Today marks the two year anniversary of the Idle No More movement, so I thought I would re-visit and re-share a podcast I made of the Los Angeles Idle No More solidarity rally in December 2012. It was my first attempt at the medium, and as an avid/borderline obsessed podcast listener, I really hope I can do more of these soon! (sidenote: Have you checked out Indian and Cowboy‘s amazing selection of Native podcasts? You should. I love them all. Metis in Space is my jam.)
Anyway, here’s the original text I put with the post:
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.
Also, backstory, I was recording it in my bedroom when I was home for Christmas while everyone else in my family was asleep, so that’s why I’m kinda whispering…
In some ways I can’t believe the height of Idle No More was already two years ago–it had such a profound effect on me and my own activism, and I’m forever grateful for those who fought and continue to fight (Idle No More hasn’t gone anywhere!) for our Indigenous peoples, lands, and communities. As the US is engaged in our own time of protest, civil disobedience, and upheaval, I think reflecting on Idle No More is even more pertinent.
An additional note: I do want to talk more about Ferguson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the ongoing issues of police violence and systemic racism, especially as it relates to our roles as Indigenous allies to the Black community. I feel very strongly that silence is consent on these issues, and I want to express my ongoing support of the protestors across the world fighting to make sure that our system–which was built on the genocide of Native peoples and the enslavement of Africans–recognizes that #BlackLivesMatter. Look for another post soon.
Why hello friends. In the past year or so a lot has happened in the life of Native Approps, and now, as Dr. Native Approps, I’ve started a new chapter at my first big-girl job in a long time. I’ve also moved from MA to CA to AZ and now to RI, and now that I’m (relatively) settled, I want to make a recommitment to the blog and our community that has grown and developed into something so super awesome that I never could have imagined.
Back when I started the blog in 2010, I had a model of posting something *every* day, even if it was a quick “Random Appropriation,” and I want to return this regular content model (I’m trying to be realistic as well…so don’t get too excited). Here are the new “categories” I’ve been working on, and my goal is to be consistent with posts, so you can expect new things regularly (I also feel that by making this public it’s a commitment to this plan!).
Ready? Here we go:
Long-form take downs
This is what you’ve come to expect from me, my open letters, my epic take downs, the long musings and think pieces. These aren’t going away.
In the early days of the blog, these were my bread and butter. This will be a collection of images/products/whatever that show how ubiquitous these stereotypical images are–each of them alone wouldn’t necessarily be wildly offensive (though many of them are), but collectively they demonstrate how society views Native peoples–as a series of stereotypes that don’t represent who we are at all. They also offer me a chance to use my snarky sarcastic voice. Which is fun.
What I’m reading
I’m excited about this idea–as an “academic,” I read a lot. Books, scholarly articles, government reports, you name it. I want to use this space to share what I’m reading (along with my thoughts/critiques), as a way to help me process and wrap my head around things for my own scholarly writing, but also to share the wealth and make some awesome scholarly research more accessible and applicable. I want to put a focus on articles that aren’t necessarily behind a paywall, so if you’re an author and willing to make your piece accessible for free, let me know!
Ask Native Approps
I get so many awesome, thought-provoking questions in my inbox. I am horrible about responding. So horrible. I’m sorry. A lot of it is because I don’t want folks to think that my opinion is the all-knowing-Native-opinion, and I worry about people going off into the world doing problematic things because I might have accidentally given them “permission” in my response. So, instead, I’m going to put some select questions on the blog (with permission), offer my initial thoughts, and then open it up to the community in the comments–so hopefully we can get a bunch of perspectives on these important quandaries, and get some constructive advice that might help a lot of readers in similar situations. I also see this as a space where I can invite some guest voices too, to bring in alternate perspectives and ideas.
I’ve been trying this year to offer more counter-narratives, counter-images, and #positiverepresentations to push back against the negative ones that I feed y’all constantly. I realize that I’m tearing apart these stereotypes, but I’m not providing anything to replace them with. The beautiful, the powerful, the strong, the nerdy, the modern, the resilient–these are the people and stories I know in Indian Country, but most people don’t get to see. So I’m going to make a concerted effort to center these positive representations in this space.
