate people or to attack them simply because I can not see or empathize with them. I have learned these lessons through a great number of experiences and I have chosen the path I have- the decision to literally give up everything I own for the pursuit of compassion and love- because I feel it is the only way for any two groups to get along.

    Our actions may offend each other but it is up to each and every one of us to decide how to respond. And it is from this understanding that I come here and that is why I want to have this conversation with you.

    I’m sorry I do not agree with your position that we should stop wearing our hoods or calling ourselves a tribe. I recognize that it offends you and I am deeply sorry and troubled to discover this. I am not proud of it and I am not disregarding your beliefs or your feelings. But we came to this form of expression as a result of a great many influences- some American Indian but also some from a vast array of influences. I wear these hoods because of influences from my family, my friends, my mentors, strangers and lovers, and cultures and beliefs from around the world. What you are asking is for me to disregard all of these influences and cultures and to deny a form of expression that holds a lot of meaning for me. To humbly refrain from expressing myself in a way that is natural and spiritual and in no way an attempt to steal or capitalize upon another culture would be to deny my own heart. And I simply can not do that. Not for a person, not for a nation, nor for anyone. And I would never ask anyone to do the same. I have to imagine that on a great many levels this MUST be something you can understand and empathize with- even if you don’t agree with me.

  44. Derek

    I may not be an expert in American Indian history but I do know enough to know that Americans have stopped at nothing to destroy your culture. They have butchered your people, they have stolen your language, they have quietly taken everything away from you under the guise of being a “free country.” The majority of this country has said to you “we don’t like who you are, what you believe, or what you are doing and we will force you to do as we please.”

    By demanding I stop expressing myself as my heart directs me, by discrediting my personal beliefs and experiences, by trivializing my revere for the vast number of influences in my life and choosing to make a mockery of something I have dedicated my life to, you are only paying forward the very same wrongs that have been thrust upon you.

    We may not agree on matters of cultural sensitivity and we may not see eye to eye on a particular form of expression- perhaps the gap between us is too vast- but we CAN seek to understand each other as people.

    We mean you no harm and we mean you no offense. But if your position is to say that because we are white, because we have not lived through your struggles, because we express ourselves with clothing that shares a great many similarities to clothing sacred to you, that BECAUSE of these things, the price we must pay is to lose the freedom to express ourselves as our hearts direct us, then I can not budge.

    If there is any way for us to understand each other on this level I will do everything I can to ease your troubles. What I have to offer is my time and my heart and I will talk this through until generations have passed. I will meet any one of you in person to talk through this and I gladly invite you to speak with our tribe members to see what kind of people we are. I have dedicated my life to this tribe and I am absolutely willing to walk the distance to help two groups of people find understanding and peace.

    There is no reason for us to fight. We both want nothing but good for the world. Maybe we can start there?

  45. HideStyle

    Wow Derek, your posts smack of condescending bullshit privileged psycho babble. Maybe native folks wouldn’t “discriminate” against you if you would just be yourself, Instead of being a cultural blood sucker. You can’t even listen to the regular folks on this blog telling you to lay off?

    Shame on you.

  46. MB

    Derek, I honestly don’t think this discussion can go anywhere.

    You are not hearing us. I don’t think you want to hear us, because that requires admitting that something you take great joy in is also causing pain. It means admitting that you are not actually enlightened, just part of the “oppressing white mass,” for lack of a better term.

    But please understand, the wearing of spirit hoods is NOT what’s being criticized here.

    It’s the appropriation you are adding to the mix that is hurtful and offensive — the use of terms such as “chief,” naming a hood after my tribe, and wearing Native American-inspired regalia. You are trading in hurtful stereotypes about Native peoples. (And yes, all those things you probably think are “cool” about Indians — that we’re oppressed and vanishing, that we’re close to nature and more “pure” than modern Western society, that we’re all about love, etc. — are hurtful stereotypes that have little basis in reality.)

    You are perpetuating the exact thing you claim to be aware of — the abuse of our cultures.

    Where is the love in that?

    Spirit hoods may make you happy, but your happiness does not make it OK to hurt other people. Your bringing happiness to others does not make it OK to hurt other people.

    And, by the way, the idea of a spirit hood with “Navajo” in the name is absolutely, incredibly offensive, especially one that’s a wolf head. Running around wearing what looks like an animal skin on your head — I don’t even have the words to describe how taboo and horrible that is to Navajos. Shapeshifting is an evil thing, and I have to admit, I’m completely horrified that someone is ignorant enough to try to associate a wolf spirit head with us.

    The part you don’t seem to realize is that you aren’t being criticized for your ancestry. We aren’t judging you for the acts of white society. We are judging you for what YOU are doing.

    No amount of talking makes appropriation OK. No amount of “but I’m just spreading love” makes appropriation inoffensive.

    Frankly, it doesn’t matter what your intentions are. The saddest part about all of this is that I genuinely believe that you are not trying to be offensive. But again, “not intending to be offensive” is not the same as “not being offensive.”

    Ultimately, though, I don’t think you care if you are being offensive. Because, for you, it’s all about you — what this lifestyle means to you, how it makes you feel, your attachment to it, etc. And you think we should be on board with you because of how what you’re doing makes you feel — what we feel just doesn’t matter.

    This is what we mean by white privilege — you feel free to “be inspired” by things you don’t understand, yet you don’t want to learn about them from people who do know. Because you’ve made up your mind, and your opinion is the only one that counts — and how dare we tell you that the thing that means so much to you is actually offensive?

    So yeah. I don’t think there’s much of a discussion to be had. You’ve been told what’s offensive, but you simply don’t care because of what it means to you.

