On Apache Pizza and the Globalization of American Indian Cultural Appropriation

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.17 Comments

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By Adam Hoffman, Guest Contributor 

This was it…I had finally made it to Ireland! As an American, it had always been my dream to travel abroad and tour Europe. At the age of 25, I was well overdue to see a different part of the world. And, as a budding psychologist who studies the development of ethnic and racial identity in youth, I was excited to experience and learn more about the Irish culture and its people.

I had just spent a week in England and flew from London to Dublin, Ireland. A bus from the airport dropped me off in the center of Dublin. I could barely contain my excitement as I set off to explore the city. I walked about for a few minutes with the destination of Dame Street in mind, as it is known as to be a quintessential “Irish” street. While walking there, I had visions of quaint, narrow cobblestone streets lined with Irish pub after Irish pub; surely I was in for a true Irish treat. I found my way to the intersection and turned the corner onto Dame Street. The first thing I saw hit me like a big, red, double-decker London bus—a business called ‘Apache Pizza’.

Wait…what?

Before I go any further, allow me to elaborate briefly on the concept of cultural appropriation for those folks reading who are not as familiar. Cultural appropriation occurs when the dominant culture takes or exploits elements of a minority culture without permission and has very little understanding about what it is that they are appropriating. Thus, cultural appropriations are often very problematic as they can promote misrepresentations and (typically negative) stereotypes about the minority culture.

At first I was shocked and confused, thinking, ‘Where am I? Was I back in the United States? Was this really American Indian cultural appropriation in Ireland? Why Apache? Why pizza? Isn’t pizza an Italian dish? Pizza certainly isn’t a traditional Apache dish!

I wearily approached the business. Sure enough this was a pizza restaurant using an American Indian culture as their brand. The main logo of the pizzeria was a silhouette of what appeared to be an Indian (with red skin tone) wearing a headdress that is much more typical of Northern Plains Indians than Apache. The slogan of the restaurant above the door read, “Too many cowboys, just one Apache.” The menu posted on the outside of Apache Pizza featured culturally incorrect specialty pizzas named ‘The Wigwammer,’ and ‘The Tomahawk,’ both of which are words from Northeastern tribes of American Indians, not Apache. Later, I came to learn that Apache Pizza is one of the largest pizza chains in Ireland with over 100 restaurants scattered across the Emerald Isle…misrepresenting American Indian culture since 1996, one ‘Wigwammer’ pizza at a time.

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Given my lack of international travel experience, I had assumed that appropriation of American Indian culture was simply an American problem. But, it was standing outside of Apache Pizza in Dublin, Ireland that I witnessed the power of globalization. I realized the problem of appropriation of American Indian culture has moved well beyond the borders of the United States and is truly an international problem.

Unfortunately, this was not my first run-in wIMG_5010ith American Indian cultural appropriation since coming to Europe. In England, I was out late one night and I passed a nightclub on what appeared to be a costume night. Two young women were dressed as “Poca-Hotties,” in scantily clad deerskin pleather ‘Native’ dresses and ostentatious headdresses. I was baffled. I could not believe that in just one week I had seen cultural appropriation in two countries, and so I decided that I would begin tracking and documenting the various forms of American Indian cultural appropriation I came across in Europe. After Ireland, I went to Portugal for a week and found a t-shirt for sale depicting an Indian in a headdress smoking what appeared to be a ceremonial pipe. While in Monaco, I passed a storefront that had large print of woman in very revealing clothing and wearing Northern Plains style headdress and breastplate.

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My last and final stop in Europe was France. I lived in Marseille, France from September to December, and conducted research examining the development of ethnic identity in North African French youth and how it related to academic motivation. After touring all over England, Ireland, Portugal, and parts of France my shoes were starting to wear out and actually had holes in them! So I made my way to the local mall in Marseille and went straight to the store map to find a shoe store. As I was looking through the list of stores, I quickly noticed this very English word among many French words: ‘Redsk*ns’.

Appalled, yet intrigued, I found the location of the store and was on my way. As I walked up to the store window, I was horrified. Peering in, it looked like any other casual clothing store for young adults. But instead of words like ‘American Eagle’ plastered all over their clothing, the word ‘Redsk*ns’ was everywhere. After doing a little research when I got back to my apartment I found that Redsk*n was initially a denim label that originated out of Paris and due to its success had expanded into general clothing merchandising in France. Today, Redsk*ns is one of France’s most popular denim labels. In fact, almost daily I saw people wearing this brand.

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Thus, the fascination with appropriating American Indian culture has truly been globalized, at least in Europe. However, not all globalization has resulted in misrepresentation of American Indian culture or promoted negative stereotypes of American Indians. In my effort to document American Indian cultural appropriation in Europe, I also looked for instances where American Indian culture was accurately and positively represented. For example, The British Museum in London had a wonderful room dedicated to the explanation of the culture of American Indians and displayed some of the artifacts that American Indians used in their daily life. In Marseille, France, I went to the Museum of African, Native American, and Oceania Arts and showcased Native art and explained how art was made based on the supplies these people had before Western colonization.

