Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Still Appropriating

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

So here’s a breakdown on things I think still appropriate Native American culture or the race itself. I will warn you this is a link heavy post, only because I think you guys need to drop your jaws as much as I do throughout the day. You need to see it to believe it.

Every time I pull a Buffalo nickel out of my pocket when digging for change I nearly want to scream. The image that is seared into my head whenever I see one is that giant stack of buffalo skulls during (what I call) the Buffalo Raids in order to try and weaken Native American food supplies to the Plains people. If America wanted the fucking buffalo so bad, WHY KILL THEM?

Another is the Sacagawea coin, oh and a priceless find of the “Wampanoag Treaty” (even though it was a verbal agreement…), state coins brandish Indian depictions on some of them, and Canada is no exclusion with their collector’s edition sets. Oh, and here’s a link to the kicker of them all. If you really want to honor us with coins, how about just giving us the fucking money, really? (No, really, give me some money. I can buy a book or two and maybe pay off college.)

Yes, yes, I know. A lot of folks discuss this beautifully. Especially Jessica Yee, who I have a hella crush on. However, I have yet to say my piece: STOP IT. JUST. STOP.
I am sick of turning on Google image search for Native American things, and find things like this. Yes, it is so underground to be smoking in a bathtub with a head dress.

Or even this. Sure, aren’t all Indians drinking alcoholics anyway (/stereotype)? WE’D RATHER BE CAUGHT DEAD THAN DRINKING PBR!

I don’t even want to know what this is. One of them looks like a brother that is held hostage in this troll-fest. The one to the left is even wearing a Pendleton looking shirt.

The worst of it? I AM CALLED A HIPSTER! Because of so much intersectionality (queer, POC, activist, poor, etc), and because I can actually smoke a catlinite/pipestone pipe correctly, have worn a feather and have stretched ear lobes. So instead of being called “Native American”, I am now being called “Hipster”, instead. So not only are hipsters appropriating, but they seem to be causing this WEIRD ERASURE OF IDENTITY by absorbing these once “native identifiers” as somehow “hipster identifiers”. What the fuck people?!

Lately I have been getting an increase at requests by friends and friends-of-friends and random people who compliment my jewelry (most of them self-made) to make them something. They gush about how OH SO LONG it must take me to make a quill piece. Their faces that drop as I seem to demystify them by telling them I get the quills from a Cherokee dude out in Oklahoma from E-Bay who farms them by using the blanket method are priceless.

Sociological images put this out a while back, but I also want to point out that UGG boots also look suspiciously moccasin-y. Especially one called Original Sundance. Really? The original isn’t the Plains people sun dance that is both sacred and transcending? No? My face when: Wow I’ve been wrong ALL this time.

Besides the obvious (massacres, Little Big Horn, Custard in general, and landing here to begin with), the military also still appropriates us. In case you don’t know your tribal names, the references will be bolded. Cars are going on here too, because I have an undying belief that all technology put out is at the whim of the military’s advancement. Jeep Cherokee (car), Boeing AH-64 Apache (military helicopter), Bell OH-58 Kiowa (military helicopter), Indian (kinda obvious) Motorcycles (motorcycle, duh), RAH-66 Comanche (military helicopter), Bell 47 [H1-Sioux] (also known as the M.A.S.H helicopter, also military).

This is legit taken, verbatim, from a Helicopter Website on their FAQ page:

“Traditionally, Armed Forces choose a subject to give name to its ships, airplanes or vehicles. The U.S. Army aviation began in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma prior to moving to FT. Rucker, Alabama. Ft. Sill is located in the heart of many native american reservations and in honor of the location they decided to name helicopters after the various indian tribes. The one exception is the Bell AH-1 Cobra which was named such because the army did not want to offend the native americans by naming a gunship after an indian tribe and have the be percieved as an insult. Shortly thereafter many tribal leaders inquired as to why the Army stopped naming helicopters after indians. When the reason was explained the leaders stated that there are many aggressive indian tribes that are fit to name a gunship after which was where the Apache, Kiowa warrior, and formerly the Commanche all got thier names from.”

So…wait. It’s cool if we’re a warrior-culture when we’ve already been colonized, but OH SUCH A THREAT when we weren’t? And it wasn’t insulting to name the other ones; JUST the cobra was the only perceived threat? I’m Kiowa. I have an ancestor on the rolls. I think she’s rolfing in her grave from so many fails in that statement.

I am still amazed at how much is still being appropriated, but it was the last turquoise jewelry piece my friend showed me that she bought (which looked oh-so-Indian) that set me off on this post (see: rant).