Member of the Cherokee Nation who founded Native Appropriations, a blog focused on the problematic representation of Indigenous people in fashion, film, music, and other means of pop culture.
The blog mainly focuses on issues of cultural appropriation, which is defined by The Writer’s Union of Canada as “the taking – from a culture that is not one’s own – of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge”.
She draws on taboo contemporary issues regarding Native Americans. Keene addresses day-to-day topics, such as dating in Native communities, as well as navigating the college process as a Native person. In her blog posts, she writes advice to students regarding complaints against affirmative action or in response to difficulties students are having dealing with emotional well-being.
These blog posts are a reminder that Native Americans are contemporary and modern people. They push back on the stereotypes that Native people are people of the past and they sparks conversations that people weren’t comfortable having before.
Angela Mooney D’Arcy is a member of the Acjacheman tribe and the founder of Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples. She has spent a good part of her life advocating for the rights of tribes in Southern California who are not federally registered. With her B.A. from Brown University and her law degree from UCLA, she fights to reverse “settler colonial erasure” (Krol) that allows non-natives to continue living in ignorance and ruining the land that is considered sacred. Her organization was created to “protect sacred lands, waters, and cultures” (Sacred Places Institutes for Indian Peoples) through advocating for protection policies for sacred places, creating an online platform for indigenous activists, and assisting in indigenous leadership throughout the community. Her activism has created a large impact in the community in preserving sacred lands and starting the conversation about the difficulties in becoming recognized by the government.
When we were kids, children’s movies were the best. Toy Story, Beauty and The Beast, Emperors New Groove and yes, even Pocahontas. The beautiful story of a young, beautiful Indian women falling in love with the great Captain John Smith who came to America looking for a fresh, new life. Of course, Pocahontas’s father, Chief Powhatan does not approve of the two’s love and wants his daughter to marry one of the tribes mighty warriors. One thing leads to another and the colonists and the tribe are at war and right as Pocahontas’s father was going to kill John Smith, Pocahontas steps in and tries to convince the two groups to stop fighting and both groups gracefully agree and happily ever after. It was a beautiful movie right?
The Disney movie Pocahontas is a prime example of how from a VERY young age, society directs us away from the truth of what happened to the Native Americans. The real Story of Pocahontas is far from a happy musical love story with a happy ending, like all other Native American stories, is a tragedy.
The true story of Pocahontas: (Brief Summary; More Info Available In Link)
John Smith came to the Powhatan when Pocahontas was about 9 or 10, the two were never involved with one another.
Pocahontas never saved the life of John Smith.
Pocahontas never defied her father to bring food to John Smith or Jamestown.
Pocahontas did not sneak into Jamestown to warn John Smith about a death plot.
As colonists terrorized Native People, Pocahontas married to a man in her tribe and became pregnant with her first child.
Pocahontas was kidnapped by Captain Samuel Argall, her husband was murdered and she was forced to give up her first child in hopes to give the colonists an upper hand on the Native Americans and to prevent the tribe from attacking.
Pocahontas was raped while in captivity and became pregnant with her second child.
John Rolfe married Pocahontas to create a Native alliance in tobacco production. She also converted to Christianity and changed her name to Rebecca.
Pocahontas was brought to England to raise money and was then likely murdered.
Obviously there are some differences from what we are taught. The story of Pocahontas is just one story of how poorly Native Americans were treated, there are countless more. All of this information and more in depth information can be found on:
The year is 1973, and, all across America, people are doing what people do every year: they’re watching the Oscars. The hosts announce Marlon Brando as the winner for best performance by an actor for his work in The Godfather, but it is not Marlon Brando who takes the stage. It is Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache/Yaqui woman who, in less than a minute, declines the award for the treatment of Native Americans by the American film industry and for the current events at Wounded Knee.
What was happening at Wounded Knee? A group of Lakota activists with the American Indian Movement (AIM) had decided to occupy the area to protest corruption in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation government (particularly the chairman Richard Wilson) and the failure of the American government to uphold the treaties it had made with the indigenous nations. As they were armed, the American government responded in kind, with tanks, grenade launchers, and the FBI laying siege to the town. The activists also appealed directly to the UN to be seen as independent nations, asking for action against the US government.
