Archives For December 2012


Hi Everyone!

If you hadn’t noticed, something is a little different around here…I finally took the plunge and made the switch over to wordpress and my own domain (omg I know, right?). I’m super excited, and relieved that most of the transition seems to have gone relatively smoothly, though there are still a lot of little things that need fixing and  adjusting.

So please bear with me over the next few days (weeks?) as I try and tweak and refine all the things that have gone wrong (such as the thousands of comments stuck in disqus limbo, the fact that none of the images are centered in posts anymore, there are no more “jumps” in any of the posts, and any youtube video I ever embedded is lost)…but it’ll get done! I’ll definitely need some help to figure it all out, so if you come across any broken links, missing pictures, or anything else that seems wonky or off, please let me know. Email is still the same, nativeappropriations(at)gmail(dot)com.

I’m really looking forward to playing around with the functionality and customizability of wordpress, I already have some grand plans in the works, so please keep checking back as I add and change.

A very happy new year to all of you, I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!

Much love,

Adrienne K.

PS-I would also like to send a HUGE wado (thanks) to reader C. who sent me a donation that covered all the costs of this move and paid for my theme. It was the best Christmas surprise I could have ever asked for. I am constantly humbled and blown away by all of your support–thank you to each and every one of you!

Dear entitled-full-of-sh*t-not-so-secretly-racist fan of Indian mascots,

I’m pretty sick of your behavior right now. I’ve written a lot of well-reasoned posts about mascots. I’ve provided both appeals to emotion and to science. I’ve shared stories about how people “like you” have changed their minds about Indian mascots. I’ve shared my own experiences about how I, as a Native person, feel when I encounter these images. I’ve been kind-hearted and tried to be understanding. This is not one of those posts.

Because today, I’m mad. Today, Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who has recently been a big friend to the Native community on the issue of Indian mascots, dared give the Atlanta Braves new racist throwback hat featuring a whooping savage the grade of an “F” in his fictional grading system of the new batting practice hats for the MLB. He dared say:

“Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their “screaming Indian” logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey — a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports. Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn’t been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F”

Read those vile and fighting words! Clearly he is calling each and every one of you a dirty, stinking racist. Clearly he is saying that you are the scum of the earth and that everything you hold dear is offensive to someone, so you might as well run around naked and live in a hole in the ground to stave off the “PC police” who are coming for you. Yes, by saying that returning to a tired, offensive stereotype of Native people is “disappointing,” that’s clearly what he meant.

Because in the comments, it seems you and your fellow sports fans have lost your damn minds. There are 30 caps in the post, 30 pieces of commentary from Lukas, but somehow, 99.9% of the comments on the article are concerning the Braves cap. You are so original to pretend you are a “pirate” and are offended by the Pirates, or that you are a “communist” and are offended by the Reds. Or Irish, or a Viking, or even more creatively, you’re an elephant who’s offended by the new A’s logo! L.O. effing L. Cause, yep, Indians are just like pirates and Irish and communists and elephants! All those folks are marginalized racial groups who have been historically oppressed and continue to have the highest statistics for poverty, and homelessness, and suicide, and live in third world conditions, while they constantly and repeatedly have their cultures and lives mocked and stereotyped on every corner. Yep! The welfare lines are just full of elephants this time of year.

And I’m so glad there are people like your friend “chrohandhaivey” who can tell me what I should be honored by and how “fierce” I “was”:

Im tired of this native american racist crap…$@%! you should be honored your race is a team mascot…thats a good thing…it shows how fierce you were to be used as a sports team….its not like its the n****rs or something i mean come on…personally i wish there was an Atlanta team named the “White People”…Id rock the $@%! out of that with pride not complain about it like some puddins

Or your friend “canigs013″ who gave us a backhanded compliment by saying we’re “too smart” to care about mascots:

for real. has anyone actually heard a native american complain about things like that? no, because they’re too smart to care about dumb things that do not matter.

Nope, “canigs013,” you’re right. I’ve never heard of a Native American complain about Indian mascots. Nope, there’s not a supreme court case, or millions of news articles, or decades and decades of activism against the cause. Nope.

But I’m stoked that one of your other friends brought up the infamous Sports Illustrated poll that shows that 80% of Native Americans support Indian mascots. A poll from 2002. Here are 20 other things that were popular in 2002, and I don’t think you’d care to argue their relevance today. Though, who knows, maybe you are rockin’ your CD’s on your walkman right now while fearing a boyband anthrax attack. There are also a million other things wrong with that poll, including the fact that they won’t release their polling sample or how they determined who to interview. Read this article to hear all the ways that poll is ridiculous and shouldn’t be used in an argument a decade later. A decade later. 

