Archives For headdress

The list is getting really, really long of companies I don’t like to support anymore because of their egregious cultural appropriation, stereotyping, and marginalizing of Native peoples. Let’s see, in the last year or so alone, there’s Urban Outfitters, Ecko, Gap, Paul Frank (just kidding, they’re awesome now), along with 5 bazillion others, not to mention my local grocery store, all of these food companies, and the musicians I shun, including Outkast, Ke$ha, Lana Del Ray, NeverShoutNever, Frank Ocean, and now No Doubt… and that’s just off the top of my head.

So now you can add Victoria’s Secret to the list. The image above, of the lovely Karlie Kloss, comes from the most recent VS fashion show, which is set to air December 4th. The stills from the show were released to the world earlier this week, and among the strange get-ups, which included poodles and models wearing motorcycle handlebar-corsets, was this monstrosity. 

Here are a few more shots:

I can’t tell if she is war-whooping or blowing a kiss. I don’t know if it matters at this point.

Please, please tell me we all know this is wrong at this point? Do I need to link to the anti-headdress manifesto? The blackface-comparison post? The sexualization of Native women post? (Note: if you don’t know why it’s wrong, those are the places to find out.)

The frustrating thing is this comes on the heels of the No Doubt “Looking Hot” controversy, where the band pulled their music video within a day of it being released because of the use of extremely stereotypical and offensive Native imagery and a huge outcry from the Native (and ally) community. That happened like last weekend. As in less than 7 days ago. And NOBODY at Victoria’s Secret saw one of the hundreds of articles about No Doubt and thought, hm, maybe we shouldn’t include a woman in a headdress and a fake buckskin bikini?

And the bikini. Can we talk about the bikini? I love the inclusion of the leopard. Why don’t we just go full-on generic “savage” while we’re at it. As one of my witty FB followers reminded us, “They say Native Americans used every part of the leopard.” Ha. But serious eyeroll on that choice. Not to mention the fake turquoise/Navajo/southwest jewelry with a plains headdress. LOL, all indigenous pplz, they r teh samez.

Snark aside, there is a bigger issue here. Besides the daily harm of these ongoing microaggressions for Native folks, the sexualization of Native women continues to be an ignored and continuing epidemic. I wrote about it a little in this post, but my amazing friend Sam made this graphic that makes it painfully clear (click for full size):

So Victoria’s Secret, now is the time to apologize. It’s not too late to cut Karlie’s headdressed outfit out and leave it on the editing room floor. This isn’t “fun,” this isn’t a “fantasy” character. This is about our cultures, our bodies, and our lives. Native people demand and deserve far more respect than this.

(thanks to long-time reader and supporter Bree for making it!)

(Bree noted that there are already over 600 comments from Natives and Native supporters)

and please share the graphic widely in your networks.

While this feels like a never ending battle, remember the successes we’ve had as a community, and every little bit chips away at the centuries of colonization and disrespect of Native peoples. We’re making gains, though sometimes it may not feel like it. I’ve been at this for over two years now, and I can’t believe how quickly things have changed for the better. We’re getting there!
UPDATE 11/10: Just received the following apology from Tammy Robert Meyers, a spokesperson for Limited Brands: “We are sorry that the Native American headdress replica used in our recent fashion show has upset individuals. We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone. Out of respect, we will not be including the outfit in any broadcast, marketing materials nor in any other way.” Let’s celebrate the fact they listened (though they may have to work on the “how to apologize” part). Amazing work mobilizing together everyone! I’m so proud of our community fighting together for what’s right.

(Thanks to Sam for the amazing graphic and to everyone who sent this over!)
…and like every other post on the blog. 

Yesterday my BFF and biggest fan Marj texted me this image from the Ecko outlet in Washington. I believe my exact response was “OMG wtf?!?!” Notice at the bottom the tagline is “Party your face off.” Yeah, not offensive at all.

So I turned to the googles to see what this was all about. A quick search brought me to the Ecko homepage, which prominently features the line up front and center, called “Weekend Warrior.” The image is below. So, the headdressed skull is bad enough–more on that in a second–but look a little closer…

Um, NO. Your model is NOT wearing a headdress too???

