Archives For December 2011

Top 11 posts of 2011!

December 31, 2011 — 5 Comments

Hi Friends,

It’s almost 2012! How are these for some slightly embarassing statistics–my 2010 blog post count: 158 and 2011? only 58. (Where did those 100 posts go?) But don’t worry, my goal for 2012: 5 million blog posts!!! Or at least more than once every three weeks. Also look for a blog re-design in the new year, as well as some other exciting things in the world of Native Approps.

I’ve been inspired by Jessica over at Beyond Buckskin–she’s been doing some great round-up posts to close out 2011, so I thought I would throw together one of my own. Also, if you haven’t already, check out Beyond Buckskin’s new design, twitter, and facebook page. Show the Native blog-o-sphere some love!

So without further ado, here are the most clicked on posts this year for Native Appropriations:

11. A “Cowboys and Indians” party is just as bad as a blackface party.
I talked about the strange world that we live in in which dressing up in redface for a party is A-ok, and blackface is the ultimate taboo. Really, it’s so frustrating when you think about it.

10. Love in the Time of Blood Quantum
The post that originated the term “unicorn” to describe an educated, motivated, culturally connected Native man–a term that has snuck into our everyday lexicon out here on the East Coast. I still want someone to do a follow up on this from the Unicorn perspective, or a non-heteronormative perspective…you know you want to!

(the rest after the jump)

9. The Privilege of the Yay Life Tribe
Oh Tucker Gumber, “Chief” of the “Yay Life Tribe”–how’s that cashing out of your 401K to go to music festivals working out for you?

8. Let’s Talk About Pendleton
Thinking through my own strange relationship with Pendleton, how I love and value my blankets, but got mad when hipsters started thinking it was totes cool to march around town in Pendleton everything.  

7. Oh Spirit Hoods.
Wearing a decapitated stuffed animal on your head became the newest trend this year. And they managed to throw in some hardcore cultural appropriation in there too…there’s even a response from the owners in here. 

6. Urban Outfitters is Obsessed with Navajos
This one I’m most proud of–remember all the craziness with Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters with their Navajo-named products? You heard it here first! Much thanks to my “sources” within the Navajo DOJ that gave me the tip initially and let me break the story. 

5. Representing the Native Presence in the “Occupy Wall Street” Narrative
When trying to be inclusive sends the wrong message (a Plains warrior for an occupation on Lenape homelands?), and my early thoughts on the Occupy movements.

4. Oh, (Miss) Canada.
When Miss Canada decided an “Homage to the Haida” should include a full plains warbonnet and a strange take on NW coast art on her dress.

3. Halloween Costume Shopping: A sampling of the racism for sale
The photos and descriptions from the Spirit Halloween store that read like an Onion article. The most in-your-face example of racism this year, hands down. 

2. Miley Cyrus Enjoys Dream Catchers, Apparently.
I think the key word combo of “Miley Cyrus” “tattoo” and “18th Birthday” made this one a winner

And the number one clicked post…drumroll…with almost 25,000 page views (that’s incredible!)

1.  Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween
In which I get angry and “emotional” at all the people who decide to dress up as Indians for Halloween. It was shared close to 10,000 times on facebook, and I got called some really mean names. But I think it was worth it!

Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2012!!

Much Love,


Also your annual reminder that your can follow Native Appropriations on Twitter and Facebook–a lot of activity on there between posts!

“I know what you probably think of us…we saw the special too. Maybe you saw a picture, or read an article. But we want you to know, we’re more than that…We have so much more than poverty.”
I know many of you saw the Diane Sawyer 20/20 special “Children of the Plains,” and I let it pass by without much comment on the blog. I had plenty to say, but I knew a lot of folks from the community, and some of my friends, thought it was great–so I let it go, and didn’t think it was really my place to barge in with my super-critical lens on the whole thing.

But some awesome kids from Pine Ridge Rosebud, SD put together this short, but powerful video in response to the special, which I love:

Reminded me of this quote from Adam Sings in the Timber: “It often seems as if America has only two frames through which to view its Native culture: ceremony and pageantry or poverty and addiction.”

There’s a lot of power when we get to represent ourselves.