I really wonder if you know how you sound. Your arguments are tired, are weak, and are getting more eye-roll worthy by the day. How long will you stand by the argument that “PC culture” is ruining “your” America? I’d like to share this awesome quote by Dion Beary that sums up your thought process perfectly for me:

Politically correct” is just a term assholes came up with so they can dismiss people who have the nerve to want to be respected. Demanding not to be stereotyped is not political correctness, it’s a human right, and you are not some hero for refusing to respect people’s right to be treated like humans.

I am a real person. Hi. I am a modern Indian who likes sports and doesn’t want to take away “your” beloved francise. But the images aren’t yours to keep. They’re representations of me, and my people, and my ancestors, and I should have the right to control them. And you see, the thing is, times change. While maybe at one time (though I’m gonna stand by the fact that it’s never been acceptable) these images were deemed “A-ok,” we’re not in that time anymore. In the not-so-distant past, folks were lamenting the loss of the minstrel show as a lovely form of family entertainment, or demanding that black folks use separate water fountains. Which side of the fight do you really want to be on?

You might think “PC lefties” (actual term in the comments) expend too much energy fighting mascots when they “don’t matter”–but, in all honesty, I can’t believe how quickly and ferociously you jump in to decry the “oversensitivity” of Native folks. You’re sure acting pretty “sensitive” at the thought of losing your mascot for someone who thinks mascots don’t matter. I’m just saying. Did someone touch a nerve?

So really, Really think about what you’re defending. You’re defending your “right” to don a stereotypical and offensive caricature of a Native person. A caricature that I know you look at and feel in your gut is wrong. You’re attacking a reporter who dared call the look “disappointing.” You’re showing your insecurities and your roots, and they’re really not pretty.

I want you to take a deep breath, cause there’s some major smoke coming out of your keyboard right now. Take a deep breath and think about it. Call me overly sensitive, tell me I don’t represent “real Indians,” tell me that I’m being “PC” or “a left wing nut,” but I know, and I’m pretty sure deep down in that sports-loving-heart even you know, that maybe I’m right.

-Adrienne K.

PS-I know not all of you are like this. I know that a lot of you do take the time to think, and a lot of you will and have realized that it’s time to abolish Indian mascots once and for all. I know that you love your teams, and that the Indian images have been a part of your families and lives for generations.  I know that you don’t mean any harm. But I’m confident that when you open up your minds to hear the other side, you’ll realize that it’s time. Native people deserve better than to be memorialized or “honored” by stereotypes on a MLB cap.
(So much for not being kind-hearted and understanding. Damn. Blame my new friend who’s a lifelong fan of that-team-in-Washington, though I’m pretty sure I’ve changed his mind at this point…)

The article that started it all:

ESPN: First Look: New MLB Batting Practice Caps

A reminder of why this blog exists, one reader’s experience(Stanford alum who changed his mind about the mascot)
The Fighting Sioux are back, my passionate plea against Indian Mascots
The Fighting Sioux Part 2, the science (citing a study done by Stanford alumna Stephanie Fryberg)
Thanks for the severed head, you’ve proved my point

(Thanks Doug, Chris, Tessa, and everyone else who sent this over!)
Long exposure on the hoop dancer…all artistic and stuff.

I wanted to try something different to share my experience at the Idle No More solidarity rally in LA on Friday, so I made a podcast-of-sorts. I give some thoughts on the Idle No More movement, a little background, and set the scene. But then, the exciting part, I was able to interview some awesome folks at the rally: Andrea Landry, Crystle Lightning, Adam Beach (yes, ADAM BEACH), and Kevin Gonzaga. The podcast is about 20 minutes long, and the interviews give background on the movement and legislation in Canada, Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, what this means for Native people in the US, how these rallies and collective action are changing perceptions of Indigenous Peoples, and what the role of settler allies (non-Native allies) can be in the movement. Some really good stuff in their own words. Soundcloud link below, and more pictures after the jump:

Continue Reading…

(Photo courtesy of Save Wįyąbi Project, who are doing truly amazing work)

I sat in my apartment in a daze today, thinking about the poor babies in Connecticut, and how many families’ lives were irreversibly changed. I kept thinking about my mom, a second grade teacher in California, and how her only responsibility as a teacher for 23 beautiful 7 year olds should be to help her students create, learn, and grow, not to protect them from an armed shooter, or even have to think about such a thing. When you look at the statistics, and see that eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States–it points to a deeper problem. We live in a culture of violence, and it needs to stop.