    But if you’re ever at a music festival clad in a spirit hood and a breastplate and see a petite girl glaring and rolling her eyes at you? That might be me — or it could be any one of the millions of other Native Americans in the United States.


    Derek, if you think that the worst we’ve been through is “They have butchered your people, they have stolen your language, they have quietly taken everything away from you under the guise of being a “free country.” ? Then you’re sorely mistaken. Could you imagine being taken from your family at the age of 3 and being put in a school where the survival rate is 50% every year?

    They had electric chairs in these schools. Half of the children who attended these schools were murdered.

    They were raped and put through some of the harshest corporal punishments that not even the US army would even consider doing to the meanest of terrorists (ie. live snakes being thrown in a hot bath while children were bathing so that the snakes would climb the children in order to get away from the hot water).

    Healthy children were also purposely exposed to other children suffering from TB in order to get them sick and kill them.

    These schools were put in place by your governments and funded and run by your churches.

    Don’t tell me you knew that Aboriginal children were PURPOSELY STERILIZED not far back as 30 years ago? This is the stuff that you don’t understand and need to be sensitive to.

    You don’t have the right to tell us to get over it.

    Stick to the animal hoods. Leave our culture for us.


  48. snuffycup

    MB, you took the words right out of my mouth, love your comment!

    DEEJAY NDN said, “You don’t have the right to tell us to get over it.” Repeated for emphasis.

    Derek, you haven’t actually thought about a single thing any of us have written and it’s obvious you don’t want to think about it.

    Everyone here has gone above and beyond to get you to understand the privilege you hold and benefit from and how what you and Tucker are doing is wrong and hurtful and you refuse to listen.

    You may not like our words or our feelings, you may not agree, but you don’t get to call the shots when it comes to telling a marginalized group or person how to perceive or feel about something offensive. We define those terms, we set those boundaries and whether you agree or not, it makes no difference, we are still absolutely correct in our views of you, your group, Tucker and everything else we’ve brought up here.

    Marginalized groups and people get to define what is and isn’t racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/appropriation/etc., not the person or people committing the act.

    Just go away.

  49. Sasha


    I’d like to think you mean well, that you truly want to reach an understanding but I just don’t see the incomprehensible comparison of the destruction of many different cultureS, (the loss of many different languageS, the loss of liveS and wayS of life) and the fact that people would want to reconsider how you “express” yourself. I’m sorry but it’s not an equal comparison. Do you see the difference? You can go about loving people, promoting compassion but wearing breastplates and stuffed animal heads really has nothing to do with love or compassion. They don’t link up. You can do everything you want to do without any of that.

    Basically, what I get from you is love and compassion are great things but your individual “freedom to express” yourself is worth more than love and compassion.

  50. Ben

    Tucker and Derek,

    If you want to continue to use Spirit Hoods as the symbol for your group, perhaps you could convince the manufacturer to drop the production of all hoods that appropriate indigenous cultures. Otherwise, the only way to respect most commenters on this site is to divest from Spirit Hoods.

    I think that your group has a valid message (although I do agree that it would be a good idea to be cognisant of mental health issues). I am confident that your group can find a different symbol. Think of this not as a setback, but a business opportunity. Rather than being an affiliate retailer for a piece of clothing, you could be the original designer and manufacturer.

    Finally, while there is a plurality of views on the language of your group (“tribe,” “chief”), finding a catchy substitute should not prove that difficult.

    Personally, I think “Yay Life Society” has a certain ring to it.

  51. BootersOnline

    I’m an american…
    My grand parents were Native Americans, My mother was Native American, my father English. I was born here and raised by a Welsh stepfather and a Native American mother. I feel that bringing change to the world is a positive thing and I can’t fathom a world that doesn’t blend together to make a better humanity. If a group how ever the minority pushes around another the shame lay’s with the aggressor. I have lived my life without the need to shove my beliefs on anyone. Now if someone dresses up in full head dress and war paint would this make a native american angry? Perhaps yes but should they start a war over it? I say no, the problem here isn’t the fact that someone dresses in Native American Adornment or not, its the fact there is a lack of understanding between 2 cultures. There are some things in this world that may never change, You may never by happy if you don’t open your heart and ideas to the world. YayLifeTribe has opened their idea of happiness to the world and I think we should applaud them! Don’t change your name don’t change your cause keep wearing what you want to wear. And nowhere can evidence be found that they claim to be part of any native american tribe.

  52. swandog

    im new to this blog and i think its great.
    i actually found out about it because of yaylife
    (btw: im a 75% italian girl that has a tiny TINY point-smoehting percentage native american.. like .01 almost nothing, but i dont think of myself as native american OR speaking for those who are, I’m speaking from my opinon

    if you actually look up the definition to the word “Tribe” it doesn’t nessiary mean its native american, but most of the time it has that connotation to it. and that’s the main problem that i see being argued here, and also i see that the “navajo” black wolf hood is being debated, which i think should just be renamed, because honestly, they just used a different fabric liner that has a southwestern style geometric colorful pattern. But, i do understand that those types of patterns where popular/created by the navajo nation, but think about it people everywhere in the southwest use this pattern, so does that mean that they are in the wrong for using a certain pattern for a piece of furniture or clothing? i honestly would like to know someone’s opinion on that (and i swear im not being sarcastic, i’ve always been curious about the use of the geometric patterns and if its offensive or not, because quite frankly if they weren’t native american i still enjoy the way the look.) i’m not opposed to the hoods, but im not totally for them just because of the way that some hipsters wear them and abuse them like how is being discussed, because i do see 20 somethings frolicking around and camping in teepees made of tarp and listening to their indie bands and that bothers me. But i just think they are artistically/fashionably different and don’t think they are offensive because honestly, other cultures wore real animal skins for different reasons (wether it be ceremonies, to create hierarchy, or just because their heads where cold, i dunno)

    but the actual definition of tribe is:

    any aggregate of people (SEE HOW IT SAYS PEOPLE IN GENERAL) united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc.
    a local division of an aboriginal people.
    a division of some other people.

