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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cultural Appropriations

It is the absence of a variety of images, stories, and truths juxtaposed next to simplified stereotypes that make the impact of those stereotypes so damaging for indigenous people.

This is our land, our heritage, our biology…  Our very cells were formed on this continent.  We need to be represented with a larger space in literature, media, politics, education, etc.  We want the same thing others already have - like TV shows that reflect our lives, songs on the radio written and sung by our people, textbooks that tell our history, holidays that celebrate our culture, laws that protect our rights, politicians that speak for our values.

1. Why do you think cultural appropriations happens so much in our society? Why is it a problem? What does this have to do with our history? 
People think because they are in control and have power and money that they can take/borrow anything they want from another culture, but that means that the actual culture loses a bit of themselves. Performing a Eucharist or opening Torah scrolls wouldn’t be done at a typical summer camp or in a classroom, but Native American clothing and practices are often kidnapped and used without respect, understanding, or knowledge. 

When I say, “Winnebago,” “Pontiac,” and “Sequoyah,” do you think of a recreational vehicle, car, and tree? Our culture that has been taken out of context and minimized, so that it no longer resembles a great nation, a famous leader, or the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet. Our medicines, herbs, and healing practices are as sacred as your “ceremonies.”

More people see stereotypes than real, authentic images. They misrepresent our history and cultures.   One single image can be assigned to all NA’s with little regard to individual differences. Images like these affect both First Nations People and all children.  They model what we are supposed to look like, act like, and do.  Stereotypes, by their negative nature, do not focus on contributions, role-models, or resistance.

2. What makes cultural appropriation of Native American culture different than that of other cultures?
Mascots dehumanize and objectify Native Americans reaffirming the belief that Native People no longer exist or that they exist only in the media or as caricatures. Stereotyping of this nature is harmful on many levels not only to Native people but also to those who allow the stereotype to shape their view.

A major problem with “mascots” is that they stereotype. While many things stereotype many groups, the fact that First Nations People have so little accurate representation in cinema, textbooks, history, novels, etc. in our own country makes it much more problematic. One single image is assigned to all Native Americans with little regard to our individual differences.  We are not seen as contemporary or professional. Stereotypes miss the positive images. If there was a range, maybe the public wouldn’t notice the negative image, but given that there is an absence of almost anything accurate about indigenous people, mascots are the wrong image to project. 

Stereotypes not only affect the First Nations People, they affect nonNative people, too, by giving inaccurate information. If the mascots were about communities who are gay, Jewish, or black, it would have already stopped. Each time mascots are used or our dress is taken out of context, we are reminded that we are not equal and we are not respected, at the same time that it teaches the nonNative group (those doing the stereotyping and appropriation) that they are superior.

3. What differentiates the art you make with what huge companies make?
Native art is protected by the Native American Arts and Crafts Act.  It is protected from cheap knock-offs because it is authentically indigenous.  We have the right to sell our own products and can’t even mass produce them within this law (it typically wouldn’t stay 100% Native)! We are not out in the world making millions of dollars, so our crafting is one of the ways we are able to retain our culture and make money.