Marlon Brando contacted Sacheen and asked her to give a speech for him (if he won the award), which would draw attention to the unfair treatment of Native Americans in the film industry as well as the current events at Wounded Knee. However, when she arrived, she was warned that if her speech went over 60 seconds, she would be arrested, so she improvised the short address in the above video. (The full address can be read here.) The response was a morale boost among the activists, who, of course, were also watching the Oscars. On Sacheen’s part, she received death threats and claims that she wasn’t Native American, in an attempt to discredit both her and the message that she was sending.
The situation at Wounded Knee resolved with a disarmament agreement after 71 days of occupation. 1200 people were arrested and tried, although charges for some of the leaders were dropped because of FBI manipulation of witnesses. Richard Wilson was reelected chairman. But despite this, America started to pay some attention to the problems that Native Americans face, and the activists inspired others to continue to fight.
The visual art refers to the artistic custom of each Native American tribe that spans from the ancient times all the way to the present day. Many of these tribes had their own specific form of art that they would make to symbolize or express their way of life.
Some of the oldest art forms date back to a period known as the Lithic stage in North America, which is the earliest period where people inhabited the Americas. In this period the earliest art was known to be carvings and painted objects.
Every single tribe had their own form of art that separated them from everyone else. One such tribe is the Tlingit, which originate from the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Their most notable form of art work are known as totem poles. The Tlingit feature animals in their totem poles as a way to tell the story of their clan’s history and mythology. They would feature bears, killer whales, and eagles more commonly because they are said to have contributed to the Tlingit’s survival and may have also led to major discoveries as told in their stories.
The Tlingit would also create this type of art as a tribute to a specific event that occurred in their history such as the birth of someone, war or to commemorate the death of someone important to the clan such as a chief.
Another group of indigenous people that incorporated art into their culture were the Inuit people, who inhabited the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. Unlike the Tlingit people, the Inuit’s most well known form of art is sculptures. This form of art was already known to the Inuit long before they came into contact with the Western world. These sculptures would be carved by hand and bones, tusks, antlers, serpentine, and other stones would be used to carve these sculptures.
And as it can be seen from the image above, these sculptures are very abstract as well. The eyes are very small and wide, the nose seems to be very big and is made to look as if it is in motion. Not much is said about what makes their sculptures so special or what they even stand for, but it can be assumed that they could be a clear depiction of the Inuit people’s way of life and how they probably saw themselves.
These art forms are not the only ones that were used by indigenous people, what other forms of art were used by what group of indigenous people? What is the significance of their art if any and what does it tell us about their tribe?
For the second week, we will be looking at sports teams and their use of native american imagery. Although later posts will cover teams more widely known in the USA, first we will be looking at the Kaizer Chiefs F.C. from South Africa, in order to attempt to see how foreign countries address the controversy surrounding the use of native american imagery or if they even think about it at all.
According to their website, this team was formed by a former player of the Atlanta Hawks, a short lived American team from the sixties and seventies. He combined his name, Kaizer Motaung, with the name of his former team and went as far as more or less just using the american team’s logo. complete with stereotypical feather headdress.
The american team was only active for a few years, largely due to the instability of soccer teams during this time. The only mentions of controversy in regards to it that i can find, are just mentions in regards to an Atlanta team potentially taking on the name, with comments pointing out that the name is not appropriate. This may be due to more popular teams often being the focus of pointing out inappropriate use of native american imagery. A football team is going to get a lot more complaints than a minor team from an unpopular, in the U.S. at least, sport.
Returning to the South African team, they seem to mostly ignore the native influence on their name, their website mostly focuses on their founder in their history, seeming to use the name chiefs not because of it’s Native American origin, but because it was the name of the team their founder played on.