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t seem to find the line for sale on the actual Ecko website, though it is available in other online stores, like Macy’s:

This headdressed-skull thing is a problematic trend that has been popping up everywhere. From “mainstream” retailers like our good friend Urban Outfitters
To more “Indie” designers like “No Wire Hangers” (they have a TON of questionable ish on their site):
A couple of weeks ago in SF, my friends and I even went stalker status on a guy in Bootie SF wearing a a similar tee (thanks to John for the 50 variations of this picture on my camera, ha):
There’s plenty more all over the internet, but I think you may be starting to see my point. 
Let’s break it down. Clearly this is problematic on many levels. Beyond the usual arguments against the hipster headdress, there’s something deeper here. I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that skulls are associated with death. So if you put a skull with a headdress, the first jump I make is to “dead Indian”–just me? I don’t think anyone can go for the “honoring” argument here (although I won’t be surprised if they try). This, to me, is playing into the narratives of Indians existing only in the past, or Indians are extinct, or Indians were brave warriors who no longer exist today. It also, like all the Plains Indian stereotypes, solidifies the one-dimensional “warrior” image that doesn’t represent the hundreds and hundreds of tribal nations still around today. 
Back in 2010, James Branum, a lawyer in Oklahoma, posted about his interactions with a company in OK City called “War Paint Clothing” who were selling a similar shirt (Rob at Newspaper Rock covered it as well). He makes some excellent points, and I definitely recommend heading over to his post to read the entirety of his interactions with the company:

I first think about the famous line, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” (a quote sometimes attributed to General Sheridan, but more likely a paraphrase from a line out of Congressional floor speech of Congressman James M. Cavanaugh from 1868) and the way our society in past generations honored the “noble savage” who either died off or was assimilated into white society, but refused to give any honor to real live Indians in the present day who resisted both death and assimilation. 

Or to say it another way, if you want to honor native Americans, why not make a shirt of a hero from our history, or even show the face of someone alive today (who is resisting genocide, simply by living out native values and culture)? Why is it that only dead Indians, and abstract/stereotypical Indians who get celebrated? 

The image of the skull also brings to mind the Indian remains held in many museums to this day. There is an ongoing fight to return those remains to their people and to the earth (see and the wikipedia article on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act for a bit of this history), but the fight isn’t over. The graves of Native dead have been desecrated for many years, and many remains are still in museums. 

Finally, I’m not aware of any Plains Indian tribe that would be comfortable with this imagery (and I’m discussing it in that context, because the stylized image is of a stereotypical plains style headdress — I know Natives in other culture, especially in Mexico have different cultural ideas about skulls). Some plain tribes use animal skulls for ceremonial purposes (i.e. the buffalo skull in the Sun Dance), but those skulls are normally used in a sacred manner. The use of a human skull on a t-shirt would be incomprehensible.

I think those major take away points–”The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” the continued celebration of only dead or stereotypical Indian imagery, the ongoing fight over Native remains in museums and educational institutions, and the overall sacredness of human remains (and headdresses) in our communities–are exactly spot on. This trend is symptomatic of an overall disrespect of Native peoples and cultures, as well as a convenient amnesia of the genocide of Native peoples in this country. As with most of the images on this blog, one shirt in isolation may not be a problem. But when you start to peel back the layers and see how deep these issues run, and how ubiquitous these images are, you begin to realize the depth of the problem. This isn’t a one-off shirt in a window. This is a lens into how Native people are viewed in the United States. 
For more info: 

Last night on Chelsea Lately, Chelsea Handler sported what appears to be a shirt with a big ol’ warbonnet on it. Chances are, it’s not from a Native designer–if it is, by all means correct me, and this becomes a very different post–but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst, and she’s not wearing the headdress, unlike some of our other celebrity friends, but of course, it still makes me sigh.

I’m wondering if this stuff is becoming so mainstream that I’m losing sensitivity to it–cause two years ago I probably would have been livid over this. Or maybe I’m just becoming a crotchety, jaded old who can’t get as riled up anymore (ok, who am I kidding?). 

I guess this would be categorized as a “Random Appropriation of the Day” (I haven’t done one of those in forever!)…


Drew Barrymore Sports a Hipster Headdress and a Budwiser Apron. Really.

Hey Kardashians: why you so obsessed with me?

(Thanks Lanova!)

Another Kardashian transgression to add to the (growing) list: E! Online posted this pic of the Jenner girls with Kourtney Kardashian and Mason, taken at Mason’s 2nd birthday party back in December. Looks like they were uber creative and went with a “Cowboys and Indians” theme. Wow. Adding insult to injury is the fact that E! used the headline “Cute Alert!“–I, personally, don’t find racial drag “cute”.* If little Mason and his mama were sporting some blackface, would that be “cute”? (Answer: no. A Cowboys and Indians Party is just as bad as a Blackface Party)

Here’s how they “came up” with the theme (via an interview in OK! Magazine):

How did you come up with the Western theme for Mason’s party?

Kourtney: Actually, Scott came up with it. We were just walking in the Hamptons, and he said, “Let’s do cowboys and Indians.” I thought it was cute, so I made Mason a little cowboy.

So many points for creativity! ::eyeroll::

But there’s a bigger issue here. I really don’t know what the Kardashians have against Natives, or why they seem to be so obsessed. As a proud Armenian/Cherokee, I don’t appreciate one of my cultures denigrating the other. It creates confusionz in my head. But let’s list off some of the Kardashian fails in the past year or so, shall we?