Youtube: More Than That

If you’re interested in some of the criticisms of the special:  
Indian Country Today: Children of the Plains was little more than “Poverty Porn”

The actual special:
ABC 20/20: “Hidden America: Children of the Plains”

Between Pageantry and Poverty: Representing Ourselves

Yesterday I posted about an awesome Pepper Ann cartoon that dealt with Peppy “discovering” her Navajo ancestry. Then, some readers pointed out some even cooler things I didn’t notice upon first watch, and some pointed out how I had made some really poor language choices in my write-up, so I’ll get to that too.

1) Pepper Ann’s best friend Milo (the one who identifies as Native Hawaiian) is actually named Milo Kamalani–and in the first 30 seconds of the cartoon, he says “My family can be traced back hundreds of years to the Kanaka Maoli people of the Hawaiian Archipelago.” The writers on this show clearly knew how to do their research! It’s fantastic that there was a contemporary Native Hawaiian character on the show, considering there are officially like zero representations of Native Hawaiians in the media today. I don’t know how much (if at all) his heritage was worked into the show, but I do think it showed some awareness and foresight to give him a Hawaiian name from the get-go.

2) The voices of Dave and Carol (the Navajo Mom and son) were voiced by Cody Lightning and Irene Bedard–They even used Native actors. Cool.

…and here’s the part where I kinda messed up. I got an email in my inbox this morning (edited for punctuation, it was from an ipad):

“Why is it better indian people change their names to “Northern European White names.” And dress in “white clothes.”  We know Indian people don’t walk around in headresses all day and beat drums, but we shouldn’t sell out and conform to the white norm.  You seem proud they have “normal ” names. That’s kind of insulting. So traditional native names are not normal?  I see this totally different–why not be proud of who you are? I am.” 

So she’s referring to my paragraph where I excitedly said: “Look, they’re in normal clothes! And they’re named Dave, Carol, and Bob. The grandpa (not pictured) is named Andy (no sterotypical names!).”

I’ll admit “normal” was probably the exact wrong descriptor. I completely agree with the email too, and I’m clearly not advocating that every Native person shun their traditional name or burn their regalia. I was more excited that it was a contemporary representation of Native people that broke stereotypes and didn’t have the flute music in the background, or a “mystical” element, or a character with a stereotypical name. The whole point of the episode was to point out how ridiculous Pepper Ann looked in her quest to discover her heritage, and the contrast made it that much clearer.

I also liked that the family clearly still had a lot of pride for their culture and a lot of cultural ties (as you can see in all the scenes from their house–pictures of the southwest on the walls, Navajo baskets, a portrait of a Navajo woman in traditional clothing, etc.–Even though they lived in suburbia.

I like when people point out my missteps, I write most of these posts really quickly, so sometimes things come out in the exact opposite way of what I mean. Keep the emails coming! (Unless you’re really mean. Cause that doesn’t help anything. It just hurts my fragile self-esteem.)

But the bottom line is this cartoon is still a great teaching tool, and you should watch it.

Pepper Ann “Dances With Ignorance”: Quality TV for an Indian Appropriator Near You!

Youtube: Pepper Ann “Dances with Ignorance”

(Thanks RJ and “guest”!)

I spotted this video on My Culture is Not a Trend last night, and had to share. Pepper Ann is/was(?) a cartoon on the Disney Channel, featuring a super awkward, kinda oblivious, but nearly always endearing main character, Pepper Ann. I had flashbacks to the theme song when I started watching this…Pepper Ann, Pepper Ann, she’s much too cool for 7th grade…no one’s greater than Pepper Ann! She’s her own biggest fan, Pepper Ann!…But I digress.

This quick episode (only 11 minutes! watch it!) features the exact same plot as Running Zack, the episode of Saved By the Bell when Zack discovers his “Indian” heritage, but this one is much more well done.

Quick synopsis: teacher tells the class they’re doing heritage reports, Pepper Ann decides all of her European ancestry is “boring” and then her Dad informs her she’s actually 1/16 Navajo, and gives her a concho belt that belonged to her ancestor. Pepper Ann then gets super excited, relying on every stereotype possible to represent her new “Indianness”–war whooping, crying a single tear for littering, putting her brother in a cradle board, beating “war drums”, etc. The whole time her friends are telling her she’s being offensive and wrong, but she’s too caught up in her ficticious identity to care.

