Well then, Miss Cultural Appropriation Police, what CAN I wear?
If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native. There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a label that says "Indian made" or "Native made". Talk to the artist. find out where they're from. Be diligent. Don't go out in a full "costume". It's ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don't march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a ribbon shirt. Ask yourself: if you ran into a Native person, would you feel embarrassed or feel the need to justify yourself? As commenter Bree pointed out, it's ok to own a shirt with kimono sleeves, but you wouldn't go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar. Just take a minute to question your sartorial choices before you go out.
This dude: "Hey, you were taking my picture!"
Me: "yeah, is that ok? I wanted to get a picture of you and your friends in headdresses for my blog."
Dude: "you're wearing a snuggie! Can I snuggie in your snuggie?!"
Me (wearing a leopard print snuggie at the time): "um, ok?"
Dude (as rubbing his face on the sleeve of my snuggie): "so soft."
Is Cher being racist in this picture?
"Why is an attractive depiction of an Indian warrior just as offensive as an ugly caricature?"
Both depictions uphold stereotypes. Both firmly place Indian people in the past, separate from our contemporary cultural experience. It is difficult, at best, to be heard in the present when someone is always suggesting that your real culture only exists in museums. The logos keep us marginalized and are a barrier to our contributing here and now.
Depictions of mighty warriors of the past emphasize a tragic part of our history; focusing on wartime survival, they ignore the strength and beauty of our cultures during times of peace. Many Indian cultures view life as a spiritual journey filled with lessons to be learned from every experience and from every living being. Many cultures put high value on peace, right action and sharing.
The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it.
That sentence sums up most everything wrong with modern Western society human beings.
My claim is that the headdress is stereotypical regardless of how you feel about it. It contributes to the pervasive view that all Indians are equivalent to the Plains Indians of the 19th century. In short, that they're primitive people of the past.
. . . imagine someone dressing as a stereotypical African of the 19th century. Grass skirt, spear in hand, bone through the nose, etc. Would this strike you as offensive, or at least objectionable? The headdress is the same idea--a 150-year-old stereotype--and it's wrong for the same reason.
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