I come across so many articles and kickstarters and announcements I want to share, but don’t always have time to post on FB/Twitter. I’ll still continue to utilize those other social media platforms, but I’m also going to start a regular round-up of sorts, where I can gather together some thought-provoking or well-done pieces. Additionally, folks can also share other interesting readings in the comments.
There might be more/less of these categories as I try it out, so we’ll see what happens.
Last, but not least, I have an AMAZING new logo/FB cover/color scheme/tagline that I’m going to be rolling out soon. My friend Victor Pascual, DGTL NVJO himself, did such great work and I can’t wait to share (sneak peak is at the top of the post). So while the awkward Italian graffiti and bright orange have served me well, it’s time to update, modernize and move into this new chapter. The redesign piece might take me awhile, but I’m considering rolling out in stages. I have a problem with wanting things to be too perfect, when “good” or even “great” would be just fine. I’ll work on it.
In addition to the design side of things, I’m going to be working on the infrastructure/behind the scenes things too–fixing the “categories” and “tags” to make searching for relevant posts easier, fixing links and photos that got messed up in the move to wordpress over a year ago, adding info pages, making a newsletter so you don’t have to come back to the blog to see when things get posted, and more.
Thank you, as always, for being on this journey! I’m excited, and I hope you are too.
So how can you help? You can submit things to me at email@example.com. Just put the category in the subject line! Yay! The success of many of these also relies on community participation, which makes me happy.
Three weeks ago*, the MacArthur foundation announced this year’s crop of “genius grant” award winners, which honored the incredible Native feminist and activist Sarah Deer, as well as 20 other amazing (and amazingly diverse) folks. Among that group was Alison Bechdel, a comic artist and author, but more commonly known for her creation of what we now call the “Bechdel Test.”
The Bechdel test is a simple test to evaluate films (and other media) for portrayals of women. To pass the test, a film must have: Continue Reading…
Last week I chatted with a super kind and engaged reporter at NPR. She found my blog because my colleague (thanks Todd!) tweeted her in response to a call for interesting education folks to follow on Twitter. She read through my blog, and came upon a post I wrote a couple years ago–”Dear Native student who was just admitted to college“–and wanted to ask me a bit more about it. So we talked for 15-20 minutes so I could give some context on the post and my doctoral work that has stemmed out of these areas in Native higher ed. She posted an edited version of this convo on the NPR website (I say “like” a lot irl, she kindly took that out, as well as some of my filler/background info), where it has gotten a pretty big response.
I was stoked to get to talk about my “other” life in Indian Ed, since I’m still finding my voice in that area (haven’t been blogging about it for five years, though I have been studying and researching for that long…). I think anything I can do to signal boost Native issues in higher education and help shed light on our experiences, struggles, and triumphs in college and beyond is important.
But they included a headshot on the post. One that is the thumbnail every time the article gets shared. I didn’t even think twice about it–most people who know me and the blog know who I am and where I come from, and yes, what I look like. But I forgot, this is the internet.
To be fair, as always, there are tons of positive comments. I’ve received a bunch of emails from students and graduates that have made me happy and heartened. But for those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, you know this is constantly something I deal with, and this article wasn’t anything new. Ready? Here’s a sampling (Yes I left their real names. They said it on a public forum…):
and on the article itself (to be fair, it was just one dude…though NPR has pretty strict comment guidelines, so there could have been more):
ETA: Just to show this comes from all sides, there’s also this comment from a Native person (the comments from fellow Natives always sting):
On both the NPR article, and definitely on the Facebook thread on the NPR page, my identity is being dissected by hundreds of people who don’t know me. Who don’t know how I relate to my Native heritage, the work I do, who my family is, anything. I also think it’s kinda hilarious–do they not realize that, as a blogger, I’m on the internet? Reading their thread?
I am 98% positive that if this NPR article wasn’t accompanied by a photo, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There is very little commentary challenging my ideas, or what I had to say about Native students transitioning to college–it’s all focused on how I look.
You wonder why I care so deeply about representations? This is why I care. Because all those people think that Native identity is tied to looking like something off the side of a football helmet.
