Archives For November 2011

It’s a good season to be Indigenous! I hope everyone had a safe and happy Turkey Day (or You’re Welcome Day, or Thanks-taking day, or Day of Mourning, however you chose to celebrate/not celebrate). I’ve had an incredibly busy month, which I’m sure you noticed, given the lack of anything up here. But back to the blog!

I often extol the merits of “buying Native” or purchasing from a Native artisan whenever possible, and as the holidays approach, it’s a wonderful time to put that ideology into practice. Jessica Metcalfe at Beyond Buckskin has been putting together a fabulous series of posts on the Native artists on Etsy, and I wanted to share some of her resources on here as well. She’s going to be continually posting for the rest of the month, so be sure and check back in! (lots more after the jump)

Jessica’s Posts:

Post 1: Holiday Shopping Guide: Support Native Artists and Small Businesses on Etsy

Beautiful beaded cuff from Sparkle and Bead‘s Etsy shop

Post 2: Spotlight on Etsy Seller Ndnchick

 Gorgeous beaded necklace–only $50!

Post 3: Etsy Treasury Lists (Jessica put together some beautiful themed lists!)

Native American Red Red Christmas” (my personal favorite)
And, for those of you in the New England area, there is also an awesome Native Arts Show going on this Saturday (Dec. 3rd):
Then there is the always great Demockratee’s site (by Ryan Redcorn, of the 1491′s and Buffalo Nickel Creative):
And Native Threads, a great family-run Indian clothing and apparel company, located in my hometown of San Diego:
Finally, Cheef Clothing, the maker of my favorite sweatshirt (It says “I was here first”): The website is down, but hopefully will be back up soon!
If you have other websites, Art shows, resources, or companies that will help us all Buy Native this holiday season, please leave them in the comments! Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll share some amazing Native organizations/causes that would love your holiday support. 
PS- a FB commenter from NZ pointed out that many Etsy sellers don’t ship internationally, so any global resources would be very much appreciated too. 
PPS- I made that “Buy Native” logo in Microsoft Word! I’m such a techie! ha.
Beyond Buckskin:
Harvard Native Program:
(Thanks Dr. Metcalfe!)

(It’s a two-post day! omg!)

I just saw this on my Facebook feed and felt the need to share. So for those of you who don’t spend 90% of your day reading celebrity gossip blogs (I’m incriminating myself here), Kim Kardashian got married 75 days ago. Her wedding cost anywhere from $10-20 million dollars. She filed for divorce 3 days ago. Now people are speculating whether or not she’ll give Kris Humphries (the ex-hubbs) the ring back. And here’s what Kim’s mom, also named Kris (that’s creepy, right?) had to say about it:

“I hate an Indian giver. It’s a gift, you know.”

This was on Good Morning America, if you were wondering. Awesome, Kris Jenner. Thanks for that. Here’s the video clip, the “Indian Giver” line is at 2:58:

There’s no real consensus on the etymology of the term “Indian Giver” on the internets, but I thought this was a good summary (source here):

One who gives a gift but later takes it back.
Indian giver derives from the alleged practise of American Indians of taking back gifts from white settlers. It is more likely that the settlers wrongly interpreted the Indians’ loans to them as gifts. This term, which is certainly American, may have been coined to denigrate of the native race. Historians would now agree that, where deceit was concerned, it was the settlers who were the front runners. It isn’t uncommon, and it could be argued that it is customary, for the conquering race to attempt to justify their invasion by dismissing the conquered as dishonest and stupid.

The phrase is quite early in the history of the the USA. Thomas Hutchinson described the term as proverbial as early as 1765, in his The history of the Province of Massachusetts Bay:

“An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected.”

Basically, I think we can all agree that it’s probably not the best term to use to describe a negative act, considering it stereotypes Indians as deceitful and un-generous (not generous?), which, if you’ve ever been in a Native community, is about the farthest thing from the truth. Ever heard of giveaways? or Potlatches?

The Kardashians don’t exactly have an awesome track record with sensitivity towards Native issues. Khloe wore a headdress a few months ago, twice, and for Dancing with the Stars on Halloween, Kourtney (and Mason, her son) wore Indian costumes. Though they claim Native heritage (vomit).