Watching the incredible collective action occurring in Canada through the Idle No More movement over the last few days, I’ve become increasingly angry. I’m angry that Indigenous peoples in the US and Canada are in a position that we’ve been forced to march en mass, go on hunger strikes, and blockade roads just to get our voices heard–and that the national and international media is all but ignoring it. Our Native brothers and sisters to the north are fighting against a history of maltreatment and ongoing attacks against Native rights and sovereignty through acts of congress, and have turned to collective action as a means to give voice to the movement.

And I’m angry that here in the US, the Violence Against Women Act is about to expire any minute now, and GOP hold outs like John Boehner and Eric Cantor are keeping the bill from moving forward solely due to the tribal provisions that would protect Native women on reservations.

These are forms of violence. Systemic, real, deep and hateful violence. Violence against our land, our people, and our cultures. The United States and Canada were both founded on violence against and genocide of Native peoples. These nations would not exist were it not for the systematic and government sanctioned attempts of eradication of the Indigenous peoples of these lands. Though we espouse founding values of freedom and liberty, that freedom and liberty came at the cost of millions of Indigenous lives. Is it any wonder that even now, hundreds of years later, we still live in a culture of violence?

The Violence Against Women Act provisions that are holding up the bill are provisions that allow for the prosecution of Non-Indian perpetrators on Indian land within tribal court systems. The current laws state that crimes involving non-Indians are treated as federal cases. But in 2011, the federal government declined to pursue charges in 65% of domestic violence cases on reservations. Clearly this. is. unacceptable. 1 in 3 Native women have been raped or sexually assaulted, a rate 2.5 times higher than the national average, and of those crimes, 80% of them involve a non-Native assailant. This excellent Salon article discusses how these loopholes protect rapists on reservations, because they “know they can get away with it.”

What are Boehner and Cantor saying by not passing VAWA because of tribal provisions? That Native women don’t matter. That they are second-class citizens, who deserve less protection and less justice than their non-Native counterparts. 

I fight against negative representations of Native people everyday on this blog, and these issues are tied up in this fight. Victoria Secret sending a headdressed bikini clad model down the runway, pocahotties on halloween, Blair Waldorf on gossip girl dressing up like an Indian stripper–these images paint Native women as sex objects, as sexual fantasies, as something to be conquered and owned. Yes, other women are highly sexualized by the media, but the problem is that there are no other representations of Native women to counteract these. The overwhelming majority of images of Native women we see are the sexualized “Indian Princess.” 

So I’m tired, I’m upset, and I’m angry. I’m tired of being invisible, of Native rights being ignored, of ongoing and systemic violence going unchecked. I know my thoughts aren’t well formed, and my arguments might not be completely airtight, but we need to stand up. The connections are clear to me, though I know I haven’t found the exact and proper words to lay it out–yet. 

27 people lost their lives today in a needless and horrible act, and for me it became the catalyst for me to start forming thoughts about something bigger. Violence isn’t just individual violent acts, it is much more. Violence is defined by the world health organization as the: 

“Intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.” 

That, by definition, is how the US and Canada have acted towards Indigenous Peoples. We live in an ongoing colonial state that has been defined by violence against Native peoples. And it needs to stop. 

You can start by calling Boehner and Cantor and urging them to pass VAWA:

  • Speaker Boehner’s 202-225-0600 or 202-225-6205 and
  • House Majority Leader Cantor’s office 202-225-2815 or 202-225-4000
This is just the beginning. I feel that this is an important and real time for Native rights, and we will need to stand together in this fight. I’ve often worried that in my fight against negative representations I haven’t given readers images to replace the stereotyped and negative images. So let’s hope that we can replace those images with powerful and strong Native women and men who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

Am I totally missing the mark? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Other ways to stay involved:
Follow the #idlenomore tag on twitter for up to date info on the movement
Read more about the VAWA act
Post and share more information in the comments

One of the realities of having a blog is getting hate mail. No matter what you put on the internet, chances are, someone is going to disagree with it, and chances are, they’ll want to tell you about it. Now, I get a lot of love-mail, which always makes my day–stories of how you’ve used the blog to educate classmates, family members, and friends, how you’ve engaged with these issues in deep and meaningful ways, your stories of connecting with the struggle and my experiences–I love them. But I also get a lot of hate mail. A lot. So I thought it was high time I shared some with you all. Even though they’re mean and hurtful, a lot of them are just utterly ridiculous as well, and worthy of a laugh. But I also want to share to show you how deeply folks hold on to their right-to-be-racist, and how not at all shy they are about expressing those ideas directly to me.

