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Feminist Intersection: On hipsters/hippies and Native culture

Lately I've had my fair share of run-ins with the hipsters and hippies, as well as the hippie/hipster "culture" at large, and have become increasingly annoyed at their depiction/co-option of my ethnicity as a First Nations person.

by Jen Musari, on the Native Appropriations website

Kelsey pointed me to this post on Sociological Images last week which rounds up some of the latest and greatest of this ever continuing trend.

I know my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles have had to deal with this in their time and it's certainly not a new thing –but it's 2010 and not only does it still continue strongly to this day – it's taken some interesting turns down the erasure of true origins road. This isn't a hate letter, or reverse racism (as if there were such a thing!). It's also not an attempt to discourage you from finding out more about Native people – and in fact I strongly ENCOURAGE you to do some actual research and knowledge seeking so you might get our culture right and think twice about things like permission and respect before you act on your appropriation.

So to the hipsters/hippies who appropriate Native culture but aren't First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous, I'm asking you nicely now, to PLEASE stop annoying (the fuck out of) me with the following:

The clothing. Whether it's headbands, feathers, bone necklaces, mukluks, or moccasins – at least put some damn thought into WHAT you are wearing and WHERE it's from. I know our people sell these things en masse in gift shops and trading posts, and it seems like it's an open invitation to buy it and flaunt it, but you could at least check the label to see A. If it's made by actual Indigenous people/communities B. What does this really mean if YOU wear it?

Organic living and environmentalism as "new" concepts. One of my friends jokes that all Native people should get green energy for free because that's how we've been living for centuries and also taught the colonizers how to live (which may or may not have screwed us in the end). I really do love the resurgence of the green movement and how things are becoming more environmentally friendly – but I don't need certain members of the movement pretending like they started this or ignoring extreme realities we're facing like environmental racism and justice. I also think we need actual Native people being in charge of and leading the responses to environmental degradation that are happening in our own territories. It's not to say we don't need allyship and support – but it's also rather irritating when I read an event posting for a cause of some sort for a First Nation where there's like two Native people in the whole place (who either barely say anything or are supposed to go along with the way the hippies organize without complaint because they're "doing something for us").

The appropriation of and silence about our medicines and teachings. I see direct examples of this in some of the alternative feminine and menstrual cycle products that are on the market now. I'm not hating on the DIVA cup or suggesting that the "divine goddess" isn't a great story to hear, but I am wondering where your assertion of Indigenous midwifery knowledge is – and that in fact the absence of acknowledgment of where periods not being a bad thing or the blood from our menstrual cycles being sacred originates, is a direct erasure of Indigenous truth. It's not enough to romanticize our medicines and teachings about women's bodies and power and say, "Look at how thousands of years ago they used to do that!" and then capitalize your product or book off of some ancient-seeming fluff you are trying to present as en vogue. No! We are STILL doing this, we STILL believe in this, and damn it, you need to HONOR where this comes from!

We're all one race. I'm not here to burst your bubble of unity and friendship, those things are great – but I am here to remind you that while some of you want to be our friends and ignore so-called "cultural differences" – you can't ignore the history and current day presence of colonialism and racism. I don't need to list off the statistics of health disparities and poverty in Native communities today to prove this fact to you – just consult the facts. I don't want to be the angry Indian you won't be friends with, so do me a favor and when you talk about "earth-based" things and your "right" to participate in whatever culture you want because we're all human, know that there is such a thing as cultural protocol and that many of us are in crisis now of how to protect Indigenous knowledge.

Your grandfather's, sister's, cousin's great-grandma was a Cherokee princess. This is an old one that we've been hearing for decades now – but it's especially bothersome when I'm on the plane and you want me to educate you about blood quantum systems and status for the next 2 hours of the flight. I won't do this, and I'm tired of you getting upset at me if I don't initially present myself as Native (because no, we don't all have braids and brown skin) but then you look at my laptop stickers and are like, "Mohawk. Hey my third cousin's sister's best friend is Native!" and then I just turn the volume on my IPod louder because I don't always have the answers to your incessant questions – which are really just one question to me – why are we so invisible to you?

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200 comments have been made. Commenting is set to read-only for this post.

Re: the clothing

Hey Jessica,

Really liked your post and think it's a great topic that I'd love to read more about.