Annoying, right? Also annoying is that currently on Google news there are over 40 articles with “Indian Giver” in the headline. /headdesk

USA Today: Kris Jenner on Kim’s Ring ‘I hate an Indian giver’

This isn’t going to be a story about how I chased some Pocahottie down the street yelling about the history of colonialism and subordination of Native peoples, or how I ripped a headdress off a huge guy and stomped it in the mud in the name of justice (Actually, I did that one time at a football game. Not recommended.). This is me needing to get some stuff off my chest about the way that my series of Halloween posts were received on the internet, the way I approached the issue of Indian Halloween costumes, and how I’ll move forward (and do better) from here.

So, a quick recap. Wednesday, October 26th, I posted an “Open Letter to Pocahotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween.” I wrote it in about 30 minutes or so, writing completely from a place of  borderline activist fatigue. I knew that a post where I attempted to reason with the dominant discourse that says “dressing like Indians=totes ok” wouldn’t work. So I went for the purely emotional argument, knowing full well that I was baiting the haterz, and would probably not receive an overwhelmingly positive response.

What I didn’t expect was nearly 6,000 shares on Facebook, 19,000+ pageviews, and over 300 comments (before I shut them down). All of a sudden, people who don’t know me, don’t know this blog, don’t know the things I talk about day in and day out, were saying things about me that were harsh and horrible (I know, woe-is-me, wah wah, I-put-it-on-the-internet-I-should-deal-with-it), and I’ll be totally honest, it scared me a bit.

So I followed the emotional appeal with a post that showed the in-your-face racism for sale in the form of Indian costumes, and surprise, surprise, none of the people so eager to hate on my feelings and my opinion ventured to tackle the actual costumes that I find so egregiously offensive.

But I want to go back to some of the things I said in the original post, and clarify. Most of you don’t know this, but my doctoral work is in education. My research focuses on access to higher ed for Native youth, and my goal is to produce research that re-frames the stories about Native students from a deficit perspective to a positive, success based approach. I’m sick of everything that paints Indian Country as this solely desolate and hopeless place, when I see so much strength, joy, excitement, and hope coming from the kiddos I work with. That being said, I totally went for the deficit approach in my Open Letter, and it’s been bothering me.

I played the Oppression Olympics card–”You don’t know what it’s like!” “Hunger! Unemployment! Sexual Assault!” “We have it so bad!” “You are oppressing me!!” When plenty of other communities of color and marginalized groups do know what it’s like. It doesn’t do us any good to fight over who has it worst.

I also feel like I mis-represented myself a bit too. I am a proud Native woman, and I know what it feels like to feel invisible, to feel marginalized, and to feel silenced. But I’ve also written many times before about how I also have a whole-lotta privilege of my own, being really mixed (i.e. looking white), growing up in a suburban area where I was afforded a gazillion opportunities, and attending prestigious universities for my education, where I’ve been able to sit and read piles of critical theory and develop my angry/activist lens. So I know what a lot of it is like, but I also can walk through my life without anyone ever knowing I’m a Native person. I don’t know what it feels like to live on a reservation, to experience the direct effects of racist governmental policies. So I don’t like being seen as  “the voice” of Indian issues. Because my voice is only one Indian voice, one perspective. There are 4.1 million Natives in the US, and there are 4.1 million different ways this blog (and that post) could be written. 

But I was just so tired of fighting. I just wanted someone to not only hear me, but to listen. Do I regret posting it? Absolutely not. If I managed to start 6000 conversations about Indian costumes, I did my job. Would I have approached it differently today? Probably. But I still stand by everything I said. That’s how I feel. Do I feel better having clarified things in this post? Absolutely.

Moving forward, I want to make sure I re-frame many of my discussions away from a deficit perspective. I think it’s important for my non-Native readers to understand the realities of contemporary Native life, but I also think that only relying on those tropes furthers negative stereotypes as well. So I’ll try to strike a balance. I’m also going to develop a commenting policy, probably a lot like Racialicious’s, so we can have actual, productive conversations in the comments, rather than dealing with racist trolls who don’t know what they’re talking about. yay.

TL;DR version (aka a summary):
I wrote a post about Indian costumes. It went viral. People were mean. I felt like I relied too much on negative stereotypes of Indian Country to make my point. I feel like I wrote like I know everything about being Indian and Indian issues. I don’t. Now I feel better. Thanks.