In addition, their name seems to remind fan’s more of African tribal chiefs, despite the logo being of a Native American. Their nickname, the Amakhosi, is a Zulu word for chiefs, suggesting that they see their name as a reference to local chiefs. They also use a form of local tradition referred to as Muti , which they may see as a tribute to the indigenous nature of their name, but it seems to be more of a general widespread thing in South African soccer . Overall they seem to mostly ignore their Native American imagery, instead focusing on their founder and Native African traditions.
Although there does not seem to be any focus on their use of Native American imagery, in my opinion it does not make it OK. The lack of attention is likely not because Native American groups approve of it, but because the team is very unknown in the United States, and is therefore less important to change compared to other teams, that are more unknown, and have much more use of Native American imagery.
Over the rest of the week we will look at some teams that have drawn many more complaints and that have much more blatant use of Native American imagery.
The baseball organization, Cleveland Indians, has long been in the crossfire of the offensive sports name and logo debate. But, in what world can this logo, depicting a Native American, be seen as anything but offensive!
Since 1914, the Cleveland baseball organization has been known as the “Indians” because a member of the team was part of the Panawahpskek tribe of Maine. Writers of the time, breaking the news of the new name, use racist language about the player, calling him “only one more drunk Indian”(Posnaski, NBCSports). The name isn’t the only offensive part of the organization, the logo known as “Chief Wahoo” has long been showing an extremely racist and inaccurate depiction of a Native American since its deception in 1946.
Native Americans have long been protesting against the use of the name and logo, including demonstrations before the past twenty Opening Days as well as during the 2016 World Series.
Not only does the logo depict Chief Wahoo as having a red face, an extremely racist stereotype, but he also dawns a ceremonial red feather, which is extremely inappropriate because as Bob Roche, the director of the Native American Education Center states “This red feather that is worn by the so-called Chief Wahoo is a part of a ceremonial feather that is given to our warriors that have shed their own blood in battle … It’s very spiritual, the eagle feather; the eagle represents the messenger to the creator because it flies so high. And the eagle, of course, is revered. And so it’s a mockery of our own religion, our own spirituality.”
On top of this, some fans choose to dress up in extremely racist and stereotypical Native American costumes, some even taunting Native Americans during logo protests. There is also a fan, known as the #1 Indians fan, who plays “typical” Indian drums to “fire up the crowd”.
This extreme racism shows that sports team ‘s logo, mascot, and cultural appropriation of fan traditions allows fans people to think it’s acceptable to be racists and bigots. Just take a look at this video:
Most fans tend to overlook the logo, saying that “it is a tradition” and “part of our history”, but really it isn’t any different than these mock-team logos and names:
The removal of the Cleveland Indians logo and team name is long overdue as it is extremely racist and makes people think that it is okay to harass Native American Indians.
Kansas City Chiefs is an NFL team that plays in Arrowhead Stadium. They are in the American Football Conference West Division. They were established in 1959 and are valued under a billion dollars today. They have won a single Superbowl in 1970. Now they have Kept the Native theme going strong in this teams history.
Their Mascot is named Warpaint Which was removed in 1989 and replaced with K. C. Wolf but switched back to Warpaint in 2009. Warpaint used to wear a native head dress when it came out but now they just come in with the flag.
At home games while the “The Star-Spangled Banner” is playing the fans will shout “Chiefs” instead of saying “Brave” in the song. The GM in 1996 stated how awesome it would be if that can be done in away games where the Chiefs play as well because the players love it. The team also celebrates with the infamous tomahawk chop celebration as well as bang on drums.
The fans have been known to uses these stereotypes and take it a step further without realizing how offensive these things are. A prime example of this is when a fan wrote “KC Chiefs will scalp the Redskins feed them whiskey send to reservation.”
The fan apologized about their remarks and KC Chiefs representatives met with Native American groups. The group used this opportunity to see how the team viewed what their fans have done and how will they help improve their relationships with the natives and maybe even tackle some of the teams offensive imagery.
“Essentially, Native Americans told the Chiefs what they found particularly offensive, and the team listened and incorporated changes.