This isn’t just something that happens to me, either. Last week, the Center for American Progress hosted a forum about Indian Mascots, and an incredible 15-year-old Native student named Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown spoke to the group. He talked beautifully about the effects of mascots on his schooling experience, and also what it means when fellow students, and even his vice principal, say he doesn’t “look Indian,” and how it is all tied in together. This sentiment is real, and it’s all connected.
One of the other commenters on the FB thread mentioned how I “don’t have a wikipedia page” or even a bio on the blog, so they were skeptical of my credentials–basically waving the wannabe flag. It is true I don’t have either of those things (but um, who wants a wikipedia page?). Honestly, it’s by design. If people are *that* desperate to find out about me, they can google and find all sorts of articles and videos that talk more about my background. I don’t want my phenotype and hometown to color initial perceptions of me and my words. I want my writing to speak for itself–because I have never lied about who I am, and write about it all the time on the blog.
In writing Native Appropriations, I am inviting readers into a community. I want folks to get to know me, know how I think, operate, where I come from, what ideas we share, and where we differ. I love comment chains where we have discussions that push my thinking and help me grow. I love when it’s an equal exchange of knowledge. That can’t happen when I’m summarily dismissed. So I never “got around” to making an “about” page. I’m all up in this thing. It hasn’t seemed to hold us back. But, for better or worse, that’s not the way the internet functions. People want quick, easily digestible sound bites. They don’t want to enter into a relationship (which is the Indigenous way of doing things…). They want to be able to categorize and move on. Which is what happened with the NPR piece.
I have deep, deep anxieties about my new post-graduation life as “Dr. K”–of entering academia with the weight and privilege of Native Approps behind me. I have actual nightmares of folks finding academic articles I write and lambasting my scholarship all over the internet. I worry about not living up to the “hype.” I say weight and privilege–because I know that no matter what my research is probably going to have a wider audience than most, simply because of the blog. That’s amazing, and such a privilege to be able to know that I can push forward conversations about Native students and representations to an engaged audience. It’s also intense, because most young scholars get awhile to find their voice and place in their research, but I know that I’m going to be under a microscope pretty quickly. I honestly try not to take to heart what people say about my blog writing, because I still consider it a hobby, but my academic writing is and will continue to be my life. This gave me a small window into what the next few years of my career might bring, and to be honest, it kinda (ok really) freaks me out.
But, if my picture and my story can bring to light these conversations about Native identity that need to happen, and if I need to be the literal face of that conversation, then I’m ok. Because we need to talk about it. Colonial legacies of blood quantum have real effects in our communities, and these conversations happen over, and over, and over without moving us forward.
Because Native identity isn’t just a racialized identity. Native identity is political. We are citizens of tribal nations. So we can’t just talk about our identities purely in racial terminology. Thinking about our identity as purely race-based is another tool to wipe us out. Cause you can “breed out” this notion of “blood” but you can’t “breed out” citizenship. There’s also a deep power issue here–who has the “right,” especially as an outsider, to determine someone’s identity for them? But these are big topics for another day.
So because this is a topic we’ve addressed before, I’ll just quote directly from the end of my “Real Indians don’t care about Tonto” post, and say this–this is the reason why I continue to fight. This is the reason why I’m still here:
But instead of feeling ashamed, I’m trying now to turn the tables and think that I, instead, am the colonizer’s worst nightmare. Because history has tried to eradicate my people by violence and force, enacted every assimilating and acculturating policy against my ancestors, let me grow up in white suburbia, and erased all the visual vestiges of heritage from my face–but still tsi tsalagi (I am Cherokee). My ancestors gave their “x-marks”–assents to the new–so that I could be here, fighting back against misrepresentations, through a keyboard and the internet.
The underlying motivation behind this blog is not only to critique and deconstruct representations of Natives, but also to be able to openly explore what it means to be a contemporary Native person. And more specifically for me, what does it mean to be a millennial, nerdy, doctorate-holding, mixed-race, Cherokee woman?