One thing I'm curious about though, on the risk of sounding completely naive, is what DOES it really mean to be wearing these types of clothing (moccasins, feathers, etc.)?

Obviously you probably didn't want to go too into detail via blog post on just this one aspect, so I was wondering if you could point me to more sources of info on this?

thanks! keep up the great work!


Jessica Yee is a smart, engaged young Aboriginal activist and leader, but she's lost the plot a little here. As an urban Aboriginal, I couldn't care less what non-Aboriginals are wearing. If you want to reference Indigenous people in your fashion, cool. If you're dressing up and playing Indian, not cool.

As for the other headings - we need to find ways of honouring and protecting Indigenous knowledge and history, but shaming people into feeling like they don't know how to participate in the dialogue doesn't help anybody.



Don't agree

I'd side more with Jessica on this one. I don't think she's trying to shame people into feeling like they don't know how to participate in the dialogue so much as she is saying, stop trying to make money by appropriating our culture. Her frustration might be uncomfortable for some people to hear, but it's necessary. If people don't come out of their comfort zones, they will never humble themselves enough to show respect for what they don't know.

You're right, we need to work together and there needs to be a dialogue, but by its very's not going to be comfortable in the beginning. However, if we can get through that discomfort, some real understanding and solutions would not doubt result from our perseverance.

your grandfather's, sister's... etc..

I'm sure this is in fact extremely annoying. However, you might consider that when people bring that up, they're not saying, "Hey I'm just like you and I totally understand what you deal with," they're trying to make a connection and learn something. Ignorant people are a pain in the neck, but they're mostly not trying to be ignorant on purpose.

Absolutely. I think instead

Absolutely. I think instead of your disdain for those who are trying to make (ostensibly tenuous) connections, it would be wise to capitalize on their interest in the subject. I’m not suggesting you be the representative for the entire Nation in this situation. I‘m merely suggesting that if this is a cause you deem worthy of championing, then you should have a prepared source of information for them—be it this blog, book titles, or documentaries. Encourage them to learn more about THEIR history and perhaps you’ll draw a new soldier to your army.

Unequal burdens

I think there is an implied burden here, though -- why should a Native person take all the responsibility to educate people? The (usually) white presumption is that it is their privilege to interrogate or make that connection. Why should it be the Native person's responsibility to have prepared materials/info/links for someone just because of a sticker on a laptop? Issues of privacy-in-public (planes, subway, sidewalks) aside, I think the point still stands that people should educate themselves first, not wait for random minorities to act as information kiosks whenever they (the non-minority) chooses to try to make a connection. a non-native person, a non-native person, where do I go to educate myself about native culture (or any culture not my own) without "bothering" a person from that culture? And I am talking real native culture, not the white majority fantasy of native culture the is the most readily available source.

You could try google. We're

You could try google. We're no longer living in a time where it's hard to come by information. You can go on any number of academic websites and search by subject. You can lurk on popular blogs focusing on native rights. Watch a documentary on HULU or Youtube. You act like asking a native person is the only option to educate youself.

Sure, Google works. But,

Sure, Google works. But, doesn't the most reliable information from a Google search come from individuals who are trying to communicate? Articles and essays on the internet have narrow perspectives of varying reliability, just like in-person people, but are often one-way--you can't ask them questions. It makes me sad to think of "ask the internet" as a replacement solution for one-to-one conversation. People can come off as a bit ignorant when telling you that their coworker's daughter is whatever-identity that you are, too, but generally, the difference between overidentification and genuine interest is obvious. There are many possible responses to questions about your ancestry or traditions, including, "I actually don't know much about that" and "This is what I know" and "Here's a good website you can go to."

If they still have questions

A search engine is more than an end all. It's a jump off point. If they still have questions then I'm sure they can use something like google to look up their local library database and local historical society. Heck, many of the nations have their own websites that can direct you to their own cultural museums and such.

Not only that but most of

Not only that but most of the time we'd be so impressed that they did much of the work, we wouldn't mind answering questions. I mean, there is a big difference between asking, "What's cultural appropriation?" and "I've found out that this item I have has a picture of a Mohawk wampum belt. I'd like to be sure that wearing this item isn't disrespectful." I'm sure that Jessica wouldn't be offended by that question since it isn't about some totally unrelated nation like we're all the same, and it shows some initiative that they did the research to find out what the picture is, and which nation it came from.