First up, the tweet above. Apparently “The Juicer” thinks not only am I ignorant, I am, in fact, cancerous. Yikes. I should get that checked out.

Most of the recent gold has come from the Victoria’s Secret controversy, because if you mess with anything, don’t you dare mess with America’s right to watch scantily-clad ladies gallivant across the stage on television. How. Dare. I. First, some selected comments from the VS thread (this post was linked on Yahoo, MSN, and the Today Show blog, so a lot of these were first-time Native Approps readers, if that wasn’t obvious. You can also click to make them bigger):

Oh my. MackA uses both Caps-lock and over 20 exclamation marks. They mean business.

Ok, deep breath for the logic on this next one:
Thank you for not reading any of the blog post where it tells you why Native Americans might find this offensive. That would be silly! I’m also so glad that you don’t find it racist. That’s totally what matters. I’m just going to go withhold Halloween candy from innocent white children now. With my “special privileges.”
There are plenty more, if you care to go look. Now that we’re warmed up, on to the emails. 
This one will truly go down in the books as my favorite, because it comes in two parts. Part 1 (pardon the NSFW language!):
“Dimwit Babies” and “Taxpayer’s Tit” sound like really good punk rock band names, amiright? So Mr. Richard sent this email, only to receive my auto-reply, which is a cheerful “Thank you for your submission to Native Appropriations! Your tip might not go up right away…blah blah” It’s nice, or at least I think it is. He thought it was me emailing him back, to which he replied eloquently and succinctly: 
This email came as a uninterrupted block of text, which I feel must be read in its entirety to appreciate its beauty:
Have you lost your crazy ass mind? Why is the hell do you find that Victoria Secret model offensive? Apparently you don’t look at it as a beautiful art, or appreciate that people still think about Native Americans. I can’t tell you how wrong you are to consider yourself a Native American, if you are even one, or just putting on a show to draw attention to yourself. Where you here when the white man took the land from the Native Americans? No didn’t think so? Where you here to hear the stories of what the Native Americans went through during that time, nope didn’t think so on that either. You have no right nor busy making anyone hate anything people are doing. So it is ok your majesty to have Native Americans taught in public schools or does all the school in this country (which by the way FYI, you don’t own) need your periods permission. I would hate for my daughter to go to school and not learn about the Native Americans cause they are very interesting to learn about and how they live off the land and not technology like today. Let me know so I can let her school know that someone like you finds it offensive. That model had a beautiful outfit on and Im sorry LOL but since when did Native Americans have Leopard print??? Just curious…. since just the hair dress offended you. I don’t see you wearing one in your picture. Do you go around telling people not to dress or talk about the Native Americans?? I know when I was a kid we did a play and a bunch of white and black kids were running around and dancing like them, would that have offended you?? There is a high school not far from where I live that mascot is a Native American is that wrong too??? You can’t change history, no one can, but your a sick minded person to think it is wrong for a company to come up with something that is Native American, and you have no right blasting anything on the internet that proves to the other races that it is wrong too. I have a feeling if you were old enough you would of been burning crosses in black families yards back in the old days, wouldn’t you?? You need to find another hobby and lay off the fact that people are making things that has something to do with Native Americans. I don’t think not one Native American man would have any objections to that model wearing that. This is the land of the free or at least people want to think so but apparently people like you want to stop that from happening. Your not God and you can’t change the world so stop wasting your time and others with that fucken garbage, no one cares what you think or what you want done to make it go perfect. Let people enjoy the colors and the style that the Native Americans created for you and the rest of the world to see and appreciate, let the children of the next generation and many more to follow enjoy it or no one will even know who the Native Americans even were. I was able to understand it in history class but if stupid bitches like you continue to bitch and moan about it then they will terminated forever.  
I have so many words, but not that many. I’ll let that one lie. I just love the jump from me talking about VS to my being a cross-burning racist in years of yore. Oh, and one last thing:
Finally, the hate comes from all sides, and I actually get some from Native folks too, mostly those who a) don’t think I’m a “real Indian” and/or b)think that issues of representation and cultural appropriation are masking the “real” issues in Indian Country. One “group” in particular sends me harassing emails quite often, culling the internet for personal details about me and my activities at school, pretending they have talked to my friends and classmates, and overall just trying to scare me into submission. They hide behind masked IP addresses, and when I graciously offered to give them a platform on my blog–I even said they could say anything they wanted–they declined. Go figure. But the best part, oh the best part, is the cartoons. I now am the proud owner of over 10 of these poorly-photoshopped masterpieces:
Notice the little headband added onto the man in bed. Adorbs. Most of them involve a “Cherokee” who doesn’t care about “real issues” in Indian Country. Omg, is that me?! Also, for the record, I never once have questioned anyone’s identity, except maybe Johnny Depp.