Moving forward, I hope these are questions we can continue to answer together, through the blog, my research, my teaching, and ongoing conversations on and offline. This NPR article has shown us that there is power in getting our stories out there, but that we still have a ways to go. And that’s ok. These were conversations that weren’t happening openly in public forums just a few years ago. It’s a journey, one that has brought me incredible joy and challenged me in incredible ways. I’m happy to keep rolling along, learning, making mistakes, and figuring out what it means to be me, but also, what it means to be us. Because learning about the ways we relate to one another, Native to Native and Native to non-Native, is at the heart of all of this work.
As always, wado for being here with me on this path,
The past few months there have been whispers, rumors, and tales in Indian Country of Dan Snyder’s ‘people’ calling up tribal members, community organizations, and tribal councils–of offers of cash, of closed door secret meetings, of requests to fly tribal members out to DC for photo ops, of passing out team gear at powwows, of a desperate, covert PR campaign. Up until now, the stories remained just that–stories. But now we have actual proof of the inner workings of the Washington Racial Slurs “Original Americans Foundation” (OAF), and a new story of a community that had the strength to stand up when faced with an unbearable decision.
On Tuesday night, my friend Will from the Ft. Yuma Quechan (Kwatsan) community called me with the news that their community had been contacted by the OAF for a meeting the next day. I then chatted with his cousin, Kenrick Escalanti, who has, along with Will and others in the community, been working hard to raise funds for a memorial skate park for their tribal youth. Their tribal grant writer had responded to a phone survey, which had apparently tagged them for this meeting, and tagged the skatepark as a possible project.
In the Wednesday meeting, the Executive Director of OAF, Cherokee (WHY do they ALWAYS gotta be my tribe?!?!) Gary Edwards basically offered Kwatsan Media Inc. (Kenrick’s organization) a blank check, saying that they could fund the park, and had partnerships with developers who could build it as well. They brought in one such developer, who showed Kenrick digital renderings of parks, all done up in signature burgundy and gold. While they insisted that they didn’t want anything in return from the community, that OAF didn’t even have to be affiliated, they constantly brought up the fact that they have “147 projects” occurring in “over 40 tribes” throughout Indian Country, and mentioned, again, that damn backhoe that they helped buy for Omaha. Clearly, they do want the recognition.
Additionally, Mr. Edwards is super confused about who is “the opposition” to the name. He seems to think it’s only white people, and that “we” as Natives are all like him, “proud” to be a “Reds***” (which he called himself repeatedly). He told Kenrick, “The opposition is creating the old assimilation policy now being enacted today,” and even made a reference to The Lone Ranger (definitely the epitome of Native knowledge, right?), “In trying to annihilate our image its like that new Lone Ranger movie with the White Man point a gun at the Indian saying It won’t be long until its forgotten your kind ever existed on this continent.”
Right, dude, “the opposition” is trying to “annihilate our image”? What about the hundreds of Native peoples passing resolutions against the name? or the fact that Suzan Harjo (a Native woman) has been fighting your trademark since 1969? Or the fact that I have a running list of over 4000 Native peoples against the name? “Our image” if you’re speaking for the white, outsider-created image of American Indians. That is what we’re seeking to destroy.
But let’s go back to the money, and let’s think about the choice here–a choice that Native peoples in this country have had to make over, and over, and over throughout our history. We have deep and pressing needs in our communities. We have tribal members freezing to death, we have students unable to learn because their schools are falling apart at the seams, we have suicide rates 3.5 times higher than national averages. Because of centuries of colonialism, our communities have limited options. We are bridled by geographic location, federal red tape and bureaucracy, poverty, and any other number of factors. Then, outsiders come in. They offer us cash, in exchange for natural resources, for land, for mining rights, for oil–and our leaders and communities are faced with a lesser-of-two-evils choice.
Do we take the money even if it is tied to politics and choices that may negatively affect our people further down the road? Of course we would like to think “no”–but it’s not that easy. And it’s a choice we shouldn’t have to make.
In Kwatsan’s case, this skate park isn’t just about having a place for kids to skateboard. It’s tied into suicide prevention and awareness, creating a space for the community to reflect and talk about the issue as well. So here’s a billionaire (Edwards mentioned in the meeting that Snyder is a “billionaire over again”) offering to build the park now, creating that space immediately, saying they don’t need their named tied to it or even to be mentioned.