    so i dont think tucker is in the wrong for using the term tribe, even though it has the native american connotation at times, and it isn’t tucker or zimmermans fault the company , Spirithoods, named the hoods after the navajo nation, i just think it should be renamed or a different liner be used. But i do agree that the company could’ve picked a better marketing tool then using the whole stereotypical mystical descriptions.. :\

    i dont usually read blogs about debateable subjects or subjects to be debated, so im very very excited to see a blog really worth following, because its always bothered me hipsters theses days wearing war bonnets and playing around like they think they know what they are doing when their ancestors nearly killed them all (which i think is absolutely horrible…)

    IM very sorry about my horrid grammar, im typing from my phone i couldn’t wait to get home and type on a literal keyboard, and this kind of stuff gets me excited. i love learning about different cultures and social etiquette because i’ll admit i own turquoise rings and hopi native american earrings and at times i feel as though i might be offending someone (though they where given to me by a man in orange county who was 75% native american and owned a trading post) because i myself wasn’t native american.

    also i see nothing wrong with the idea of going to festivals and promoting happiness/peace. just that festivals are way too expensive 😉

    again thanks for reading cant wait to see comments/opinons on subject and again sorry about bad grammar/spelling

  53. swandog

    sorry for double posting, but i forgot to mention that the man that gave me the earrings is also my art teacher, and used to be on the board of our city and fought the YMCA to get rid of the “indian princesses” programs which i even thought were ridiculously offensive! he ended up getting rid of the programs in most of southern california, or at least fought hard against having them. he tells me every time i go to class or i help teach stories of his culture and i admire them and his storytelling ability. his wife, who isn’t native american AT ALL seems to understand a lot about culture appropriations and tries her best to keep topics in the class appropriate and makes sure that if anybody says anything racist about any culture or belief system, or anything for that matter that they are told straight up that its not ok to make fun or joke about other cultures. i plan on one day going with them to a reservation in arizona that they go to each year and have a toy drive for the kids and plan on helping them out and learn more about them and their culture to have a better understanding, not a complete or total understanding, but better of their culture, beliefs, triumphs, and strifes.

    p.s.: another thing i forgot to say about the term chief:

    dictionary definition:
    the head or leader of an organized body of people; the person highest in authority: the chief of police.
    the head or ruler of a tribe or clan: an Native American Indian chief.

    ^^ i see here that the 2nd definition uses native americans as part of the definition, so i think that tucker could use a synonym, like boss, leader, or maybe even founder! so before i thought cheif could apply to just being a leader in general, so i guess it would be better if he changed his position name. so i do agree with waht most are saying about the position names, maybe he can use Alpha, Beta or Omega, which isn’t native american, but relates to the hierarchy of a wolf pack.

    thanks again, sorry for dp and horrible grammar still on my phone 🙂

  54. MB

    swandog, I highly suggest you read the comments (and previous blog entries) to gain further understanding of what people are objecting to.

    For instance, I believe the blog author has previously talked about Indian jewelry before — basically, buy authentic items from Native artists, not mass-produced junk sold in stores.

    I would also like to point you to my previous comment in particular, which addresses why the use of my tribe’s name (Navajo) is offensive.

    And I also want to point out the contradiction in your own comment — if these vaguely “Southwestern” patterns are everywhere, why exactly are the hoods called “Navajo?” Navajos do not make the hoods, they do not make the fabric, and they have not designed the fabric. There is absolutely no reason why they should be called that.

    It is a classic example of appropriation — saying, “Hey, this looks Southwestern. Let’s call it Navajo — they weave rugs that kinda-sorta look like these patterns!” when, in fact, it not Native and has absolutely nothing to do with Navajos.

    And that’s without even considering how the whole concept is (wearing something that looks like an animal skin on your head to “transform” in an animal spirit) absolutely offensive.


    MB’s posts can be re-posted for every question on why this is wrong. I’m in complete and total agreement with everything they have said. Great words.

  56. 8mph Ansible

    Almost gotta love it how when someone post a firm admonishment that’s somehow seen as a display of anger and a need for saccharine platitudes and one-sided compromise rather than actually understand the counter-arguement.

    BootersOnline, that’s nice you’ve lived a blissful enough life to be ignorant of Native issues, but that and your lack of understanding of them will never mean that they don’t exist nor are lacking in concern.

    There is no lack of understanding between cultures when we’re surrounded and undulated by the dominant white culture that tends to misappropriate and misuse us and our culture without any input or concern from us.

    Sure, we want to be happy too, but not at our damn expense! And having our culture tagged to something that is not a part of our culture in order to make it trendy, exotic and marketable is not a compliment in any form–EVER!

    “And nowhere can evidence be found that they claim to be part of any native american tribe.”

    You seriously need to learn about your mother’s people if you’re gonna spout nonsense like that. The US government alone has evidence in the form of the Dawes Rolls and quantum blood laws like the CDIB.

  57. 8mph Ansible

    I know Adrienne already posted her link to her previous article about spirithoods, but I really think it should be posted again, at least in the comment sections, for those who haven’t bothered clicking the links or haven’t seen the first mention of this matter or are still failing to see what the problem is.

    There are also more pics of the subject being discussed that would have partly gone unnoticed or undisturbed if it didn’t bother to tack on to their product: Native american culture, stereotypes, imagery, the name of a specific nation [Navajo] and an utter misunderstanding of that nation’s culture to put money into their pockets while marketing the fantasy that it’ll improve life.