‘We wanted to be educated on culture and traditions, but we also wanted to hear about their impressions of us,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said. “We wanted to understand how it impacts others.'” (Blair Kerkhoff, 2017)
The team uses stereotypical traditions that are offensive towards native Americans. However, a learning experience was born from these traditions and offensive incidents. Working with the native groups they engaged the fans more and taught them about their culture which impacted the fans. Less of the fans showed up to the games with headdresses and face paint while the stadium did not ban these traditions they did tell broadcasters to not show fans dressed like that on national TV anymore. The Drum tradition could not be removed from the team so instead it became an educational lesson where the tribes would come out and introduce it and blend their true native culture with the football team.
The native tribes also get to come out and sing the national anthem.
The Tomahawk Chop could not be dismissed or meet a compromise.
“The chop and chant copied from Florida State — the Seminole Tribe of Florida has granted written permission for the university to borrow symbols of its heritage — remains part of the Arrowhead experience.
‘It’s meant to symbolize the crowd coming together and supporting a team we all celebrate,’ Donovan said.” (Blair Kerkhoff, 2017)
The team has come a long way but does it still have a long way to go?
Throughout the entirety of the United States history we have walked all over Native Americans and it seems like that trend is continuing and going to do so unless we do something about it. From the moment colonists landed on what is now known as the United States they decided that all of the land there was theirs to be had even though there were many people living there. Most all of the land was taken by force by the newcomers. After the settlers realized what they were doing was wrong, it was too late. All of the land had been taken and thousands of Native Americans of all tribes had died fighting for their sacred land. So in light of the recent theft of the land that the now United States had taken they decided to give some of it back. A very small portion of course. Small reservations that scatter throughout the continental united states. Even after we have given back land to the Native Americans some powerful people are still pushing the boundaries and treating them unfairly.
In recent history one of the most controversial subjects has been the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL for short. This pipeline is supposed to move half a million barrels of crude oil over 1,100 miles a day. It sounds like a good plan for the government and the energy companies to put into action. It would save the government and the country money making gas and energy prices less expensive so what is the issue?
Well, the problem is that the pipeline will travel within half a mile of the Standing Rock indian reservation. The main concern with the pipeline is safety. With a pipe break that far below the surface water contamination would be a nightmare. The water shelf could be completely polluted and unusable for not only the reservation but surrounding area as well. When the plans were first released in 2014 and the Native American community showed concern the pipeline was proposed to be rerouted by Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. That proposal was quickly shut down because of the dangers of a break and polluting the water supply of Bismarck. So this begs the question why would it be OK to run a potential catastrophe right by land where people’s lives depend on water. Not to mention that some of the land that the construction would be decimating is sacred burial ground. One of the Native American Grandmothers named Spotted Eagle brought up the point that the United States government would be appalled if the Sioux Nation decided to undergo a huge project right through Arlington Cemetery so why is it ok for the US to do it to the Standing Rock reservation? The United States has made it clear that the Native Americans are seperate from them after all.
The company building DAPL promises to monitor the pipeline every hour of every day all year long. The company also said that there are many safety implications in place to minimize the risk of a spill of other potential failures. But, it turned out after a safety report done by the EPA that the monitoring systems wouldn’t be effective enough to detect a spill or break before major leaking could occur. If a break would happen say… a half mile from a reservation, the outcome could be devastating. The fresh water supply from the Missouri river would be completely unusable to drink by the Native Americans living by it.
This is just one instance of when the Native Americans have been pushed around and somewhat disrespected. The pipeline was constructed and is actively pumping crude oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota to Pakota, Illinois. It seems that the builders of the line had no regard to the people of the Standing Rock reservation and ignored all of their protesting. In a lot of cases this was true, but a lot of the reason why they were ignored was because the Native Americans were protesting on private land that was not theirs so they ended up having to leave. Events like the DAPL happen on a smaller scale all the time to Native American reservations. These events will continue to happen unless something is done about it. But how can these occurences be stopped? That is the billion dollar question. How will we get the one percent and the US government to realize that this is indeed sacred land that we are walking on a daily basis and respect is as it should be.