Learn about Native Culture, don’t just wear it.

Post by volunteer blogger, Jessica

I believe it is safe to say that it is fairly common to see people wear Native American inspired apparel, from wearing dream catcher earrings, to fringed boots, to dressing like a Native American for Halloween. Let’s be honest, do we really take the time to think about how our culture is impacting the perception of Native American culture? Native culture is not just a story of the past, but it is alive and exemplifies a surviving culture that endured much suffering and pain, and still prevails today.

I’m not writing this blog to give you a history lesson on American Indians, but what I do want you to get out of this post is to realize your own view on Native American culture and to be more sensitive to issues like this. I come from a town that was influenced by Native culture. My hometown was named after a Dakota Sioux Indian and I also went to one of the very few high schools in the state that still gets to have the “Indians” as a mascot. Like the rest of my town, I confess, that I was clueless to the realities that Native Americans went through, which isn’t revealed in textbooks. Yet, I have developed an appreciation for the history of Native Americans after making a documentary of the Dakota Uprising and Hangings in Minnesota, where I interviewed a few people of Dakota dissent, and I want others to develop the same respect as well.  No, the problem of lack of education about Native history will not be solved tomorrow, although one thing can change. People can take the time to learn a little bit about Native culture.

After I was assigned to read The Circle, a Native American News and Arts Newspaper, in my American Indians in Minnesota Class, I initially thought that I wouldn’t find much information that would relate to me. However, that was before I came across an article called “Nothing says Native American month like white girls in headdresses”. I was intrigued by the pictures they illustrated of supermodel Karlie Kloss and singer Gwen Stefani in headdresses and wearing other Native apparel. Just like most other people, I didn’t think this would be offensive to the indigenous people. It turns out that Victoria’s Secret had to exclude any Native American apparel from their runways out of respect to the Native American people. Gwen Stefani was forced to pull her No Doubt Video “Looking Hot” off of the web due to the backlashing the band experienced after posting the video. I found this article extremely significant because it makes light of a reaction by the Native people that most people haven’t heard about. Why do Natives disagree with the fashion trend? The historic trauma that Native people have endured is still an unresolved wound. Yes, it is downgrading and offensive to wear synthetic headdresses and fake “Indian” outfits. Don’t encourage the stereotype and instead embrace Native culture by learning more about them and do some exploring of your own. Here is a fact from the article that you probably didn’t know: There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., each with their own unique customs, language, and history. Take the time and learn about one today, and respect their culture.

Here is a link to read the article from The Circle.

To read an interesting article on the “Native” fashion trend, click here.

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