But Kenrick said no. They escorted the OAF team off the reservation quickly, not letting them hang around, not welcoming them, not letting them feel they were doing something “good” for the Indians. That act is one that needs to be applauded. Kenrick says, “We say no. There are no questions about this. We will not align ourselves with an organization to simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in Native communities. We’re stronger than that and we know bribe money when we see it.”
It just disgusts me, as someone who cares deeply about how are communities are represented, that this is the choice we are forced to weigh. The media has created a “hierarchy of needs” in our communities around the mascot issue, saying that we have “more important” issues to worry about than mascots, and this is a message that has been internalized by many of us as well. Then throw the money of a billionaire behind it, “helping” us decide what our “real” issues are–what are we supposed to do?*
The Quechan Memorial Skate Park plans exist because suicide is so rampant in our communities. Many Native children suffer from low self esteem, feelings of low community worth, and limited visions of possible selves. You know what contributes to all of those feelings? Indian mascots. I’m not making that up–the research backs me up. The OAF funding the park, to me, is like a bully trying to fund an anti-bulling project while continuing their behavior unchanged.
But now we have a chance to look at this from a very positive direction–Kwatsan tribal members have stepped up. They’ve refused what Kenrick is calling “bribe money” and “blood money,” and have made public the backwards actions and thinking of the OAF and its director. Now the youth in their community can look to the leadership and see them making a stand, saying they care about how their people are represented, and that they don’t want to be associated with a racial slur and ongoing stereotyping of Native peoples. That is a representation their youth can be proud of, and a model they can emulate moving forward.
Now it’s our turn to support The Quechan Memorial Skate Park, to show Dan Snyder that Indian Country and its supporters can take care of our own, and that we don’t and won’t stand for forcing tribes to co-sign on a racist name and depiction of Native peoples in order to gain desperately needed resources in our communities. Donate here:
And all that BS, Mr. Edwards, about us disappearing if mascots disappear? Take a look around. Over 500 years of colonialism have tried to erase us from the planet. Yet we are still here. If we survived war, famine, disease, cultural genocide, termination, relocation, loss of land and resources, we certainly will survive when your beloved sports franchise removes its racist name and depiction from the side of its helmets. I, personally, would like to be associated with speaking truth to power and the ongoing vibrancy of our communities rather than an ancient stereotype “honoring” a fictional archetype that reeks of imperialist nostalgia. But maybe that’s just me.
Just as I’ve been writing this post, the story is getting great coverage, much thanks to EONM and their press release which can be found here. A statement from Kenrick and his organization, along with the ongoing coverage can be found here. This USA Today piece is great, and makes it clear, which I was unaware of, that the tribe itself is still weighing their options (though Kwatsan Media is adamant in their opposition).
*Note: I also don’t want to seem that I’m criticizing the tribes that have decided to partner with OAF. Those are decisions I don’t know anything about, and I also can’t possibly, as an outsider to those communities, understand their decisions and needs. They have the right to decide.
Also, I’ll be moderating comments. Here are the comments I’ll be deleting: Anything that says “get over it” in any form, anything that says we have “bigger issues” to worry about (I answered that here if you’re curious), anything that makes a reference to you being Irish/Viking/other non-marginalized group and not caring about those mascots, anything that says “you wouldn’t do it if it were <insert other racial group>, and anything that can be found on this bingo card. Hooray!
As I’m sure you know by now, on Wednesday, June 18th, the US Trademark and Patent office officially cancelled the Redsk*ns trademark, calling the name “disparaging to Native Americans.” It was a huge win, 22 years in the making. In the aftermath, there have been hundreds of articles, tons of news commentary, and people saying a whole lot of racist BS in defense of the name. But as it all has swirled, I kept wanting a collective list of ALL the folks who have spoken out against the team name. So I decided to make one.
I got started and realized that even with my browser bookmarks and resources, there’s no way I could get everything. So I need your help. This is just the framework/start, but I want to crowdsource filling in the rest. Send me links in the comments or on FB, and I’ll plug them in where they belong. Especially if your tribe has spoken out. I know there are more, but the news doesn’t tend to cover tribal voices nearly as much as celebrities and professional athletes.