October, 2010: Khloe sports a headdress and tweets the message “I love playing dress up!”

August, 2011: Khloe has a sexy headdress photo shoot, with an accomanying tweet “What do you think of my tribal look?”

October, 2011: Kourtney and Mason dress up as Indians for the Dancing with the Stars halloween episode

November, 2011: Kris Jenner uses the term “Indian Giver” on national television to signify that Kim won’t be giving her ring back to (other) Kris. (She says it at about 2:58 below)

December, 2011: Mason’s 2nd Birthday Party has a “Cowboys and Indians” theme

…and I rest my case. The Kardashians definitely make it to the worst offenders list.

Oh No, Khloe Kardashian
No Khloe, I do not like your “tribal look” 
Kris Jenner uses the term “Indian Giver”

*Though my sister and I think Mason is adorbs…did you see the Kardashian Xmas card? His baby GQ pose! Squee!

(Thanks Aza!) 

Oh, (Miss) Canada.

September 12, 2011 — 19 Comments

So, apparently, Miss Universe Canada Chelsae Duroche decided it would be appropriate to wear a headdress for the “National Dress” portion of the competition. Her stereotypical stoic Indian pose is helpful too.

From what I can find, I don’t think Chelsae is Native. But honestly, that wouldn’t have mattered. That’s a straight-up costume shop headdress right there.

UPDATE: “Miss Canada considers her First Nations-inspired cocktail dress a work of art. Her official website describes it as “A Homage to Haida—Its People & Art.”” Dear Chelsae, Haida don’t wear headdresses like that.

The sad thing is, she had an opportunity to do something cool. Look at her dress (once she moved the cigar store Indian arms):

Her dress is a stylized Northwest Coast design (which, again, way to combine distinct cultures–Plains headdress with NW coast dress?). Here would have been an awesome opportunity to use a Native designer to make the dress, and showcase a part of Canada’s “culture” appropriately. Much like Ashley Callingbull (Miss Universe Canada 2010) did in a pageant a few years back, wearing a beautiful dress by Danita Strawberry:

and then another gorgeous dress by a Native designer, Angela DeMontigny:

But this controversy isn’t new. Back in 2008, Miss Universe Canada wore this delightful get-up:

um, yeah. Clearly a very culturally sensitive event.

But guys, can we PLEASE talk about what Miss USA wore?

What. The. Eff.

But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

(Thanks Rob, Sloane, and Ann!)

This weekend is Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, a big deal art market that draws thousands of Native artists, art buyers, and visitors to the area. Apparently “Estrella’s Moroccan Spa” thought they would capitalize on the huge influx of folks with money to burn by hosting an “Indian Market Special”–but of course, Indians=a fake chicken feather headdress on a (presumably) non-Native model, right? Especially since here in the Southwest all the tribes wear headdresses and everything. ::eyeroll::

Earlier: But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

Santa Fe Indian Market Official Webpage

(Thanks Christine!)

Our dear friend Khloe Kardashian is back at her dress up antics. Remember back in October when she tweeted a picture of her wearing a headdress? Well this week she stepped it up a bit and posted a picture from a professional photo shoot with a huge war bonnet. See above.

The accompanying tweet read: “What do you guys think of my tribal look?”

Well Khloe, I think it contributes to the continued stereotyping of Native peoples, relegates us to a “fantasy” or “dress up” character like a wizard or a clown, contributes to the sexualization of Native women, takes something sacred and meaningful and makes it a cheap commodity, and just overall gives me the sads.

If you want the full lowdown: But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

Funny I should be writing about the Kardashians today, since I just got back from my cousin’s big wedding at the Armenian apostolic church in Pasadena (that’s why the blog went quiet for so long). Yes friends, I’m also Armenian. Apparently there’s a thing with Armenians appropriating Native cultures…remember Cher?

Yeah, she had this song called “Half Breed” back in ’73, and wore a lot of “Indian” style stuff, like huge headdresses, during that time period. I already hear you, commenters, “But she’s Indian! She says she’s Cherokee!” Yes, Cher’s ancestry includes Cherokee. Remember who else is Cherokee? Me. and as a Cherokee-Armenian, I can tell you that Cherokees don’t wear headdresses, breastplates, feathers, and southwest style beading. We wear this:

 That’s a tear dress. Not quite as sexy is it?

Anyway, since you asked, Khloe, I’m not a fan of your “tribal look”. At all. 

Khloe’s photoshoot pics
Khloe’s tweet

Interesting discussion in the comments over at Jezebel over the tweet and pic:

Oh no, Khloe Kardashian
Nudie Neon Indians and the Sexualization of Native Women
But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

(image source)
It’s definitely an honor to have the place where dirty, disgusting water drains in rest stop bathrooms to be named after the most revered position in your tribe, right? According to the Sioux Chief Manufacturing Company, that’s exactly what they were going for.