Showing effort means something, instead of not being arsed to do the bare minimum yourself, and expecting us to use our valuable time to do it all for you. Oh wait, white people's time is valuable, nothing about us is valuable so we need to drop everything and be ready to wait on the white people hand and foot. I get uppity sometimes.

Great Article!

I agree with a number of points and it actually reminds me of this article:

where these issues are all brought out. I do think that breaking up the Cherokee Princess Grandma syndrome is a totally valid and true expression of how ridiculous it is to have to hear this brought up again and again.

I only have one critique and that is "the absence of acknowledgment of where periods not being a bad thing or the blood from our menstrual cycles being sacred originates." As a Native person myself I am aware and honor that this knowledge is inherent in my own culture, but it is also in other cultures from around the world. We don't have sole knowledge and awareness of the sacredness of a woman's blood.

Oh please. This is like

Oh please.
This is like saying its not cool to eat pizza unless you're Italian. Or only the French can drink champagne. Learn to share your heritage. Stop holding on so tightly.
My ancestors weren't even around before the 1900's. They didn't kill your ancestors. Get over it.

Actually, it's not like

Actually, it's not like Italians saying no one else can eat pizza. Pizza is not the same as a sacred object.

If you want to draw the parallel, it's more like someone dressing up like the pope, or a priest, because they think it's ironic. How would an Italian Catholic respond to that?

well, bring it on. I laugh

well, bring it on. I laugh at the Pope all the time. And the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are hilarious. And pizza isn't sacred? Tell that to an Italian. :)


There is also a difference in how important your culture is to you vs. how important ours is to us. My spirituality is important to me. My lifeways are important to me. They keep me rooted to who I am, and permeate every facet of my existence. So, of course I want to protect them. Because you can't relate to this feeling, you will never understand why we do it. Arguing for you to respect my culture as much as I do would be stupid. But, I don't think asking you NOT to disrespect it is too much to ask. Is it?

Well spoken

I want to support what Dennis is saying here.

I think it's almost impossible to come up with an analogy in white people's lives. The difference between dressing like a priest and appropriating indigenous culture is the power imbalance. Dressing like a priest or lampooning the Catholic Church is taking a run at a powerful institution, rooted at the seat of a former empire. It can be playful, or ignorant, or satire, but ultimately has little effect on the dominant institution. White people wrapping themselves in an ignorant pastiche of native culture on the other hand, is part of an ongoing project of colonialism and attempted erasure. It doesn't take a knock at the dominant paradigm, it sideswipes a culture that is actively marginalized by it.

If dressing up like the pope

If dressing up like the pope or bishops of the catholic church to be ironic were a trend it would have the same demeaning affect on devoted catholics who take their spirituality and/or cultural background seriously. The reason being is that anything adopted as a trend in popular culture that has spiritual or cultural significance will lose that significance in the transfer from a meaningful representation of a people to a pop culture prop. The commodity is a commodity for commodity's sake. So there is an analogy for "whites"....take into consideration people getting celtic religious symbols as tattoos that have nothing other than an aesthetic meaning to the person getting the tattoo, and not taking into consideration the origins and culture.

There have been at least 3 articles in the New York Times this week alone about people scrambling to find some sort of cultural identity as globalization takes hold everywhere. I myself am not very PC, and i don't think blaming certain groups of people has ever worked. The fact that this appropriation of culturally/spiritually significant objects/ideas has such a dividing and negative effect just highlights the baselessness of globalized pop-culture in general and the gross ignorance of people EVERYWHERE. That is the real issue, not that a non native is wearing a head dress; go ahead and wear it, just know what it stands for, represent that in more than one way, or be prepared to be in the next decades VH1 show "what the fuck were they thinking." Pretty simple.

Your concept of culture is

Your concept of culture is pretty skewed. Pizza is a food you eat and while it may be connected to Italy, it's not nearly the same as say, a non-transposable religion (unlike buddhism, catholicism, christianity) specific to a land/place/people or the materials connected to that religion and life.

You've framed your question like a permanent tourist.


Also eating pizza isn't the same as wearing moccasins and claiming a thin blood ancestry. They are done for different reasons. One satisfies anybody's taste buds without little emotional/mental attachment and another satisfies a white americans hunger for a culture in a place theirs. (White culture mostly consisting of what he/she can purchase.)

