“Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home

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Remember back in June when it was announced that the new Harry Potter prequel-of-sorts had an American Wizarding school? Remember how I was concerned? If you don’t, here’s a link to that post. Basics of my argument were:

The problem, Jo (can I call you Jo? I hope so), is that we as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures. Think about Peter Pan, where Neverland has mermaids, pirates…and Indians. Or on Halloween, children dress up as monsters, zombies, princesses, disney characters…and Indians. Beyond the positioning as “not real,” there is also a pervasive and problematic narrative wherein Native peoples are always “mystical” and “magical” and “spiritual”–able to talk to animals, conjure spirits, perform magic, heal with “medicine” and destroy with “curses.” Think about Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas, or Tonto talking to his bird and horse in The Lone Ranger, or the wolfpack in Twilight…or any other number of examples.

But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as badass as that wizarding world is). In a fact I quote often on this blog, it wasn’t until 1978 that we as Native peoples were even legally allowed to practice our religious beliefs or possess sacred objects like eagle feathers. Up until that point, there was a coordinated effort through assimilation policies, missionary systems, and cultural genocide to stamp out these traditions, and with them, our existence as Indigenous peoples. We’ve fought and worked incredibly hard to maintain these practices and pass them on.

So I get worried thinking about the message it sends to have “indigenous magic” suddenly be associated with the Harry Potter brand and world. Because the other piece I deal with on this blog is the constant commodification of our spiritual practices too. There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner, I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece. American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include Native-inspired anything.

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“9 Questions Natives have for White People” and White fragility: That time I was in Buzzfeed videos

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.13 Comments


(That’s me! I’m a gif! I’ve made it!)

You might have noticed lately that Buzzfeed has been putting out a lot more race and social justice themed content, and even has included a series of videos featuring Native folks: “Native Americans Try on Indian Costumes,” “Native Americans react to Indian mascots,” “If Native Americans said the things white people say,” and a few others. They’re largely the result of some very hard work by Chris Lam, one of the staffers at Buzzfeed Video, in collaboration with local Los Angeles-based Native folks (who you see featured in the videos). Chris is a great example of allyship–prior to working on these videos he had little experience with Native communities, and has really taken a role of learner in the process, defaulting to the Native voices and keeps challenging himself to learn more and push Buzzfeed to feature more Native pieces. I love it.

So when I was home in Southern California for winter break, I headed over to the Buzzfeed studios in LA to meet up with Chris and some of the Native team for a brainstorming session and to film a couple of videos, both of which have now been posted: “9 Questions Native Americans Have for White People” and “I’m Native but I’m Not…”. Here’s 9 Questions:Read More

The Next Chapter: #employed

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brown employment

Six years ago when I started Native Appropriations, I was a first year graduate student fed up with feeling invisible and voiceless in my doctoral classroom. Since that time, I’ve gone from semi-anonymous graduate student “Adrienne K.” to scholar-blogger Dr. Adrienne Keene, and in many ways this blog has served as a catalog of that journey. I’ve watched my own voice and knowledge grow in these online communities, and the conversations around cultural appropriation move from whispers in academic circles to a full blown roar in mainstream media (for better or worse). And through it all, we’ve built a community, one where we know that representations matter, and are not only worthy of our time and attention, but are tied in with our continued struggles and survival as Indigenous peoples.

Behind the scenes, these last six years have not been easy. I struggled through graduate school, have pushed through my postdoc, and many times felt lonely, insecure, and afraid of the choices that lay ahead. I lived in four states, seven apartments, and moved five times in one calendar year, and haven’t felt “settled” (ignore the irony of that word choice) in a very, very long time. This job search has been beyond stressful, and has meant many sleepless nights and a constant state of anxiousness for months on end. But it ends with very good news. Read More

On Apache Pizza and the Globalization of American Indian Cultural Appropriation

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.17 Comments


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’.


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.Read More

Black Indigeneity Part II (Or Back to Back)

In Guest Posts, Uncategorized by Adrienne K.10 Comments


Dennis Banks and Stokely Carmichael

AK Note: This post is a follow up to Kyle’s post over the summer entitled The Political Discourses of Black Indigeneity, And Why It Matters”. If you haven’t read that post, I’d encourage you to head over there first. Part of why I love the format of blogging is the ability to reflect about my own writing, and to respond and more deeply develop thoughts I put out in earlier posts, so I’m happy to extend that opportunity to others too. 

By Dr. Kyle Mays, Guest Contributor

Let me get right to the point: I am writing this piece for those who have made interesting, provocative, wack, even insightful comments about the commentary on Black Indigeneity that I wrote for Dr. Adrienne Keene’s Native Appropriations blog this past summer. In particular, I want to respond to at least three comments: that I’ve internalized (white) racism, that Black people are not settlers, and how some Native people use my critical analysis to support their anti-Blackness. In the spirit of Hip Hop culture and competition, I’m bout to go Back to Back…Of course my title is ripping off of Drake’s summer diss track of Philly rapper Meek Mill. I got Seven points to make.


  1. Black-Indigenous Relations. The world does not revolve solely around Afro-Indigenous peoples, especially those connected to the Five Tribes. I respect that unique struggle, and have written about it. Google it. But I have also written elsewhere that there are other conversations that need to be had, too. So, if you want to read more about Afro-Indigenous relations and peoples among the Five Tribes, go check out the work of Tiya Miles and a host of other scholars. For contemporary people, holla at Marilyn Vann, who has been on the forefront of Afro-Cherokee and Cherokee Freedmen rights; she’s dope. I love my Afro-Five Tribes and Freedmen peeps, but that’s not my major concern. There are many dimensions to “Black indigeneity,” and my aim is to document and explore other parts of it.