    Ha! Gotta love how mass-produced items in exchange for money make you unique… just like everyone else.

  58. MendelsonPhoto

    FYI – It appears the Yay Life people have changed permissions to leave comments on their blog. Because its all about them of course.

  59. Spider

    Derek & other Yay Life people-
    I hope you’re still reading these posts and taking them to heart. I feel compelled to add to them a few thoughts from another white person.
    I want to start by saying that I can empathize with you all. As white westerners we are generationally sick, we’ve been left empty from the cultures that our ancestors left behind in order to assimilate and gain the privileges of status of “American” whiteness. We all have a big hole where tradition, family, community, and spirit once lived. Many of us experience this hole as a daily emptiness, and if we’re lucky enough to have this realization it will cause us to start looking for a way to fill the hole again, to re-instill our lives with meaning, spirit, and community.
    So you’ve had the first of many intense realizations to come… and you are on the seeking path. That’s good. Now you just have to take it a step further to keep your eyes and heart open to where and how you’re going. Your intentions are not enough. Spiritual growth is a lifelong process, and one that requires openness, sincere honesty and introspection, and a good deal of pain. Look for the truth in people’s words even if you can’t agree with them. They’re not trying to rob you of what is meaningful to you…but rather, to keep you from doing the same to them.
    I remember when I first heard the terms “privilege” and “cultural appropriation.” I also felt personally attacked by them. I also felt the need to defend myself, to illustrate the many ways that I was not like “other” white people. I had lived a very hard life too and felt this wasn’t being respected. What I came to realize is that privilege is the flip-side of racism and oppression. They are like an equation, two balancing sides of the same substance. Racism doesn’t honor the differences among individuals, so why would privilege?
    I grew up in the rural south and therefore had to take a strong stance on racism (and other ism’s) at a very young age. I received a lot of harsh treatment over the years for my anti-racist beliefs. I did feel different from other white people, and in many ways I am. The distinction here is that at any point in my day I have the opportunity to keep my mouth shut, dress the part, and avoid mistreatment by doing so. I can choose to “play the game” and fit in as a “normal” (ie. white) person in order to get my needs met. I can dress up to get the job. I can cover up my tattoos and smile and speak “professionally” (ie. white) and get personal gain from that. It’s a CHOICE. I may not choose to do that but it’s still a possibility for me and therefore I benefit from that privilege. Having privilege doesn’t negate all the positive qualities in you as a person just as being subjected to racism doesn’t negate the positive qualities of a person of color. IT’S JUST HOW THINGS ARE here, and because racism and privilege are two sides of the same coin, if you deny one, it’s like denying the other, so yes… people find that very offensive.

  60. Spider

    Like I said, I can understand how hard it is to begin to acknowledge these things… but in order to grow, you must try. Let me share something else personal with you. My Grandfather was a quarter Cherokee. I grew up knowing this and feeling very proud of it. I also grew up in a predominantly white community and culture, not a Native one. I spent my whole childhood and early youth clinging to romanticized ideals of what I thought “being Cherokee” meant. It was a huge part of my identity and so many of the stereotypes that I was fed about Native peoples also fed these ideas… loving nature and animals, being spiritually connected to nature, etc. I felt very aligned with these things.
    In my early 20’s I increased my political activeness and also began hitching around the U$. This exposed me to the concepts of privilege and power and cultural appropriation. As I said above, my initial reaction was to proclaim, “Yes, THOSE white people are bad.. but NOT ME!! I’ve suffered too! I’m special.” Acknowledging privilege is scary. It’s painful. Because you know you will have to give up something or figure out some other way of existing in the world.
    A couple years later I took a Native American Studies class at a community college. Like I said, I had grown up feeling an affinity for Native people and wanted to learn more about what I felt like was also “my” heritage. One day some Native womyn came to speak to us and one of them was Cherokee/Tsalagi. After she spoke I felt compelled to tell her that I was “part Cherokee.” She immediately bristled and very quickly informed me that where she comes from they like to joke that “All white people are part Cherokee.” She wasn’t interested in talking to me and this seriously hurt my feelings. I was offended and felt she was unnecessarily mean. She had belittled something that was core to my identity and I felt like a fraud.
    A week or two later our class was required to attend a pow wow so that we could get the experience of what this was like. I was excited and went there with great expectation. But while there I got a lot of dirty looks. (I was a freaky, tattooed & dreadlocked white girl.. I was probably wearing some bones and stuff around my neck like all self-respecting gutter punks at the time… but I’m certain I was an obvious cultural appropriator… it’s no wonder I got a ton of negative attention.)I got some serious “you don’t belong here” vibes the whole entire time I was there.
    I remember sitting in the bleachers up above everything, looking down on the dancing and the festivities below. My heart sank because my lifelong quest for spiritual meaning and belonging in a Native community came crashing in on me. I sat there in tears because the loss of this delusion hurt so much. I finally had to admit to myself, I am not a part of this. I am not Cherokee. I am white.