Backstory: a few months ago, John Torres Nez stepped down from the board of Southwestern Association for Indian Art Market (SWAIA). In the wake of his departure, a new, Native-run art market as emerged, called the Indigenous Fine Art Market (IFAM). I sat down with one of my AZ loves Nanibaa Beck, one of the members of the artist advisory group for the market, to talk about what IFAM is striving to achieve, and where the roots of this movement lie. You know I’m all about Native representations, and IFAM represents a huge shift to self-control and self-representation in the Native Art world, so I’m happy to support!
Nanibaa and I push aside the remains of our breakfast at a cafe in Phoenix, and make a concerted switch from “friend mode” to settle into “business mode”—I pull out my notebook, a black artist’s sketchbook covered in stickers from Native companies and causes, and Nanibaa pulls out a small pocket sized notebook, edges worn and curling from use—where she has written down “key words” to prompt her as we talk about the origins and direction of IFAM.
Nanibaa comes from a family of artists, her father, Victor Beck, has been showing and selling jewelry in SWAIA for most of Nanibaa’s life, and it was through his jewelry her family makes their livelihood. She jokes that he “knew he had to sell at least two coral necklaces” every year at SWAIA to pay for his two daughter’s school tuition. This year would have been Nanibaa’s first year showing her own jewelry at the market alongside her dad, her budding company “NOTABOVE Jewelry” (a play on a mispronunciation of her name, but also a reminder to stay humble) has taken off in the last year, focusing on pieces featuring indigenous languages, at price points accessible to a wide audience. Today I’m sporting my “ha’átíí?!” necklace from her line, which means “What?!” in Navajo. I love it, because it represents my near-constant reaction to the stream of celebrity headdresses and cultural appropriation that I come across. But Nanibaa won’t be exhibiting next to her dad this year, she’ll be manning her own booth and chairing the fashion programming at a new Native art market in Santa Fe, the Indigenous Fine Arts Market (IFAM).
When Nanibaa learned of John Torres Nez’s departure from SWAIA, she bounded into action, starting an online petition to first support his reinstatement, but then shifting to support a new market, “for the People and by the People.” The petition outlines goals for the “new market”:
- To restructure how an organizational Board and the Native artist community work with one another. This would create a form of direct artist involvement in the decisions of the Board.
- To reorganize how the whole staff works with artists, changing the focus of the organization on the artists and not the organization’s own branding.
- To rework a Native arts market’s relationship with the City of Santa Fe that is benefiting for the artists
- To create an organization and market that is fiscally responsible and doesn’t take unnecessary risks with the generous donations of supporters.
- Ultimately, we want a new market that is stable in both organization and structure so that Native artists will have a livelihood for generations from now.
As supporters and artists began to discuss a SWAIA without Torres Nez, the goal moved from reinstatement to creating something new and completely different—an art market envisioned, designed, and controlled by Indigenous peoples. The last two months have been a whirlwind of planning, and the amount that the IFAM team has been able to accomplish is such a short amount of time is staggering. It feels like this has been something a long time coming—and Nanibaa affirms this. She tells me that there have been groups of people thinking about and pushing for something like IFAM for years, “but now social media has provided the vehicle for this to happen.”
In two months, the group has managed to secure dates (August 21-23, 2014), secure a location (The Railyard in Santa Fe), create a website (here), create a process for artist selection (artists already juried into SWAIA are automatically admitted to IFAM, others will go through an application process), create an artist advisory group, begin planning for concurrent youth programming (headed by Courtney Leonard), and involve other movers and shakers in Indian Country (Doug Miles of Apache Skateboards is on board, and Culture Shock Camp’s Brian Frejowill be running the performance stage, with more to come), and create a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the market.
