new media


(Awesome logo by Jessica Harjo for the Indigenous New Media Symposium THIS FRIDAY Feb 21st)

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.”

Screen shot 2014-02-01 at 11.35.46 AM

I’ve been sent this video a bazillion times in the last few days, and I think it’s a powerful and important PSA to add to the mascot “debate”*. I’ve watched it a few times through, and the message by the end is incredibly clear, and I love the final shot of the helmet, without having to say the R-word, asking the viewer to say the word in their head and contrast it to the beautiful images shown throughout the clip. So before I go on, I want you to watch the video for yourself: Continue Reading…


Shhh. Don’t tell my committee I’m blogging. My dissertation is due, like, reallllllly soon. Just a quick post. I promise.

Today, the list of nominees for the Academy Awards was released. I would just like to draw your attention to two of them.

“Best Makeup and hairstyling”: THE LONE RANGER. (What?!?! arghabduVBIDslfdjlkm)


“Best Song”: “Alone yet not Alone” from the movie “Alone yet not Alone” (We’ll get to this in a minute. hold on. it’s a doozy.)

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Sonic drive in MO

Indian mascots, they’re totes honoring to Native peoples, right? That’s what fans always tell us, at least. Inspired by this image above posted on twitter, from a Sonic in Benton, MO, I decided to take some time to compile a list of just a few instances of how these mascots totally “honor” Native people. This is just from memory, btw. There are so, so, so many more.

Continue Reading…


Indians 1

Let’s set the scene. You walk into school/work/a halloween party and are having an awesome day cause it’s Halloween and you are wearing an awesome costume on that has something to do with a current event (without doing something like this or this), or a play on words, or a nerdy reference…because those are the best kind of costumes, duh. Then, in the middle of your joyous revelry, you spot it. Across the room. A friend (or acquaintance, or stranger, let’s not discriminate), dressed as an “Indian.” You know what it looks like. The “buckskin,” the beads, the feathers–probably a headdress of some sort. Maybe some warpaint. Then, if you’re anything like me, you mentally go, “aw, @#$%.”

So now let’s shift to what I go through in these situations, and all of the steps and checks I go through before I engage. Because, as I’ve mentioned before, despite my ability to talk about these issues on here day in and day out, I’m bad at these conversations in real life. I’m getting better, though. Remind me to tell you sometime about my encounter with a Fox News correspondent at DFW airport…

Step one: Who is the person dressed up as an Indian? 

I’ll take a second look. Do I know them? How well do I know them? Are they older than me? Are they younger than me? Are they under the age of 10 (so clearly their parents dressed them)? Is it my boss or someone who has a position of authority that can affect my future life/career?

All of those pieces change the way I’ll approach the situation. I don’t scold children (duh. please don’t go yell at a three year old about cultural appropriation). I think carefully about how my encounter with this person can play out in my future relationships. No one likes to be told they’ve done something hurtful, and these conversations are sticky no matter what. So I do take the time to stop and think. None of those situations stop me from talking to the person (except maybe the babies)–I just approach it differently. Continue Reading…


Photo on 2013-10-08 at 20.30 #2

As part of my Halloween series, I’d like to try something a little different. The last couple of days, my 2011 post, “Open Letter to the Pocahotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween,” has started to make the rounds again. The first time I posted it, it caused such a firestorm I had to shut down comments (after it hit something like 500), and I even had to write a follow up post clarifying and confronting some of my own hesitancies with the post. I read it now, two years later, and my reaction is a little different–I stand by my words, and am still very confused as to how this particular post still stirs so much vitrol and hate toward me as a person. It’s started up again, which apparently is now an annual tradition. Here are a couple of the more benign samples from twitter–I actually got called the c-word by one troll today over the post–if you’re interested.

So I thought I’d re-post the original letter, with some annotations and commentary, and let’s figure out together what it is about my language that causes white folks to get real, real mad and defensive, shall we? Yes, I guess I’m performing a rhetorical analysis, on myself. I’m writing a dissertation right now, remember? I’m in crazy academic mode and I can’t get out. Original post in block quotes, thoughts below each.


Dear Person that decided to dress up as an Indian for Halloween,

Ok, pretty basic start. Notice it doesn’t say “white person,” it doesn’t say “racist person,” just person.