The irony is not lost on me that they think I should stop wasting my time on these issues, when they clearly have plenty of time to waste making these cartoons and scouring the internet for my personal information. Good times. Am I giving them more fodder to use against me by publishing these? Maybe. But come on, these are awesome. Though I only wish I had a cute little anime outfit like the “Cherokee” above. A girl can dream.

But the bottom line with all of this? Let’s think about what I’m doing with the blog. I’m asking, admittedly sometimes demanding, that Native peoples be allowed to be represented in real and respectful ways. That we be afforded the same basic human right that other groups enjoy, so that we can be proud of our living, contemporary cultures and nations. I honestly have a hard time seeing why you would react so vehemently against that. I get that I’m disrupting privilege, and when folks aren’t prepared for that, they react negatively. But for my Native brothers and sisters who don’t agree with me, I’m sorry. I’m not doing this to mask the “real issues”–I’m doing this so that the facade of Indians-as-fantasy-characters, Indians-as-situated-in-the-historic-past, Indians-as-savages, can be torn away and the real images of who we are as contemporary people, struggles and all, can replace them. Do I argue that this is the only thing we should focus on? Absolutely not, and I never have. This is just one sliver of a multi-pronged fight.

So yay, hate mail. Superhappyfuntimes, right?

Since I kinda brought it down at the end, enjoy one more, just for fun. This one from a Cherokee sister:

With “infinate love and understanding in the universe”,

Adrienne K.

I know things have been quiet around here for a few weeks, and I apologize. I’ve been traveling all over the place talking, and talking, and talking some more. I had great visits to ASU and Columbia, and was supposed to be on an awesome panel with Phil Deloria, Suzan Harjo, and Carla Fredericks in NYC, but it was unfortunately postponed (I’ll keep you posted when we decide on a new date). I also finally got to meet Simon Moya Smith, the man behind I Am Not A Mascot, and we had a great conversation about Native activism in the 21st century, hate mail, identity, and more. It was great to connect with folks and hear so many ideas about the future of this fight and how my blog might fit into that larger movement, and hearing stories and words of encouragement from fellow activists who have been at this longer than me was so inspiring.
So I’m back at my desk in Boston, and ready to tackle some big things. But first, a lot of great Indian videos have crossed my path in the last few days, so I thought I would share some inspiring and entertaining Native videos to start the week off right. 

First up, my good friend H. (won’t call him out in case he’s embarrassed because he’s wearing tons of eyeliner) makes his 1491s debut playing none other than Johnny Depp. So I know it’s been awhile since we’ve chatted about our dear friend Johnny Depp-as-Tonto, but in case you forgot, posts here, here, here, and here. Backstory: Johnny Depp was adopted by LaDonna Harris (Comanche). This is an actual account of what happened at his adoption ceremony:

Next, as some of you know, I work closely with an amazing organization called College Horizons, and a couple of years ago one of our students, Koli, sang this song at our Traditional Night. She’s a Yurok, Karuk, and Hupa student who’s now at UH, and in this song sings about the politics of “looking Indian.” Love it. She also comes from an awesome family, her dad is a Stanford alum and filmmaker, and her sister is a current Stanford student (you know how I love my Stanford connections):

Then, this beautiful and tear-jerking letter to Native Youth is powerful and important (it was inspired by the 1491s/Dallas Goldtooth’s letter to Native women, which I’ve shared here before, and is also worth a watch):

Finally, one of my twitter-follower-friends R. Vincent Moniz tweeted out this fantastic video of a poem about Halloween/Cultural Appropriation/Redface that he performed at a Native poetry night. It’s awesome. I love the Native Approps references sprinkled throughout. :) The poem starts at 6:48 (though his other stuff is good too!):

Ok, a personal plug too. Back in October I was interviewed by a cool Native filmmaker/scholar Myrton RunningWolf for a webseries called “Well Red”. The trailer for the series is here:

and then the teaser trailer for my interview is here (full interview will be up soon!):

Hope these help you get through the remainder of your Monday, and if you’ve got more Native videos we should see, share the links in the comments!

(Thanks H., Koli, Carly, Lyla, Vincent, and Myrt!)