I ask Nanibaa how IFAM is different than SWAIA, and she is careful to contextualize the relationship between the two markets. The dates overlap on one day (Saturday) yet artists and audiences can participate in both, and she feels they are reaching out to different demographics as well. She sees IFAM as a “challenge,” rather than “competition” to the current model. She says, “[This is] not a competition, it’s a challenge to ourselves to use our abilities we’ve been able to gather through the years as creative, capable, career oriented, connected people…not feeling like we have to resign ourselves to the status quo and current direction of what an art market should be like.” She also adds with a laugh, “It can’t be in opposition. It’s a way to push the younger generation, get a different demographic involved—not everyone can afford a $20,000 necklace.”
So how is IFAM different than SWAIA? Nanibaa turns to her notebook and keywords.
“Inclusion,” she begins. IFAM is open to citizens of tribal nations in the US, as is SWAIA, but they also are welcoming First Nations artists from Canada, as well as Native Hawaiian artists.
“The mission of SWAIA, historically, has focused mainly on southwestern art, so IFAM is seeking to expand that focus,” Nanibaa adds, noting how artists such as Kristen Dorsey (Chickasaw) who incorporates Southeastern Native designs into her work, and Courtney Leonard (Shinnecock), a ceramicist, have been on the advisory team from the beginning.
This leads to her second keyword, “diversity,” SWAIA has nurtured and supported southwestern Native art to be where it is today, and Nanibaa and the IFAM team hope that IFAM can provide that nurturing and support for other Native artists and art styles. Because of SWAIA’s prominence and influence, it can often feel that the Native art market is dominated by southwestern styles, so I think the goal of supporting and bolstering other regional styles is much needed. Nanibaa adds that they’re thinking not just diversity of styles and materials, but “also diversity of Indigenous knowledge from each of these artists.”
Her final keyword is “Indigenous knowledge,” and I think that beyond the sharing of traditional Indigenous Knowledges through art and expression, the goals and vision of IFAM truly support contemporary Indigenous knowledge—the business knowledge, the event planning knowledge, the networking knowledge—all the skills and knowledge we have in Indian Country. This is a chance to leverage all of that.
The staff of IFAM is all fresh off of SWAIA, bringing their experience from the years of working for the market. But the goal is not just a three day market. The goal is to turn the “M” in IFAM from “market” to “movement.” Nanibaa says, “Tradition is not static, it’s vibrant. If you think about ‘Movement’ like the movement of water, it’s going to move, adapt, and change…so we can think about movement as tradition.” The IFAM team hopes that the new market and movement can be forward-thinking, but not just in a linear, Western conception. Forward-thinking as fresh and contemporary, but with respect to origins and “where we come from.” This idea made me think of something that my advisor said of my Native students in my dissertation study, that they were “looking backwards into the future.” Native art has long been controlled by non-Native outsiders (though there are notable exceptions, of course), but I think it’s high time that Native folks carve out a space on a large scale that can be looked to as an example of the power of Native people coming together to challenge the status quo.
We have so many mis-representations and stereotypes to deal with, I’m all for Native peoples representing ourselves in ways that we design and have full control over. I think IFAM falls right into my campaign of #positiverepresentations!
So how can you get involved? Support the IFAM Kickstarter here, checkout the website here, and if you’re an artist, volunteer, or food vendor looking to get involved, look at this section of the IFAM website.
Update (6/13): The Kickstarter didn’t make the goal, but you can still donate via PayPal, and donations are much needed!
Last night, someone tagged me in the comments of your post on Instagram, a picture of you wearing dark red lipstick and a coordinating warbonnet. Initially, I just rolled my eyes and closed the window, because since I’ve somehow become an “expert” on white girls in headdresses, I get sent pictures like yours pretty much every. single. day. Don’t believe me? Just glance at the “#indianheaddress” tag. But then I got an email, then another, and another, and another, and then realized that this one was different–because you, Christina, are daughter of Oklahoma’s Governor.
But you see Christina, while a lot of those folks I wrote those letters to came at this from a place of ignorance (which doesn’t excuse it by any means), you knew that putting on that headdress would be controversial. You titled your photo “Appropriate Culturation” which means you are aware of the concept of cultural appropriation, and knew that Native peoples would be hurt by your choice, and you did it anyway.