PS- This is my 250th post on Native Appropriations! Cue the confetti!!

Welcome guest blogger, and one of my BFF’s, Marjorie J (Tulalip and Swinomish), she’s a current law student and I’ve clearly gotten in her head with the Native Appropriations talk. If I’ve gotten in your head too and you’d like to guest blog about an issue, just send me an email!

I have mixed feelings about The 12th Man design by one of my favorite t-shirt companies, Casual Industrees. I am not sure if the artist is from a Coast Salish tribe, which either heightens or ends the debate. Based on my personal aesthetic alone my first reaction is: this looks awesome. Of course being one of Adrienne’s friends and a devoted fan, I question my endorsement after my analysis naturally evolves into larger questions about art, identity, acceptance, and what happens when Native cultures live harmoniously (or at least not so adversely) with others? 

The Amateur’s Art Analysis and A Peek Into My Thought Process:
The artist extended the theme of the stylized Seahawks logo on a foam head and added wings, not previously found on the logo or the foam heads. The style of the wings is clearly contemporary and does not follow the customary rules of any Coast Salish art forms I know. Rather, the wings incorporate customary shapes used in Coast Salish art by modern and traditional (Native) artists alike. 
Where we start to move away from imagery of a fan’s foam head towards a fan’s headdress or mask is the face: the two green paint lines on the cheek suggest the 12th Man is wearing “war paint” instead of mimicking the black grease or tape the players use on their cheeks to cut down on glare. Now it’s starting to look more like a hipster appropriation and misinterpretation and I wonder – was the inspiration for this design a transformation mask
Let’s assume the artist is not from a Coast Salish tribe. Generally as to the entire design and specifically as to the shapes used in the wings, how offensive is this appropriation? Consider…
Native Identity and Regional Identity: 
One day a few weeks ago, a fellow Washingtonian (who does not identify as Native) and I were discussing how Coast Salish art is not hard to come across in the day-to-day life of a non-Native person in Washington and especially Seattle. It is commissioned as public art by Seattle (sculptures, 2-D designs, and even manhole covers among other things). It’s bought up and displayed by universities, airports, art museums, hospitals, private non-native collectors, tribes, and Indian casinos alike. My friend mentioned how she didn’t realize until moving away from Washington how accustomed she’d come to seeing it. I realized that the images I find so comforting are also reminiscent of home to her. 
Because of this day-to-day presence of Coast Salish art through the region, the art is not only Native, it might also be a component of regional identity. 
Because of this, I started to think about the extent of local tribal influence outside of art. Anyone with nominal familiarity with my tribe will probably tell you that our ‘presence’ in the past 30 years has grown like crazy. The success of commercial investments has translated into economic and political influence that reaches far beyond the reservation borders. 
Now, any tribe with economic success is an exception and not the norm. However, keeping in mind that most tribes are probably working towards more economic success and political representation…
Let’s Compare Another Regional Identity: 
Looking at this, I started to compare it to what I saw in New Zealand. Check out the use of shapes in the 12th Man and compare it to the appropriation/incorporation/influence of common Maori art and shapes throughout New Zealand (look at the Rugby World Cup logo for Wellington and official ball, this place name sign for the Kapiti Coast, and a logo for a University of Auckland event & tell me if you see any similarities). The Maori culture is an undeniable, unique, and influential component of the broader New Zealand culture and identity.  I wonder how the prevalent use of Maori art and themes by non-Maori has evolved to what it is today? Does it matter that Maori make up a larger percentage of the NZ population than Natives do in the U.S.? That the Maori language is one of the official languages of NZ? Or that the Maori have devoted seats in Parliment?  If it’s not appropriation, is it incorporation – suggesting the non-Maori with power are acting more cooperatively than entitled? Or is it influence – a result of political and cultural power? The extent to which any or all Maori people believe it is appropriation, I obviously have not inquired. But if my questions are answered, how do they inform my last question? 
Yup, finally my last question: 
So, for me at least, it all begs the question: When Native cultures actively work to increase artistic, political, and economic success in a region and have thus become a component of both Native identity AND regional identity, is there a point at which we, the local Natives accept non-Native interpretation/incorporation of our culture (i.e. art) as something that unites us as a region of people?

(Thanks Marjorie!)