  61. Spider

    This may sound totally inane or trite to a lot of readers, but I’m sharing my vulnerability around this because I want Derek (and other white readers struggling with issues of identity, finding meaning/community/tradition, and privilege, etc)to hear it from another white person. Yes, it hurts. Yes, we are empty and lacking. Yes, it’s important to reclaim some sense of tradition and meaning and love of life however we can.
    BUT…..It’s our responsibility as white people to acknowledge our privilege and do whatever we can to relinquish it. Face the pain and the loss and recognize that it’s necessary and also insignificant in the larger scheme of things. Because whiteness and privilege are invisible (to white people) in our society, part of ourselves is also invisible to us. If you truly want to learn and grow spiritually, you must acknowledge and accept all the parts of yourself, even the ones that you don’t like. And move through that… try to figure out what to do with it in a healthy restorative way. If you remain in denial, you are perpetuating the very privilege that you are so desperately trying to deny.
    If you truly love Native people, you will listen to their words and wishes, stop emulating stereotypes, and by all means… don’t minimize people’s experiences and feelings by trying to argue your way out of this. That is SO disrespectful.
    As a black friend of mine likes to say, “I’ll take a KKK member over a white-liberal any day. At least I know where I stand with the KKK.” You are just clouding your disrespect with friendly talk and no one is falling for it except you.
    As a white person it is your responsibility to respond first, ask questions later. If a person of color tells you that you’re being offensive, immediately stop what you’re doing. Racism comes in many forms, most of which are not overt discrimination, and many of which are not even deliberate at this point… because we’ve all internalized generations of racism and inequality. We operate from within the cultural context of this inequality without even thinking about it. If someone says you’re being offensive, then you are, period. Stop what you’re doing….. and figure it out later on your own time. If you want to give up white privilege, then this is one way that you could start.

  62. Spider

    PS. The endless debate around semantics and use of words and whether or not they’re “actually” Native or not is tedious, ridiculous, and offensive! The fact that so many people think it’s ok to squabble over usage-rights of a word reeks of privilege and it’s disgusting to me. It’s no different than white people thinking it’s ok to use the N word because they “like black people” and spell it with an “AZ” on the end instead. This is ridiculous!!!

    First, if people are offended by it, then you should stop doing it,period. No debate. Just stop. Even if you disagree, you can find it in your heart to do this out of the “love of life” that you so claim to be motivated by.

    Secondly, the word “chief” has a long dirty history of racist use by whites. Whether it’s associated with a hierarchy(deserved or undeserved), white privilege, or if it’s a Native word or not are all secondary issues in my opinion.

  63. Courtney

    @ Spider: “If you truly love Native people, you will listen to their words and wishes, stop emulating stereotypes, and by all means… don’t minimize people’s experiences and feelings by trying to argue your way out of this. That is SO disrespectful.”

    Thank you! For a long time I believed the whole “part Indian” thing. Indians are not “part” (even if they are not by blood 100%). My fiance IS a Comanche. He was raised by his Comanche grandmother and his father as a Comanche.

    We have a neighbor who is a “part-time Indian” and though she’s a friend, it gets a little old hearing about how he is a “weird Native American” for having short hair and a beard! Oh, and his skin isn’t super-dark, either. He sure makes me look whiter than I already am! And what’s his Indian name? And he BEST not be eating bison anywhere but from a bison farm owned by Natives!! All her ideal stereotypes are from Hollywood and the only other encounters she has with Natives are from the Indian Market that we have once a year! She is unwittingly being very disrespectful to a man who, whether she likes it or not, is a REAL INDIAN!

  64. swandog

    back at MB:

    MB thank you so so so much for clearing that up!

    Because I had always been confused about people calling things “Navajo” and about their authenticity because I don’t usually buy into things that say that they are navajo unless they are somehow authentic, such as a rug bought in a specific store or a piece of jewelry made by native artists. So thank you! and yes, sorry i should have read a little more of the comments, but I was on my phone yesterday and got overly excited and couldn’t finish them. and i completely understand that the hoods should basically be taken off of the shop for using the term “navajo” but if anything, they could just change the liner on the inside or rename it or find a creative way to fix them. speaking from my point of view i don’t see what’s wrong with the hoods, except obviously the use of the term “Navajo” and the whole spiritual description shebang. otherwise its an extended furry hat with mittens and i just think they’re strange. BUT when you put it into the perspective of the spirit crawlers, that does make it seem as though the wearer then turns into a savage beast, but I honestly don’t know that much about them, so i’ll keep my place and not roam on the subject, since i guess thats what the company wants: for kids to be able to explore and adventure with the hats.. go hiking? i don’t really know..

    And in reply to Spider’s post, I COULDN’T AGREE MORE.
    I mean, if the movement of the yay life tribe is coming across as offensive to Native people, there’s got to be a way to at least change it from being a “Tribe” to a group of people with the same motif of happiness. Because i don’t see how being happy is offensive, and going to music festivals and giving hugs, that is just being happy i don’t see anything at all offensive. But honestly all they have to do is just change their name and their hierarchy labels.. its that easy. Now, i dont know how hard it would be to separate them from the hoods, but I think as long as they aren’t giving themselves fake native names and wearing the so called “navajo” hoods, i dont see them being in the wrong. so in a perfect ‘movement’. its not even an organized group of people, there’s no club meetings nessicary, and its open to everyone, and personally i think the word “tribe” makes it sound secluded off from other people. which it is, but i mean secluded enough to be almost like an unorganized club with what seems to be a requirement: read the blog, try to be happy, spread the word, and buy a spirithood. also, if they really still want this to be about being a group and so forth, they can use different words like using the wolf pack heirarchy alpha, beta and so forth because i dont see how thats offensive. its a wolf pack. for all that i care they can rename it yay life pack, it doesnt make sense why it has to be a “Tribe” with a “Chief”

    and about what Spider said about people using the N word, is SO SO TRUE. I hate it when people use it EVER. i dont care if they think they are “cool” and making it “Trendy” (Which i hate that idea of using that word) and saying it with a “-az” at the end, its still SUPER offensive and derogatory.