Then she invites a “real” Navajo family over for dinner, she makes a complete fool out of herself in a plains Indian costume, building a tipi out of bed sheets, making smoke signals, suggesting they do a rain dance. The family gets offended and leaves, and later Pepper Ann eventually goes to apologize, learns the truth about Navajos, and gives a culturally correct and sensitive classroom presentation. I’m not really doing it justice. You should watch it.

Here’s the Navajo family:

Look, they’re in normal clothes! And they’re named Dave, Carol, and Bob. The grandpa (not pictured) is named Andy (no sterotypical names!). The whole episode is pretty awesome and spot on. Clearly the writers actually talked to some Navajos (what a novel idea). And I love that Pepper Ann’s friends are totally informed about cultural sensitivity and the proper way to represent–and her friend is also Native Hawaiian, which is cool. At one point he says “I’m Native Hawaiian, but I don’t walk around in a grass skirt and dance the hula everyday.” Sounds like we should be friends.

And here’s the moral of the story, after the Navajos leave:

Pepper Ann: What happened? I thought I was just learning about my background!
Moose: That’s just it, Peppy. You weren’t interested in learning anything. They barely got to talk.
Pepper Ann: All I wanted to do was show them how much I knew about our culture from stuff I picked up on TV, and in the movies, and in comic books…
Mom: Yes, but that’s what stereotyping is, Peppy. Even when it’s done with the best of intentions. You can’t believe things about any group of people without getting to know them first!

Cue the sappy music. Anyway, watch it. You’ll be glad you did. I think every person who’s been dressing up as an Indian and uses the “honoring” argument should be forced to watch it, or every person who thinks discovering an Indian ancestor means they can walk around in full buckskin and feathers.

Youtube: Pepper Ann “Dances with Ignorance”

(Thanks adailyriot!)

“Yulefest” is a Cambridge, MA tradition of sorts, a Holiday-themed 5k race through the streets of Cambridge, ending at a big tent full of beer. It’s considered to be irreverent, silly, and (from what I’ve heard) an overall good time. “Creative holiday wear” and costumes are encouraged, and everyone has a grand ol’ time. Until now. Cause I’m not having a grand ol’ time after seeing their promotional materials.

Here’s the description from Cambridge 5k (the organizers):

Long before Christmas, there was a quirky winter festival named “Yule” that people really loved. Join us 12/18/11 for a 5K race that takes the holidays back to their old school roots!

Run the race in your most creative “holiday-wear” and you could win a prize at our post-race party (sponsored by Clover Food Lab, Pretty Things, Notch Session & Peak Organic)!

Registration includes a great shirt + admission to our post-race Yulefest Party (21+) featuring great music, craft beers & awesome awards! > You will LOVE this race!

I’m not against fun. In fact, this sounds like a lot of fun. And I would totally participate, if I weren’t an overly-critically-fun-destroying-troll who finds joy in ruining your ignorance defense. I’m talking about the postcard above.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Two vintage-looking Indian women, waving/saying “how”, wearing stereotypical feather headbands, accompanied by a tipi wrapped around a Christmas tree. Fantastic. I assume they were going for “cute” “clever” maybe even a little “hipster” or “ironic”?  Or maybe it’s a weird reference to the taking the “holidays back to their old school roots” in the description? But, what, I ask you, does the stereotyping of Native people have to do with running, or even the holidays for that matter?

So I tweeted it to the organizers, and here’s how it went down (it’s really not that exciting so don’t anticipate too much, but I included some snarky commentary from my followers too):
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>View the story “Cambridge Yulefest Postcard ” on Storify</a>] …and the apology, of sorts. “Didn’t mean to offend anyone. Thanks for the schooling, we agree with you.” They only had 140 characters, so I can’t expect a novel. But admittedly, it was a little anti-climactic.

But did they agree with me enough to go pull the postcards from the various shops around town? or retweet my tweet to their followers? or post something on Facebook? That would probably be asking too much, right? Who knows.

Now, the overly-critically-fun-destroying-troll needs to get back to her end of semester grading. Hooray!

If you’d like to send them a note:

Twitter: @Cambridge5k

(Thanks April and Megan!)