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Spirit Halloween Tonto

It’s that time of year again! Halloween. Time for folks to grab the nearest Indian costume off a shelf, put it on, and prance around a costume party as they get schwasty on witches brew. Or even better, for parents to grab an *adorable* little Indian outfit to socialize their child super early into an oppressive system that benefits from the genocide and ongoing colonialism of Native peoples. But the excellent thing about this time of year, besides the fact that it will be over in a month? No, not pumpkin spice lattes…

The fact that I’ve already covered this issue so. many. times. And many different angles. So I was going to write another piece, mostly about that hideous Tonto costume above, which is about 8 feet tall in the window of my local Spirit store, but I’m over it. The bottom line is this: Don’t dress up like an Indian for Halloween. No, Pocahontas and Tonto aren’t ok because they’re “fictional” and/or “historic” “characters”–they’re based off tired stereotypes that continue to marginalize Native peoples. No, you can’t wear your Boy Scout Order of the Arrow regalia, even if a “real Indian” taught you how to make it. It’s not respectful to wear it as a costume, and I’ll argue that it’s not respectful for you to wear it ever, but that’s another post. No, the fact that you have a distant Indian ancestor does not make it ok for you to wear a $19.99 costume shop monstrosity. Especially if he/she was “Cherokee.” Our traditional clothing looks nothing like that. No, this is not the result of “PC culture” gone awry. This is about basic human decency and respect. My culture is not a costume. There are 566+ tribes in the US alone. We don’t wear skimpy dresses, fake buckskin, pony beads, and neon feathers. No, it’s also not ok to dress as a “Mexican” with a sombrero and a mustache. Or a Geisha. Or a “phat pimp.” Or a “phat rapper.” Just stay away from the racialized costumes. It’s pretty simple. There are like ten-thousand-million other things for you to dress up as. Any other objections?

So, for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be re-posting my Halloween posts from the last few years, because the argument is still the same, and will forever be the same. First up, from 10/27/2011:

Halloween Costume Shopping: A sampling of the racism for sale 

Update 10/1/13: All the links still work, so all these costumes are still available for purchase. But interestingly, the descriptions have changed. So I’ve updated each of the descriptors with the new one from this year for comparison. In my opinion, it doesn’t make the costume any better, but it is noteworthy that they’ve toned down the blatant racism and misogyny. Not completely, but a bit. 


After my open letter yesterday, I feel like some people still aren’t getting it (maybe it was the 100+ comments telling me to eff off?). Despite my appeals to emotion and greater human decency, it seems that many people in the world of thar’ intranets need some more physical reminders as to why dressing like a Native person this Halloween might be a problem. So I, dear random-probably-racist-internet-not-friend, am happy to oblige. Because, as a person of color, that’s my job, right? To prove to you that racism exists? To teach you why these things are wrong? To offer evidence of such wrong-doings? What fun it must be to never have to worry about such things! What a privilege!

To state my case, I wandered to the Spirit Halloween website. I did a simple one word search: Indian. I got 56 results, all Native-themed. I chose a few at random to share with you below. Hooray!

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Ian phone

See that picture above? That’s what Ian Campeau of A Tribe Called Red sees when he searches for the word “RedSk*n” (without the asterisk) in the Canadian iphone app store. I’ve been searching online to see if there was any announcement accompanying this change, any statement about why or how this happened or who was responsible, and I’ve got nothing. But I hope we can agree that this is HUGE. It might seem like something minor or purely symbolic, but this is Apple we’re talking about.

Continue Reading…


Hi Friends,

I’m so incredibly humbled and honored to let y’all know that I was nominated for the 2013 Women’s Media Center Social Media Award, along with eight other amazing women doing work in social justice, feminism, media, and more. Looking at the list, I’m so excited to be considered in the same league as these folks!

When I got the email that I was nominated, I was sitting in my room, stressing about my dissertation…and then went like this:

herman-cain-creepy-smileand then:
minion happy

I’ve alluded to it a bunch of times in posts and such, but I get kinda uncomfortable with the whole “fame” aspect of the blog–it’s still super weird to me that anyone wants to read what I have to say, and (to me) my ideas aren’t super novel, I’m just re-packaging what hundreds of Native activists and allies have said before me, building on a long history of fighting to be represented in true and respectful ways. But I love being able to harness the power of social media to create change, and have loved the amazing community that has developed out of this work. I couldn’t do it without all of you!

So if you wanna vote for me or any of the other incredible women nominated:

Vote here! 

Wado (thanks), as always,



nicholas K 1

What’s up, Nicholas K? I’m Adrienne K. Nice to meet you. Maybe we’re related??? That’s a joke. We’re not related, because if you were in my family, you would know that putting models down the runway in Native American inspired headdresses is NOT OKAY. Here’s what I’m talking about (plenty more here):


Nichols K 2

So, you know, I saw the pictures a couple of days ago and was thinking, “Ok, this is BS. But, in the grand scheme of all the ish I deal with, this might not be the worst. So maybe I’ll just try and look the other way and skip on my merry way…” and then I read this write up about your show in the NYU news. Then I was like “Aw helllll no.”