  65. Anjel

    I’ve read through all the comments about I totally agree about the fact Yay Life Tribe needs to examine their privelege, drop the fake “honoring” of Native culture, and listen to the Native voices on this blog telling them they are wrong.
    Secondly, The spirit hoods just look like furry hats to me. If they dropped the faux-Native American contexts, they are still cute furry hats. Is there some sort of fear of being associated with the furry fandom if they don’t keep the associations with Native Americans? Why are these “Spirit” hoods so essential to the movement? I mean get some faux fur from Distinctive Fabic, and make your own. Then you don’t have to pay the ridiculous cost, you can make a furry hat that will get you all the happiness that this documentary seems to indicate you get from it, AND you’ll be separating yourselves from the stigma of what native appropriations blog has been saying all along. Plus it would seem a lot more meaningful to make something yourself rather than just to consume your happiness through overpriced hipster clothing.
    Also- while I am a fan of festivals, and I do enjoy myself at them, I don’t think it really is a mission to make “everyone and anyone” happy traveling around and talking to a bunch of drunken festies. Its sort of a place of privilege to begin with to even go to these festivals. And as some of the other people in this post have pointed out, you can’t just “be happy”, and its rather abelist to think that people have that much agency over their lives that they can just drop everything, wear goofy furry hats, and go to festivals to find the “truth to life”. The fact that YAY life tribe can quite their job is also a point of privilege that many people will never have access to.

    I really hope the Yay life people reflect on whats said here, and re-examine their use of native cultural clothing and insistence on using “Spirit hoods” to denote their “life changing experience”. Just wear silly hats, go to the festivals, and leave the native stereotypes and romanticizing out of it. Many people in the furry fandom have been doing this for a long time with out the need to attach Native symbols and appropriation to it (though some certainly do re: Golden Wolf). I’m sure you fashionable hipsters can make it look a lot more cool if you did it that way too.

  66. MendelsonPhoto

    “the loss of this delusion hurt so much”

    @spider that was well-stated and inspired. thank you for your honesty with yourself and the people on this forum, i can’t imagine that was easy to type. its the ‘loss of delusion’ that hasn’t happened for the yay life guys yet, my impression is that they feel backed into a corner and refuse to part with their delusions.

  67. RulerOfAllThingsEvil

    Has either side taken the time to simply say, I am sorry that I offended you, is there some way that I can work to correct this? Perhaps it is time to do so.

  68. Mack

    My thoughts:

    Note, I do not claim to be of any culture as I am American. I was raised as such and my lineage or bloodline does not change that. Just so you know. when I lived in the Texas I was called a wet-back, in Mississippi, a nigger, and the people here in the Pacific Northwest do not know what to do with me. I overcame all of these “labels” by being better than them. I suggest you all do the same.

  69. 8mph Ansible

    mack, roate, I believe you’re severely misunderstanding what’s being discussed and the whole “everyone deserves equal blame” nonsense feeks like cluelessness rather than contribution to the discussion.


    @Mack. Nothing is more offensive than someone telling me to “get over it”. Did you take the time to read any of this? Can I ask you a question of “Why?” Why is it okay to have a hood mimicking a wolf head called “Navajo” when shape shifters are considered evil in the teachings of the Navajo? Why do YOU have the right to tell ME to get over it? Did you parent get kidnapped from their parents at the age of 4 by the government? Did your parent get abused in EVERY way possible? (ie sexually, mentally, extreme physically). Do your people have the highest suicide rate IN THE WORLD? Nothing get’s my goat more than a non aboriginal telling me to get over it.

  71. lilenth

    Gee thanks Derek and co, for demonstrating just why many minorities have every reason and right to be angry at white people especially privileged white men.

    Ever think that stereotypes about white people’s ignorance wouldn’t exist if some of you didn’t keep demonstrating just how ignorant you can be?

    Before you start typing again, read these:

    Furthermore the whole “choose to be happy” is also offensive to another group, the mentally ill. Many of us cannot “choose to be happy”, the whole ideal of “yaylife” feeds into ignorant stigma about the mentally ill, the kind that inspired bootstraps! talks and lots of ignorance directed at us.

    You want to be happy? Fine, but don’t tear down other groups to do so. It’s offensive.

  72. JackySkye

    @RulerOfAllThingsEvil your comment seems to imply that both sides are at fault. This isn’t a case of the people who have commented misunderstanding the “Yay Life Tribe” and their intentions. Intent doesn’t matter. Personally, I don’t want an apology. When I hear or see someone doing something racist I say, ‘hey that thing your doing is racist, don’t do it”. Depending on how degrading their actions are and my mood at the time and any number of other factors I may or may not be angry. I don’t really care if the person knows that what they are doing is racist at the time, or feels sorry about it after. I care that they stop when people tell them what they are doing is offensive. I refuse to apologize for opposing racism. I don’t expect anyone else to apologize for standing up for themselves either. Your comment seems to be bordering on victim blaming.

  73. Tucker

    So many good points have been brought up and have been very enlightening to me. I really am trying my best to take it all in and process from an open mind. I’m hoping to conclude our issues with the words chief and tribe as well as the use of Spirithoods, mainly the Navajo series, and other Native American attire. There is a lot go over.

    I do agreed that the use of the breastplate was extreme. We are going to retire that going forward. I also understand where you are coming from with the Navajo series of Spririthoods. With this in mind we are going to stop selling the Navajo series of Spirithoods. I am not the maker of Spirithoods so I do not get a say in if they are renamed or discontinued. I am going to continue to work with Spirithoods. I really hope separating our group from the Navajo hoods will be seen as a positive step. We are really trying to do what is right and carry on with our message.

    While on the subject of our message, I am glad you guys brought up the point of view about people with mental illness not being able to make the decision to be happy. I am going to do a post about the importance of finding a good doctor ect.

    Lastly there is the vocabulary we are using. Your feedback really has me realize that by calling myself the Chief of a Tribe it is absolutely making mention to Native American references. I am going to get rid of the title and have our members suggest a new one. It really doesn’t matter which title I have, it’s just a title.