The better analogy is

The better analogy is rosaries worn as a fashion accessory by non-Catholics. I don't believe Jesus ever existed as a real person, let alone the divine son, yet people obviously take their faith seriously that this flippant use of their Messiah's crucifixion is offensive.

Statements like "Get over it" show you don't get it

This is not a conversation or dialogue about sharing foods from different cultures. This is about appropriation. The fact that you are diluting the article to something like "pizza" and "champagne" shows you are not paying attention and are in denial. Not exactly useful places to start a meaningful dialogue.

As for "didn't kill your ancestors" if you live in the "Americas" you are capitalizing and benefiting from the racist, genocidal history of the American holocaust. And First Nations people are still dying today. 500 + First Nations women are murdered are missing right now. You are involved in that present reality. So you have a responsibility to either get involved in a genuine way or back off and stop spewing toxic, minimizing comments. I am not going to get over it but am willing to work through "it" with people who are respectful allies. By the way the "it" word is racism!

How are you not minimizing

How are you not minimizing the experience of white people in this little rebuttal? I could say the same about the non-Irish exploiting St. Patrick's Day for profit and hedonism without any thought to what the Roman Catholic Church did to those who practiced older religions. Irish culture is more than beer and shamrocks. Perhaps the Irish turned to booze when oppressed by the British. Does my family's experience not count because it's white-on-white and my parents moved to New Hampshire in the 20's? Am I immediately part of the problem because I was born into it? You assume I don't care or involved myself in Native rights and politics because I'm white? How easy it is for all you to dismiss the few uber-defensive Caucasians claiming, "What, I'm automatically racist because I'm right?" without reconsidering the allegation. Throwing around blame is not a solution. Instead of trashing hipsters, a minor subculture overrepresented in cyberspace, save your argument for the company itself. I'm offended as a woman by most of the slogans on their drinkware. Do I blame all men for it, or those involved in its creation?

Hey there Freudian slip:

Hey there Freudian slip: that should read, "I'm automatically racist because I'm white?"

The experience of ethnicity

The experience of ethnicity amongst white individuals in the US is almost exclusively symbolic. The claim that "I'm oppressed too because there was a time when people didn't like the Irish" does not hold water because being Irish does not impact your life outcome in any meaningful way. You get to CHOOSE to participate in your ethnicity when it is convenient or pleasurable for you to do so. And yes, unfortunately everyone born into the system is automatically part of the problem as we go about life perpetuating the status quo. The only way not to be part of the problem is to take an active role in changing the obvious disparities amongst racial groups. An attempt to claim that you do not benefit from white privilege is either purely ignorant (as in you truly don't know what you're saying) or a denial and therefore attempt to cling to the white privilege which is still prevalent in society today.

Let's get it out of the way

Let's get it out of the way first: I agree with everything Jessica wrote in her article and the second half of your reply.

"being Irish does not impact your life outcome in any meaningful way. You get to CHOOSE to participate in your ethnicity when it is convenient or pleasurable for you to do so."

This offends me, it belittles my own heritage and my family's history even if I benefit from a systematic oppression of Native Americas since coming to America. Society is a melting pot for white culture that pressures us to abandon our traditions for a unified anti-multicultural army of sorts. The white race has grown exponentially in recent centuries because it clings to a persecution complex not unlike Quiverfulls that we're next once we're outnumbered. We claim ethnicities it's absurd to think of as "white," like European Spanish and Portuguese, Greek, Armenian, sometimes Turkish, etc. I love the violent Celtic mythology and King Arthur tales, the rituals and monolithic monuments, Celtic arts like calligraphy and ornamental zoomorphics, instruments like the hammered dulcimer and pennywhistle, the Bodhrán I made myself with my brother. Consummerism wants to take away my heritage because I have it better now, wants to sell it back in the form of "kiss me I'm Irish" t-shirts. Not a cultural appropriation but an insult nonetheless.

Ethnicity shouldn't be a convenience or momentary pleasure to anyone! Being Irish doesn't impact my life outcome, true, but it affects my life, which is enough.

re: statements like "Get Over It"

No one's minimizing what has happened over the past 500 years. But how exactly are people living in the Americas benefiting from this event?