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To the Native people in “Indian” Costumes

In Long form essays, Uncategorized by Adrienne K.56 Comments

sitting bull rebecca mcloed

It’s Sunday, November 1, and I’m scrolling through my various social media feeds, looking at the adorable, creative, fun, and smart costumes of all of my friends (and their babies) from Halloween last night. I’m heartened and happy by the series of texts I received, and the tweets and status updates I was tagged in, talking about confronting cultural appropriation in costumes. But I also am noticing a troubling trend, one that I have always noticed, but seems more prevalent this year: there are far too many people using their Native ancestry as a defense for their Pocahottie or Indian warrior costume. So I decided we need to have a conversation about the complexities of this, and the reasons why this is not ok. Read More

Repost: Step away from the “Indian” costume!

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.18 Comments


(I know you just want to look as cool as this guy. He’s SO COOL. ::eyeroll::)

Originally posted 10/21/14

Hey. It’s me again. It’s that time of year. You might be saying to yourself, “Hey! What should I wear for Halloween this year?!?!” and some of you might be like, “OMG, I’ll be an INDIAN.”


Don’t know why? I’ve got 8 posts about why. Detailing every angle and possibility of why you might think it’s ok. It’s not. Feel free to peruse/browse/read/repost, and hopefully learn!

Indian costumes

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Netflix Pocahontas Update: They changed it for real this time!

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So this is a post where I get to admit I was wrong, but then it’s ok, because we actually have a win to celebrate! Quick recap, I was on netflix last week and saw that Pocahontas is on the site now. I clicked on the description, and found this:

I then went on a bit of a twitter ranty-rant, and later wrote a blog post to clarify and more deeply explain my issues with the description (no, it wasn’t that they used “American Indian”…), and to give some examples of the way netflix wrote about male-led Disney films. Here’s part of that post:

..the description reads like a porn or a bad romance novel–“An American Indian woman is supposed to marry the village’s best warrior, but she yearns for something more–and soon meets Capt. John Smith.” The use of “woman” and “yearns” is so…gross. Shudder. The problem? It overly sexualizes the film, and only positions Pocahontas in relation to her romantic options, not as a human being, you know, doing things.

I also want to make explicit the colonial white supremacy embedded in this description as well–of course Pocahontas wouldn’t be content with her backwards Native ways with her Native man…she yearns for something more.SPOILER ALERT: It’s a white dude. Of course. It’s perpetuating the idea that white colonizers are better, more than, and the solution to Native savagery. To quote Deray Mckesson, whose retweet was responsible for this getting so much visibility: watch whiteness work.

So at the end of the post, I went to get a new (non-mobile) screenshot to add to the text, and found that the description was different. I celebrated. But then I started getting emails and texts that, no, in fact the original description was still showing. I did my own investigation and found to my disappointment that the “new” description was actually just a shorter, secondary description that all the films have. I was sad, and added an addendum to the bottom of the post. Then I felt silly for celebrating what was, in fact, a misunderstanding of technology. I thought we were done.

BUT WAIT! What do I find in my inbox last night? An email from netflix!Read More

A deep read of Netflix descriptions: Pocahontas edition

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.22 Comments

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(TW: mentions of sexual violence) Last night I went on a mini Twitter-rant when I discovered that Pocahontas was on Netflix. It wasn’t the fact that the move was just on the site, it was the description that they had assigned it. Oh the description:

“An American Indian woman is supposed to marry the village’s best warrior, but she yearns for something more–and soon meets Capt. John Smith.”

Apologies for those of you who already heard this on twitter, but let’s talk about this. So, in theory, yes, that is the plot of the movie. Well, part of it. But I want you to compare that description to the descriptions for a few other Disney films on Netflix, and then I want to talk about the context in which this porno sounding BS is situated:Read More

Notes from the field: Reconnecting through research

In Long form essays by Adrienne K.3 Comments

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This post comes from my dissertation journaling in 2013, when I had just returned from my first research trip to Cherokee, NC to visit one of my students in her home community. I came across it today, and as I’m searching for academic jobs and intensely thinking about my research and my own connections to culture and place–I thought I would share it. As I’ve talked about before on the blog, as Indigenous peoples we often are made to feel ashamed of our journeys of reconnection or disconnection to our heritage, and my experience has been no different. What are the ways that we can build and rebuild? And for me, as a scholar in an Ivy League environment that is about as white and western as you can get, how can my research be a tool for my own decolonization?

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I have a distinct memory of one of my early trips to Oklahoma, out on “the lake” with my cousins and parents. My cousin told us that he was going to take the “California cousins” (including me) to swim over Granny’s cornfields. Being so young, I had no concept of what that meant—and as my older cousins leapt from the boat in their brightly colored life jackets, I remember hesitantly easing off the back of the boat and into the water. The others shrieked, splashed, and laughed, swimming over what was once my family’s allotment land. I, instead, remember floating quietly, pulling my knees into my chest, afraid that if I let my toes reach downward I would feel the ghostly tops of granny’s corn stalks, which in my mind lurked below the surface like seaweed, swaying with the subtle currents of the lake. Because to me, that’s what my cousin must have meant when he said we’d be “swimming over granny’s cornfields.”

In my adult life I’ve often thought back to that memory, and how it feels symbolic to my connection to my own culture and identity. Much like my family’s allotment land, my life experiences have been flooded by the effects of colonization, but my cultural connection remains, albeit a ghostly memory below the surface–often feeling just out of reach.

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