I half-heartedly watched the Oscars last night. There were definitely years when I was younger where I eagerly looked forward to the night, waiting for the red carpet coverage, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the pretty dresses…but once I became a grown up who thinks about race, racism, white privilege, and representations of Natives all the time, it was like the shiny Oscars had lost their glow. Now, to me, they represent the perfect microcosm of society–an institution with a long history of discriminating against People of Color that now pretends that racism is a thing of the past, while continuing to discriminate against People of Color.
As you may remember, there were a couple of Oscar nominations that rubbed me the wrong way a few months back (Here’s the full post). The Lone Ranger got nominated for “Best Makeup and Hairstyling,” when the only “makeup” going on was Johnny Depp dressed up in redface. Then there was the best song fiasco for “Alone Yet Not Alone”, which is a colonial-christian-fantasy film that paints Natives as evil savages, but luckily that got taken care of on a technicality.
Last night, when the category came up for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, I held my breath. Luckily, the award went to Dallas Buyers Club, which had an overall budget of $250 FOR THE WHOLE MAKEUP FOR THE WHOLE MOVIE (ETA: Dallas Buyers Club is not without controversy over representations as well. There are folks in the trans* community who are very unhappy about the ways their community was portrayed in the film). Not that it looked like Lone Ranger spent any more than that with JD’s day-after-halloween-slept-in-your-facepaint look. But anyway. Continue Reading…
When I started Native Appropriations in 2010, I started it as a place to catalogue random images of Native peoples I was seeing in my everyday life. I wanted a place where I was able to express my thoughts about how those images made me feel, and a place that could serve as a repository for the growing examples of “Tribal Fashion” that I was seeing in stores and online. I felt kinda alone and silenced in my East-Coast-Ivy-League-world, so I turned to the internet to find others who were interested in similar issues and would help me learn how to push back on these images and ideas.
Fast forward four years, 283 posts, 4,283 comments, 2.75 million pageviews, 40,000 FB fans, and 7,019 tweets (yikes–maybe I need to tweet less). Now I’ve been invited to speak at this amazing Indigenous New Media Symposium this week, and I’m getting the chance to reflect and ask–So what does this all mean?
In a perfect world I would have put this question to all of you a lot earlier, but I turned in my dissertation (draft) on Friday(!!!), and part of the draw of social media is the speed with which things move, so hey. Let’s talk.
I’ve been tasked at the symposium to talk about how New Media* and tools such as FB, IG, Twitter, Soundcloud, YouTube, etc have provided new ways to challenge perception and policy–and create tangible change–in the areas of cultural appropriation and cultural ownership (eg all the things we talk about on Native Approps).
I have a basic framework for my presentation, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this.
How has (or has it?) the internet changed the way you think about cultural appropriation, cultural ownership, and representations?
How have you seen Native folks been able to harness the power of social media to make change in these areas?
Is any of this worth it? (I’m serious. I think I and a lot of other people who talk about representations get a lot of hate from Natives and non-Natives alike who say these issues “don’t matter” or accuse us of only being “reactionary” or “complaining”–what do you think?)
Just some random questions to get you thinking. Feel free to add in whatever random thoughts you have–I’m also talking about this on twitter today, so feel free to tweet me! You are also invited to participate in the conversation during the symposium (it will be live streamed) with the #indnewmedia hashtag, and questions for the Q&A will come from social media too (#indnewmediaQ).
I love that we’re at the point that we can be self-reflective and think about the future of Indigenous New Media. The nerd in me is so excited about this conversation that I can’t even handle it. I’m also feeling the pressure to be all thought-provoking and have my ish together…which is good!
I’m looking forward to meeting some of you on Friday and Saturday, and I can’t thank the incredible organizers of the symposium–Thelma, Cody, and Alex–enough. They’ve pulled together an amazing event.
So friends, readers, Natives…what does Indigenous New Media mean to you? What does the community around Native Appropriations/cultural appropriation/representations mean to you? What are some examples of where you think this type of activism works? Where doesn’t it work?
As always, thanks so much for your support and love–without all of you I’d just be shouting into the dark internet ether, and I don’t think that would get anything done, do you?
*Wikipedia (oh what a scholarly source) describes New Media as: “on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, and creative participation. Another aspect of new media is the real-time generation of new, unregulated content.”