This is why I like to say that white guilt is to too many left-wing folks what Original Sin is to Catholics...only here the Indulgences are the practice of accusing other white people of being more involved in benefitting from oppression than one's self.

You are living on stolen

You are living on stolen land for one thing. Our resources are still being stolen too. Lumber, coal, oil, precious metals, rerouting or damming up rivers that go through our lands, unloading your trash and hazardous wastes on our lands, still over fishing, grazing, and hunting on our lands. So many of your cheap(er) fuel, and consumer goods happen to be cheap because the corporation or the US govt supplying it stole it from us.

Betcha liberals like the

Betcha liberals like the feminists here don't support lumber, coal, oil, and related industries; dams and other environmentally unfriendly structures; overgrazing/fishing/hunting or the consumption of animals for Bitch vegetarians and vegans. ;)

**respectfully backs out of the conversation 'cause she isn't American Indian or Caucasian**

Preface: Truly, I say/ ask

Preface: Truly, I say/ ask the following because I genuinely want to understand your argument and genuinely want to respect your culture.

While I understand that you feel the land belongs to you, we ALL suffer from the detrimental practices of over fishing, mining, etc. What is it, from the point of resource use solely, that you want non-natives to do?


But hasn't all of the world's land been stolen in some way or another by one people from another? Isn't London and much of Europe sitting on turf stolen by the Romans from the Celts, Gauls etc. and then stolen by the Vandals, Alemanii, Huns etc. from the Romans and so on...

The 'stolen land' argument only seems logical when talking about ongoing land grabs to build ski resorts or highways, not the breaking of treaties some 200 years or so ago. I'm not denying that this process has had an impact, but no one is seriously going to give Ottawa, Montreal or Vancouver back to the relevant First Nation, dismantle all settlements and move every non-Native person off it.


Yes, you are denying its impact. You are lessening what actually happened. You are refusing to acknowledge to the history of how its been done. You are refusing to acknowledge not just that it happened but is still happening. Please--Stop it.

"I'm not denying that this

"I'm not denying that this process has had an impact, but no one is seriously going to give Ottawa, Montreal or Vancouver back to the relevant First Nation, dismantle all settlements and move every non-Native person off it."

This here is very true and actually part of my point. Lemme use a different (but also highly charged) situation. A friend left a comment about a year ago and she said, "i have to disagree with the idea that israel has a -right- to exist. i know it is thorny...but i dont think there is a moral imperative for israel's founding. it -does- exist. and we have to deal with the current political reality...but i guess in the back of my head i am always thinking: colonialist nations dont have the -right- to exist. same with the usa."

I agree with this, I do agree with what she said about Israel -does- exist and we must deal with that reality. I also agree with you, are you surprised? I know that those of European extraction aren't going anywhere and I'm not saying all of you get out! Go back to where you came from! What I am saying is KNOW YOUR HISTORY. Respect the fact that we have lost so much and you, all of you, are benefiting from that loss. And then please stop saying ignorant hurtful things like, "No one's minimizing what has happened over the past 500 years. But how exactly are people living in the Americas benefiting from this event?" Obviously even that is too much to ask for since all the comments after mine are playing "gotcha" and looking for things to nitpick about THINGS I DIDN'T EVEN SAY.

But it was interesting to learn that vegetarians/vegans don't live in homes made of wood or have furniture made of wood either; and don't heat those homes with wood, oil, coal, natural gas; or wear jewelry, or use technology using precious metals and minerals; or wear synthetic clothing since oil is used in it's manufacture; or drink water that has been diverted by dams, oh wait they must not use electricity either since many of those dams are hydroelectric... etc.

Donna, honey, no. Obviously

Donna, honey, no. Obviously I meant animal consumption and you are starting fights. (Or prolonging fights.)

Marina, sweetheart, yes.

Marina, sweetheart, yes. Obviously you thought you could make a little cutesy joke at my expense, and now you're pissed that I made my own little cutesy joke at your expense.

At your expense? While you

At your expense? While you insult everyone - friend or foe - in hyperbole? Follow the semi-colons, Donna.

