Disclaimer: If you find discussion or photos of cultural appropriation and/or discussion of the marginalization of indigenous peoples triggering, consider yourself warned. Also, although there is no direct evidence that the girls in these photos or the people who posted them are not indeed Native Americans, this is still extremely disrespectful of their culture.
So there was a slight uproar going around tumblr after someone posted a photo of a white girl wearing a headdress that was intended to look Native American and some other people started going back and forth about whether or not it was offensive. I decided that this would be appropriate subject material for this blog, so I did a search for “headdress” on Tumblr in order to try to find the article. What I found was appalling - this isn’t just an isolated case of one image. This seems to be an actual trend, with entire blogs dedicated to white hipster kids wearing headdresses.
For example, this charming blog has no fewer than four pictures of white people wearing headdresses on the front page alone. There’s also a blog titled Fuck Yeah Indian Headdresses, which is just all of the offensiveness piled up into one place. I honestly didn’t want to go any further, but I’m sure there are more.
This photo is rather typical of what you find on many Tumblr blogs, usually with captions like “I want one of these sooooo bad!” or something. Why do all these girls want headdresses? So they can dress up and play “Indian Princess”?
Then there was this unbelievable photo, Considering the long, almost constant, history of various atrocities committed against Native Americans by or in the name of the United States of America, I find this incredibly offensive. I just don’t know where to start with this.
So, now that we’ve established what we’re talking about, here’s some thoughts on the subject (and a shout-out to all the wonderful bloggers who’ve written much more eloquently on the topic than I think I ever could have).
hipsterappropriations, who is running a blog that’s covers one of the major topics I wanted this blog to cover, has this to say among other things:
So when you dismiss arguments of cultural insensitivity over a skinny white model wearing a headdress, consider how the Native community, with everything that’s been destroyed by the ruling white class in the history of our country - would feel about seeing that model. We’ve already taken enough from them - why continue to subjugate our country’s real founders by wearing a sacred object now?
agoodtimeatyourexpense makes a good point here, in a longer but excellent post about the phenomenon of headdresses as fashion accessories and draws parallels to blackface:
Yes, maybe it’s all for fun. But would dressing in black face be as fun because there aren’t beads and feathers involved?
my culture is not a trend. is an entire blog dedicated to the topic of cultural appropriation, and has had a number of recent articles and questions about this subject.
Although most people are at somewhat aware of historical crimes committed against Native Americans, are they completely blase about the continuing effects of that oppression? Do they know that nearly 1/3 of the inhabitants of the Navajo population may be drinking water that is contaminated with uranium as a result of mining on the reservation? Or that Native Americans have significantly higher rates of serious health issues than non-hispanic white people? Or that Native American women are over three times more likely to be raped than average, yet they have poor access to reproductive health services? Or that at least 32 aboriginal Canadian women have disappeared or were murdered along a single highway in recent years, and received a police response that is generally viewed as woefully inadequate or bigoted by their families and communities?
November is Native American Heritage month. Let’s try to spread respect their culture and raise awareness about social problems facing Native Americans (or indigenous peoples in many areas across the world), rather than playing dress-up with objects that carry deep cultural or religious significance to them.