    After much consideration we are going to keep the word tribe. There are thousands of different tribes that come up on google and they are all different kinds of tribe. Our group is a tribe as well. We have united and have a mission. I really hope that removing ourselves from the Navajo series of Spirithoods, getting rid of any other Native American pieces, removing my title as Chief, and sincerely apologizing will be enough. Sincerely apologizing?

    Dear Native Appropriations and it’s followers,

    I am sorry for many things. First, I am sorry for the short sighted response I left on your blog. By posting this I started the tiff between us and I realize this. I am also sorry for using the chest plate. Going forward we are going to be much more conscious of your point of view. I realize this I’m not ever going to have a full understanding of your perspective but this doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. Thank you for your patience with me and I hope this can be a new beginning for us. I am still very open to putting a link on our site with more information about your customs and beliefs if you would be interested.

    Thanks for listening,


  74. Tucker

    So now there has been even more time for reflection. More analysis of what all of this means. One line from my last post that hasn’t been sitting very well with me is the line that says, “Your feedback really has me realize that by calling myself the Chief of a Tribe it is absolutely making mention to Native American references.” It was actually your feedback that has made me realize how much responsibility comes with being a Chief. You guys listen to Adrienne and look up to her. I am going to strive to have the same from my group. If we are going to be a tribe then we are going to need a Chief. The Yay Life Tribe is most certainly and I want to grow into a worthy Chief.

    This week has been filled with one life lesson after the other. First I realized how inappropriate my initial post was on the site. This taught me to fully analyze things before you make quick judgments. Then you made me realize how wrong it was to have our own Native American ware like the breastplate we had. There will not be any mistakes like this again.

    Next I learned how much your culture means to you. It’s not like I didn’t realize it was important but this experience really opened my eyes to a whole new world. I have no ties to my heritage. I don’t even know what mine is. Your passion clearly shows with each of your responses.

    Then today after my previous post I learned what it felt like to give into something to make it go away. I wanted to give up the name Chief because I thought it would make everyone one here happy. It’s not going to. I need to make decisions based on my tribe and how I can best lead them. Giving in on something that I don’t believe in is not a good way to lead. So now I am back here typing out my emotions and trying to figure out where to go from here. I want to be Chief of this Tribe. I want to do such a good job of it that anyone from any culture could say they would be proud to be in the Yay Life Tribe. I want our tribe to help make the world a better place and the knowledge that I have gained over the last week is going to prove help me be a better leader going forward.

    I still love Spirithoods and I do think they are just cute fuzzy hats. I have also learned where the line is. I am not going to support or sell any Spirithood that makes mention of the Navajo or any other Native American nation. I promise to have a meeting with them and do my best to explain what I have learned over this week. I am not going to do this because I think it will make you feel better. I am going to do this because it is going to make me feel better.

    So there you have it. I have no idea if you will believe a single word I’m saying but it doesn’t really matter. I know that I am doing the right thing in my heart. I am more driven to be a good example of what a good human being is than ever. I now know that being a good human being also means thinking outside of your own narrow point of view. Thank you for your comments, criticisms, complaints and support. I hope that one day we can all look back on this as an important step to bridging a cultural gap that I had been ignoring all along.

    Learning and growing,

  75. Amber

    ” The Yay Life Tribe is most certainly and I want to grow into a worthy Chief… Your feedback really has me realize that by calling myself the Chief of a Tribe it is absolutely making mention to Native American references… I am going to get rid of the title.”

    “I wanted to give up the name Chief because I thought it would make everyone one here happy. It’s not going to. I need to make decisions based on my tribe and how I can best lead them.”

    Had you and then we lost you. I wonder, how long is it going to take for you to decide that you can keep and “grow into” the ‘Navajo’ wolf hat and the mock ‘breastplate’ as well?

    If you actually follow through on those points, then good for you.

  76. ToddRodd

    So sad. He was talking of reform, now he clearly reverts.

    It clearly shows that what is right or wrong doesn’t matter, but how he FEELS is of upmost priority. Not so surprising at all.

  77. W

    This entire comment thread is like a feedback loop. No one is listening to anyone, everyone is just repeating themselves. Reminds me of fighting with my landlord.

  78. London Mabel

    Everything he said in his first post seemed like the right balance–why the backpedal on chief? Man. I was impressed until then. I thought we had a wonderful example of how to listen to race-based criticism and make real change.

    Tucker: Remove chief because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will or won’t make people (yourself included) happy. Along with the word “tribe” it will SO obviously take on a Native American connotation, you’re lying to yourself if you’re telling yourself otherwise. Especially since aboriginal regalia is so trendy right now, you’ll just capitalizing on that.

    The only time our society uses the word “chief” outside of a Native Am context is in things like “chief of operations.” Are you selling a CEO/Wall Street sort of aesthetic here? …Didn’t think so.

    Hapoo. Yay life.

  79. W

    @Mendelson, it’s not meant to be dismissive. It’s merely an observation. I think this entire thread is dismissive.

  80. Elissa

    We don’t need your help and happy thoughts to heal. Tribes everywhere are engaging in cultural revitalization efforts–real and meaningful work to bring back our cultures (plural–see what I did there?) and languages. For example, my tribe just participated in the Journey to Swinomish:

    Fuzzy hats and good vibes? Keep em. No thanks.

    Also, seriously, if one more non-Indian tries to prove cred by mentioning Dennis Banks and AIM…

  81. beardedsisters

    yeah I don’t really get what W is after here… I think if they read the whole thing they’d see that there most definitely is some listening and communication going on. except with derek. he seems to be… a dickhole. I am going to go ahead and take responsibility for not being completely nice and neutral in my tone here. frankly, I have a violent temper.

    anyway, so, basically, I am pretty sure I am going to have to start walking the other way next time I see one of these blatant appropriators because I have a problem with wanting to punch people in the face. then again I won’t get in that much trouble because I’m a pretty white girl.