U.S. reservations are under

U.S. reservations are under the management of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they sell mining rights, forestry rights, oil extraction, grazing rights, rights to build a dam for hydroelectric, among many other uses for our lands and resources for a pittance. Then they pay themselves handsomely, and sometimes pay us what is left but more often then not they don't bother, they just lose the rest or something. Whatever they do with it we don't see it. What I am telling you is FACT, not hyperbole. And now I am done wasting my time on explaining anything to people who prefer ignorance for today.

</3 reconciliation?

Abuse of the American Indian gives you every right (not my right to give, natch) to be outraged and speak your mind but this is ridiculous. If my comment referred to overfishing/hunting and vegetarians/vegans, then your reply missed the point. You don't get to do whatever the hell you want because your ancestors came first - that the AI community is the only community that is asked to measure reality by their genocide. Ask how many puppy mills my animal rights organization break up on reservation land. Can any AI admit their culpability to environmental abuses without hiding behind the pointing finger that oh, white people are worse, Amish do worse. Continue to raise awareness and continue to put an end to this cruelty - stay above deniers, apologists, etc.

Here's a snapshot of one rez

Here's a snapshot of one rez and the legacy of 500 years of colonization: Pine Ridge.

But yeah, we need to "get over it" and let bygones be bygones. It's funny how we are still paying for "this event" as "Anon" calls it, and yet golly gee non-native Americans aren't benefiting in the least. Ah yes, o - 3 on the White Liberal Bingo Card. We just need someone to say, "I'm colorblind!" and we will have a Bingo in row 3. (i - 3: Comparing puppy mills to genocide of NA is equivalent to comparing factory farms to slavery/Holocaust/Trail of Tears.)

Sorry if I can't work up much anger if a native family chooses to raise puppies to sell to rich white people in order to feed, clothe, and house themselves, their children, probably parents and other extended family too. I'm sure you, Ms PETA, value the welfare of dogs more than you do those snot nose savage brats. It's not like they are human or anything. So yeah, take that families one source of income and feel good about saving cute cuddly animals and the natives can STFU and eat dirt.

Amish? AMISH??? WTF??????

Nothing is enough. You got our land, got our resources, and now you want our culture so you can play Indian dress up too. You're entitled to everything we have, and we're just angry meanies who don't deserve anything at all, not even a little respect and consideration.

I came first to Canada then

I came first to Canada then the United States on my own from Bolivia in the 90s - I AM NOT WHITE. You will make yourself sick with this kind of hate. Too busy getting offended by every last word to listen to anyone else. It's not entirely fair to complain about government/corporate environmental damages when not every AI fills the stereotype of "using every part of the buffalo." No oppressed people get a pass on cruelty for past cruelty.


umm...Donna....I doubt "you" are one monolithic people whose land and resources were stolen uniformly.

But I'm neither white nor liberal, and I encourage the large numbers of white people who enjoy saying things like 'stolen land' and 'settler-trash' to do the following things:
1) sell everything you own, for it was obtained through white colonialist privilege
2)Give that money to a First Nations person. If you own a house, give that house over, too.
3) Move back to Europe.

What?! Are you seriously -

What?! Are you seriously - in a thread about a people who suffered one of the worst annhilations in human history - going to sit here and try to change the subject to the *Jews*? Are you actively *trying* to lose the argument?

The problem with the stolen land argument...

The so-called 'first nations' were simply the people here when the Europeans came from. There's plenty of evidence that show they migrated over the land bridge over 15,000 years ago and eventually moved south as newer immigrants came in.

I'm not saying that the Europeans didn't do horrific things, but, like others have pointed out, my ancestors were still in Europe (and Russia) at the time. Why should 'white guilt' apply to everyone simply because of the colour of our skin. Isn't that the issue that other races have?

can we truly humble ourselves?

White guilt may not apply to everyone, but white privilege does.

My relatives fled Armenia for America after a genocide of their own in 1915, so my family is barely white enough to count to other whites but does to POC. (Moreover, none of the two million massacred, raped, starved, deported, written out of history by the Turkish government Armenians was me personally.) Identifiers like female, gay, poor, disabled, immigrant don't matter if you're white. The people of color who fit into those same categories are not treated the same as you. They don't have the option to ignore problems of past they experience to this very day regardless of whether or not you or I force them off their land tomorrow.