Picture the urban landscape of pre-Columbus America: quite a paradox but easily captured by Nicholas K in their Spring/Summer 2014 collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. A trance-like track of synth bass was combined with soothing chants to create a modern tribal music that seemed thematically fitting. While still staying true to their bold use of draping, layering, and neutral tones, Nicholas K suggested a new perspective to the term ‘urban chic’ by taking us back a few years.

Garbed in subtly Native American-inspired headdresses, the models displayed the palettes of sand t-shirts, antler booties, smoke sweaters, and onyx shorts. These earthy colors further accentuated the collection’s oneness with nature captured best by an interpretation of Native American culture. While the use of chunky tribal prints was occasionally seen peeking through a granite hoody or displaying prominently on a cascading jacket, the menswear pattern of oversized plaid did not detracted from the feminine earthiness of the collection.

A nod to last spring’s color-blocking, outer pockets made their way into this spring’s collection on male models in mica and grey tones. Perhaps the best look was a pair of matching alabaster printed pant and shirt that fluttered with decadent ease down the runway, evoking the perfect blend of city chic and natural harmony. Take a note from Nicholas K for this upcoming spring; relate to the origins of America but do it with a flare of the modern age.

Ok, I know this is a student publication and all, but can we talk about this language? “A trance-like track of synth bass was combined with soothing chants to create a modern tribal music that seemed thematically fitting”? “These earthy colors further accentuated the collection’s oneness with nature captured best by an interpretation of Native American culture”? That’s the problem with “tribal” themed fashion trends or those “inspired by Native American culture”–it creates this distorted stereotype that Native peoples are a monolith, with one “culture.” This culture apparently is connected to nature and set in contrast to “urban” contexts. That first line kills me. “Picture the urban landscape of pre-Columbus America: quite a paradox…” No. Not a paradox at all. “Pre-Columbus America” was hella urban. Sorry.

And then, oh then, I dug a little more. Here is the “official” description of the collection:

For Spring 2014, brother and sister designers and CFDA members Nicholas and Christopher Kunz explore the spiritual roots of the small bands of indigenous people that formed the Ndee or Apache Nation. Antique smudge fans found on a reservation in the mountains of Central Arizona sparked the inspiration of a shamanistic journey that is embraced by the brand’s own nomadic urban roots.

A palette of sheer whites, antler and bone colored cotton trimmed with deerskin are symbols of peace, happiness and purity. Contrasting darkness in black, midnight and onyx is reminiscent of smudging smoke. Mica, another mist color, is reputed to have spiritual and life-giving qualities. Turquoise, the, “fallen sky stone,” is the accent color used throughout the collection. Natural turkey quills, dip-dyed in black and earth brown, represent the power and essence of the Apache Medicine Men.

Like the Shamans, who were draped in a mixture of textures, the collection consists of an array of free flowing fabrics.  Matte gauze with shimmering lurex symbolically represents desert stones speckled with shining mica, while geods dance across printed viscose paired with reinvented linen and suede moccasins.  The silhouettes of the season call to spirit light dancers – they are magically free and playful.

The show featured hair by Jon Reyman for Aveda, make-up by Daniel Martin for NYX Cosmetics and nails by Sunshine Outing for Zoya.

I can’t. I actually can’t. Past tense, hippie-spiritual BS, “shamanistic journey,”…”represent the power and essence of the Apache Medicine Men”? Yes. Thank you. Thank you for representing the “power and essence” of our spiritual practices in your fashion line at fashion week. That’s definitely the way to show respect.

So whatever. I’ve written 5 thousand million times about why headdresses on non-Native women aren’t cool, why the tribal fashion trend is problematic, what happens with you mess with sovereign nations around these issues, how you can fix it when you screw up like this, and much much more, if you care to go search around in the archives. Actually, you might want to read this take down of “Spirit Hoods.” The language/defense they used was pretty similar. So I’m not going to re-hash it again. Just read this one, if that’s too many links for your poor fashion-filled head.

So Nicholas K, if you wanna be my bro, apologize for sending models down the runway in Native headdresses and appropriating the sh*t out of Native spirituality. Don’t give me any BS about how fashion is about drawing inspiration from “everywhere” or any other number of excuses. I’ve heard them all. This whole thing has been in the news so much, I’m really surprised you didn’t have any inkling this was maybe wrong. You’ve got some explaining to do.


No, really, read this one: But why can’t I wear a hipster headdress? 

NYU news: Nicholas K, Spring/Summer 2014
Video from the show here: NY Fashion Week Nicholas K

Also, I know “Nicholas K” is not a person, but is actually a sibling design team. But it was more fun this way, ok?

(Thanks Chelsea, Celeste, and the others who alerted me to this on twitter!)