    I think one of the most immediately persuasive arguments is the economic argument. I am pretty new to this… I think not much more than a year ago I didn’t give a second thought to hipsters in headdresses… and I think the first thing that I read that really solidified my change in perspective was about the literal monetary profit of white people from symbols of native cultures (before even getting into all the other shit wrong with that) while actual natives are stuck in basically the shittiest conditions of uhhh ALL, that I’m aware of, and not seeing a cent of it. Maybe it is just more understandable how this is theft (and not like in a benevolent robin hood way) when we put it in terms of money.

    Also, I do think there is such a thing as white american culture… Some people, I think on both sides, have either said that there isn’t such a thing, or that many white americans don’t feel that there is such a thing. but I think if you feel that as a white american you don’t have a culture then you just haven’t really recognized other cultures as something that are outside of your experience and, at a certain base level (no matter how hard you try), your understanding. There’s nothing forcing you to recognize a contrast. And yeah, bastardized appropriated symbols do belong to our culture in some ways–and they represent the cruel subjugation of other people, both historically and today. subjugation ftw!

    plus, I dunno, doesn’t it bother you appropriators out there, you fashionistas or yay lifers or whatever the crap you call yourselves, that you are taking the symbols of people whose near-annihilation was the foundation of our lovely white america, mangling those symbols (and/or using pre-mangled symbols), and using them ‘for fun’ while actual natives get the shit end of the stick?

    like, whatever you believe about cultural ownership and whatnot (I know, it’s so hard to fathom why other cultures aren’t just forcing themselves down our throats–I mean that’s what you’re supposed to do with culture, right?), I feel like it’s pretty douchey that you can slap on some feathers and proceed to party the night away…

    I don’t know, it doesn’t really put me in a super-jubilatory mood to think of the situation of native peoples in america today (or any time in the last uhh few centuries). I mean not that that’s the only thing to think of when thinking of american indians but it’s kind of a thing. little bit.

  82. Radio Libre LA

    The founders of the “Yay Tribe” assert that their sole mission is to promote “Happiness” throughout the world. Tell me then, how a sic and hungry child in any part of the undeveloped or underdeveloped place in the world could ever hope to attain this “happiness” without the purchase spirit hood? Where can an orphan who’s parents were killed by an oppressive regime buy a spirithood? Or a peasant fighting to maintain his land hang out with you guys so that you may “spread the good word”? Where does your mission statement fit in to this scenario?

    I think you have to think more clearly about the implications of your claims. You don’t want to spread happiness; you want to sell it. This company promotes/sells/distributes to a select group of people (i.e. hippsters) in an attempt to fulfill an egocentric goal: To make money and satisfy Americans inherit need for being different.
    You say being happy is a decision. Well, I can agree with you on that one. Our perception and interpretation of the world has everything to do with our personal contentment. However, you have to consider all the environmental factors that come into play when it comes to how we view the world around us. There are those who find themselves in a place, a time, or situation that cannot be resolved by merely putting on a “silly hat” as you kindly refer to them in your documentary trailer.

  83. Specialfxlady

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve never been to articulate my problem with folks who don’t get why I won’t just choose to be happy…

    So much love for this post and the responses.

  84. ACP

    I love when people pull out the Webster’s dictionary definitions. A white person’s definition of something has GOT to be the end all be all.

  85. Ugghh

    I think everyone here is missing the point. The Point is that if you are native american, first nation, dances with wolves lover/hater, white european/american/indian/kiwi/etc….woman(white, native american, black, italian, etc…), rosebud nation(cherokee, cheyenne, etc…)…emotionally/mentally/physically challenged(which myself and my brother are)….The Point is….to seek within yourself Love. Whatever that Love may be.
    I do not want to discredit myself as a friend of the “enemy”…but, I have known Tucker for almost 10 years now…and I know that he has had to Strive for everything he has…..despite being a White Male. He has worked and worked and worked. And I am as cynical as the next, but I truly find it disheartening and..dare I say it…Offensive… that because he is White and Male he does not understand racism, privilege, and Hate. In fact, I see a lot more Hate here from people proclaiming racial vindication.
    It’s important to see past the superficial labels and try to understand the Heart of the mission. We can all be offended…which is our right…and then we can try to move on with dignity in our lives.
    “You’re going to go as far in life as your attitude will take you.” – Tucker Gumber” “How you do it – your life[sic] – will be a task up to you” – Grandpa Gumber.
    Yay Life Tribe You Tube Video

  86. Ugghh

    I think everyone here is missing the point. The Point is that if you are native american, first nation, dances with wolves lover/hater, white european/american/indian/kiwi/etc….woman(white, native american, black, italian, etc…), rosebud nation(cherokee, cheyenne, etc…)…emotionally/mentally/physically challenged(which myself and my brother are)….The Point is….to seek within yourself Love. Whatever that Love may be.
    I do not want to discredit myself as a friend of the “enemy”…but, I have known Tucker for almost 10 years now…and I know that he has had to Strive for everything he has…..despite being a White Male. He has worked and worked and worked. And I am as cynical as the next, but I truly find it disheartening and..dare I say it…Offensive… that because he is White and Male he does not understand racism, privilege, and Hate. In fact, I see a lot more Hate here from people proclaiming racial vindication.
    It’s important to see past the superficial labels and try to understand the Heart of the mission. We can all be offended…which is our right…and then we can try to move on with dignity in our lives.
    “You’re going to go as far in life as your attitude will take you.” – Tucker Gumber” “How you do it – your life[sic] – will be a task up to you” – Grandpa Gumber.
    Yay Life Tribe You Tube Video

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