That being said, my heart breaks for both sides in this debate because both are so passionate and difficult to ignore. How much effort towards native rights makes an apology for whites? Can we truly humble ourselves? Is it part of renouncing white privilege that we suck it up when POC judge our race, not knowing our integrity and advocacy? Is it so hard to believe some of us honor formerly persecuted cultural truths? Every white person who thinks we share their racism increases our action. I especially dislike the holier than thou attitude among other whites who "get it" when these are the people burdened to educate other whites.

Sign the Armenia Genocide Petition for worldwide recognition:
Listen for Obama to use the word genocide on April 24th.

From another second-gen Italian...

No-one gone to Italy and exploited then murderised all the country's native inhabitants, then reclaimed its cultural symbols as part of its popular culture a couple of hundred years later. This comparison is irrelevant.

Look at you, so cool and

Look at you, so cool and righteous, you're totally above the other person - telling her to eat shit and threatening violence against strangers who look different than you. Progress™!!!


but, the prejudice that

but, the prejudice that isn't wrapped in pale skin at least comes from some factual oppression... not that prejudice will get anyone anywhere in reality, but I'm just sayin'...

She wore a short skirt and

She wore a short skirt and got drunk. Yeah I believe rape is a crime, I'm just sayin' some girls ask for it....

No one asks for it. Period.

No one asks for it. Period.

I know that. It was an

I know that. It was an analogy for the previous 'wink wink nudge nudge' justification of minority racism...

Same Shit, Different Continent

It's not completely connected, but I know exactly what you mean when you talk about "Your grandfather’s, sister’s, cousin’s, etc." I'm a third generation Czech-American, and my great-grandmother was a Roma refugee in America. She came to America in order to flee from forced sterilization in Czechoslovakia. Growing up with my grandmother, this culture was very influential on my everyday life. I'm used to the ignorant portrayals of Gypsies as anyone who looks like Esmerelda from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." What really boils my blood, however, is the fact that people will say "Oh, my great-great-great-great-great grandparents were gypsies! That makes me a gypsy, too!" and they would dress up on World Culture Day wearing big earrings, scarves, brightly colored dresses, and bracelets all up their arms. The truth is, the Roma are generally very impoverished people who are still persecuted in Europe to this day. The idea of poor women who can barely afford to feed themselves and their children wearing gold jewelry and silk scarves is preposterous, and to be honest, a little insulting.

No, your experience is

No, your experience is connected and VALID. The oppression of one minority shouldn't be taken as exactly the same as another, but that also doesn't mean one is more important than another.

As a Romani woman with

As a Romani woman with family members whose own family's future and opportunities are still curbed by anti-Gypsy racism (my Roma father immigrated to the US after living in Hungary until the late 1950s, but I have Hungarian citizenship [as well as American] and the majority of my family still lives in Hungary), I would just like to second that comment. The word 'gypsy' has somehow come to mean 'exotic, traveling fortuneteller' (or possibly 'dirty thief') in the American vernacular, an image which has hugely hindered a lot of the Gypsy rights movement in Europe. Using the word like anyone can become a gypsy if they're just 'free-spirited' or hippie-fashionable isn't cute, or cool; but it is indirectly impacting one of the most oppressed groups in Europe.

This isn't to say that there aren't aspects of Roma and Sinti culture that aren't beautiful and worth sharing with the world -- we do still speak one of the world's most beautiful languages, practice some pretty cool forms of dance, and have unique cultural practices. Dressing up in a turban and earrings, though, makes a mockery of our actual culture, though, and reduces us to the status of sideshow circus freaks ... and that's an image that has been killing us for centuries.

In other words; knock it off.


It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation.

I'd also like to point out that all humans evolved from indigenous cultures. I suppose there is a chance white people landed here in a space craft, but until I see actual confirmation of that theory I'm going to continue to believe those of European descent evolved just like everyone else. Did they bring conquest and atrocity to the "new world"? Yes, they did. No one is disputing that. But please don't try to take all the credit for Goddess Religions, or eco-friendly lifestyles. First Nations people do not have a monopoly on human culture.

Health disparaties and poverty are worth more of everyone's attention than hippie fashion trends or things that annoy you about white people.

"It seems somewhat

"It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation."

I'm sorry, but stickers on the authors laptop are probably there for her and her own decoration not as advertisements to educate whatever curious (probably white) person that wants to be educated at the time. Attitudes like this are part of the problem. Someone else's personal property isn't an invite for you to ask whatever you want. Grow up.