Tipster Ann spotted this tribute to the “proud and resolute people” of the Sioux Nation in a skeezy rest stop bathroom somewhere in Indiana. She did a little research and found the website of the company, where they describe the origin of their company’s name and logo:
Sioux Chief’s founder, Martin E. “Ed” Ismert Jr., was greatly interested in Western Americana. Ed’s father, Martin Sr., was a collector and Midwest authority of Western and Native American artifacts in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. When the time came to name his new company, it did not take Ed long, as he had learned from his father all about the Sioux Indian Nation. The Sioux Nation were a very proud and resolute people that, while being fierce and competitive, held in highest regard the family, the Earth, and especially Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. Ed commissioned his brother Bud, an artist who studied under Thomas Hart Benton, to draw the “Young Determined Sioux Chief” in full ceremonial dress as the logo for his young determined company. Sioux Chief Manufacturing, being named and patterned after such a distinctive people would put forth an image not easily forgotten.

Let’s examine this language a bit, shall we? So Ed learned from his father (a white collector and “authority” on Indian stuff) “all about the Sioux Indian Nation”. Another great example of how many non-Natives can have extremely limited encounters with Native peoples but then call themselves “experts” and sell themselves as foremost authorities on all things Native. I’m sure he knows all about the Lakota/Dakota. All about them.

Then there’s the ubiquitous past tense–The Sioux “were a very proud and resolute people”, “held in highest regard”, etc. He also manages to throw in a whole bunch ‘o stereotypes in there too–The “Spiritual Warrior” syndrome. Competitive and fierce, yet deeply tied to the earth and “The Great Spirit”. And hey, Mr. Ismert, the Lakota didn’t go anywhere. They’re still here.

So then we asks his non-Native brother, with presumably the same limited knowledge as himself, to draw a “Young, Determined, Sioux Chief” for their logo, in ceremonial dress, of course (with no regard to how that might be, you know, special or sacred):

…and we get the stereotypical Plains Indian Warrior. At least they got the regalia semi-right? considering how often this dress is attributed to other tribes for advertising and marketing. Not that it makes it any better.

I also keep coming back to the fact that it’s the Sioux Chief company. Chiefs and leaders of tribes are deeply revered positions of power, and to me it just seems so absolutely degrading to have that position of wisdom, trust, and authority placed on a bathroom drain. People are literally (excuse the language) pissing on our culture.

If any Lakota or Dakota tribal members want to weigh in, definitely let me know.

 Sioux Chief Manufacturing Company:

(Thanks Ann!)

Chrissy, one of my Twitter followers, came across this can of Korean Oysters while shopping at her local grocery store (I believe in Alabama?). From what I can gather with a quick google search, Dafuskie (with an “e”) Island in South Carolina used to be a big oyster producing area. But this website gives us this additional piece of Dafuskie trivia:

Indian pottery found on the island is among the oldest of its kind in North America, dating back more than 9,000 years.  Their history on the island ended in the early 18th century, after a battle with English soldiers in 1715. After the sand ran red with Indian blood, the southern tip of the island was given the moniker Bloody Point, a name it carries to this day.

Horrible.  How would you like to live in “Bloody Point” knowing that is the history of your home? That’s a whole post in itself.

Back to the oysters. These are, today, produced in Korea, but I found some images of early ads, from the 1950′s:

(image source)

If they are referencing the Daufuskie-Indian connection, they might want to look into traditional regalia of South Carolina, cause I’m about 100% positive they didn’t wear plains headdresses. In addition, I don’t think the proper way to memorialize slaughtering all of your island’s Native inhabitants is to put them on a can of oysters. But that’s just my opinion.

(Thanks Chrissy!)

Holy Headdress Batman! (omg I’m so creative I know).

Reader Brianna sent over this image of Batman, in a headdress, punching what appears to be an Indian (POW!). She didn’t know the context, but a little googling this morning led me to this blog, with more images of Batman, plus other superheros, all dressed up in racial drag: (all images courtesy of Everyday is Like Wednesday)

That’s the cover of the issue that the first image came from. Then there’s Superman:

And Captain Marvel:

and even Rex the Wonder Dog:

Everyday is Like Wednesday offers a plot synopsis of the Batman comic, filling in the gaps to demonstrate just how Batman ended up dressed like a stereotypical Plains Chief. Definitely head over for a read. Here’s a screen shot of the comic:

 (click to make it bigger and readable)

The main plot point is that Batman must disguise himself as an Indian in order to fight the bad guy. Awesome?

These were released in the 1950′s, so back at the height of Westerns and an American fascination with Cowboys and Indians, so I’m not surprised that the trend bled into the comic book realm. I’d love to see the full comics, I’m really curious to see the full portrayals of the Native people. 

For more: Everyday is like Wednesday: Chief-Man-of-the-Bats

(Thanks Brianna!)