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So, what is the moral of this story? In an era of globalization, American Indian cultural appropriation has become an international problem. However, the power of globalization could and should be harnessed to aid in the mitigation the American Indian cultural appropriation. Just as strong efforts have been made within the United States to thwart American Indian cultural appropriation, more effort should be targeted at the international community and its outlets to advocate and educate people about modern American Indians and their culture. With more effort aimed at the education of international community, respect and a more accurate understanding of American Indian culture will be achieved, where entire cultures are no longer reduced to costumes or brands for a pizza restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam J. Hoffman is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Generally, Adam is interested in the development of ethnic and racial identity in adolescents and how ethnic and racial identity development is related to and may even predict academic, psychosocial, and mental health outcomes in adolescents. Further, Adam is interested in understanding how contextual factors (e.g. parents and peers) may shape the development of ethnic and racial identity in adolescents.

  • fattdaddyslim

    cry me a river liberal

    • Vision_From_Afar

      Why are you even here? The site is literally called “Native Appropriations,” and you’re here to whine about an article describing appropriations? Move along, troll.

      • fattdaddyslim

        im seminole asshole

    • http://twitter.com/ Weasel

      Learn to type and then we’ll talk. Until then, you seriously need a proofreader and an editor.

      Nice try, though.

      • fattdaddyslim

        well fuck you

      • fattdaddyslim

        we dont cry over bull shit

      • fattdaddyslim

        pussy

  • Audrey Dalton

    It’s even in South Africa. There is a restaurant chain there called Spur Steak Ranches that uses American Indian stereotypes as theming.

  • Amorette

    Redsk*ns?!!?!?!?! Seriously. Yow. I guess I need to open Paris and open a N*ggers clothing store.

  • debreese

    Adam–I study children’s books. What you’re seeing has parallels in children’s and young adult books published in the UK. One particularly galling one is by a writer named Tanya Landman. It purports to be about Lozen.

  • ProfAndrews

    Something to think about: Did the Irish have a dominant relationship with American Indians? If not, then perhaps it is some other kind of appropriation. It is my understanding that many Irish people identify with American Indians, feeling that they share a common experience — being dominated by the English. For instance, Dine (Navajo) poet Rex Lee Jim published a collection of poems in Ireland that was printed in three languages: Dinebizaad, Gaelic, and English. I have students who have traveled in Ireland and sent me pictures from pubs that had walls or displays commemorating American Indians. Sure, they tended to be tacky, perhaps even unintentionally racist, but I think they were expressing an identification with American Indians different from the dominant-culture fantasy of being Indian — John Dunbar, fashion runway war bonnets, etc.

    • Poppaea Sabina

      It depends on how “globalisation” is being defined, but the appropriation life-cycle for Native American cultural references in the UK is probably older than ca.1990s. I think the scene in France is more recent (late 1980s?)

      You may not be able to listen to the broadcast below, but Radio 4 had a blog piece a few years ago on the popularity of the Western genre in the UK from 1930-1970s.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rqc5z

      If you are familiar with music in Ireland and Scotland, you would have encountered the “Country and Western” genre, especially Show Bands in Ireland during the 1950s-1980s.
      http://www.irish-showbands.com/cwbands.htm

      I remember walking through a tower block estate in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, where the park surrounding it had been named “The Ponderosa”! Bonanza was popular in 1960’s UK. Getting American programmes for BBC’s expanded colour telly in 1967 might have had a lot to do with it. Also Alias Smith & Jones, The Virginian and High Chaparral – all on BBC. ITV had the trashier Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and Rawhide. Later, Kung Fu with David Carradine in the 1970s was also popular.

  • Nick Beard

    When I started reading this blog, the first thing I thought of was Apache (well know to all Dublin university students.) Really interesting to get an international focus, thank you.

  • Sten Cummins

    Where do you stand on the Red Skins movement of the 80’s Trotskyite skinheads we had them in the uk and a m told they also had them in spain.

    You might also be interested in the northern Irish flag flying tradition where Protestant and catholic factions would bait one another by flying the flags of opposing factions in other global conflicts. There was a really big free lenard Peltier mural done on a hillside overlooking (from memory ) Belfast.

  • http://lakotanations.blogspot.co.at/2016/01/lakota.html Lakota Nation

    we must stop these people doing these bad things

  • Maiken Wiese

    Adam, I am a playwright and I often struggle in the theater with the lack of diversity represented on stage. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where there is much more awareness of the native populations, but here, in New York City I rarely see american indian (let alone, women, asian americans, black americans, Latino’s etc) represented on Broadway or in the stories we tell. I want to incorporate the diversity I grew up with in my writing but I am so nervous of misrepresentation/appropriation of any kind. Is there a way to avoid this?

  • jcf

    “American Indian” and “Wild West” imagery in Europe/UK is far older than current globalisation. Buffalo Bill Cody toured Europe and the UK with his Wild West Show for several years in the late 19th century to huge sold out crowds, Western or “Cowboy” novels were popular from the late 19th to the middle of the 20th century, ditto movies and then television in later years, as already pointed out. The appropriation that you see is a continuation of old trends.