Conversation is dead...

So if the author's laptop was plastered with stickers of, say, Incubus, and the person next to her said "Hey! I saw them in concert once," would that be inappropriate too? Chances are whoever is asking is just using the stickers as opening to make a personal connection and initiate conversation. It's a sad commentary on our society that the simple act of talking to the person next to you is viewed with suspicion and impure motives. Everyone is so constantly plugged in to their ipods/laptops/blackberries that the art of making conversation has been lost.

Good ideas, but . .

As someone who is increasingly aware of and interested in intersectionality, I think this is a really great article. No, I don't identify as native, but I live in a community with a very high population of native people, and I grew up in a (different) community where I was a white minority among native and east indian kids so all my life I've been surrounded by different aspects of different cultures, growing up white in a very non-white environment.

The thing is, many of the things you describe, beyond the ignorance of origin, are *good things*. I know a whole bunch of white girls who came out my highschool with what many would call an aboriginal approach to the way they relate to their bodies thanks to some awesome afterschool programs - and it seems much healthier for them. When they express their beliefs, now, should they add the caveat that yes I'm white, yes this wasn't what my momma taught me? And I know that's not the same as living it or owning it, but it begins to become clear that there is no easy place to draw the line. If it's not about blood quantum, and it's not about experience - because, as you pointed out, anyone can co-opt experiences - and it's not about wearing clothes, what is it about? I really don't mean to be factious, but does one have to pass a test before one can wear a bone choker without impunity? The reality is, people live together and lines just aren't clear.

But if you want to be angry . . the thing that upsets me, as someone who works in an academic field and comes face to face with this daily, is the idea that OMGZ aboriginal peoples love the environment and intuitively know what to do and how to do. Yeah, a lot of traditional practices are sustainable, because they had to be. A lot aren't. A lot weren't, even before colonialism. This kind of thinking is just as damaging as over-marketed mass produced crap, but it's harder to pick out, I think, because it's harder to act upon.

I really don't mean to sound combative, but you sound really angry. And when someone is upset about how other people relate to their identity, it usually - but not always - means that there is some insecurity, there, too. Whatever it is, I hope you get it sorted out because you write well and seem really passionate!


What if the person who you are assuming is White/European is actually Native? You know how mixed the Native community is - variations in skin tones from very dark to very light and hair color spans anything from black to red to blonde. Shouldn't we honor everyone in the community - even if they are mixed and not a full blood?

Thank you! My mother's

Thank you! My mother's entire side is Chiricahua Apache. If I'm not tan, I probably look Greek or Italian though my father's side is mostly Irish, and my name rather commonly *American*. I would hate to be accused of Grandmother Syndrome because my heritage isn't as pure as someone else's. Don't presume we aren't aware of the privilege of passing, or ignore our elders, or use our culture like a school project.


Yes you are welcome! When I go to my family's powwow everyone is mixed. Some of my Native cousins have red hair and some have dark brown. Some have lighter skin and some have really dark skin.

Its important to not assume what anyone's heritage is - especially since many of us are mixed.


I get what Jessica is saying here, because the idea of annoying, clueless folks appropriating Native culture (or any culture, really) in order to try and look cool without giving a second thought to where the shit comes from is super-annoying (this comes to mind:

However, I think things get a little dicey when we start policing who can and can't ask questions or even claim ownership of certain things. As a few other commenters have pointed out, we don't know people's cultural backgrounds, and as Jessica points out, we can't always tell who is Native and who isn't. I guess this strikes me in particular because my great-grandmother is Native and that side of my family has always celebrated our ancestral heritage at family gatherings. Should we not beat drums or cook salmon in the traditional way because we don't have enough Native blood? No, I don't think so. Does that make me an authority on Native issues? No, it doesn't.

I think thoughtfulness is what is called for here, and keeping in mind that we're all coming from different places when we talk about this stuff. Putting respect first and foremost (on all sides of the debate) seems like a good way to continue the dialogue.

Thanks for the discussion!

A little defensive, are we?

We all have our triggers, but after reading this post I would be, frankly, wanting to change seats on that airplane. How do you know that the person telling you about her friend's cousin or whatever isn't just trying to be neighborly, rather than demanding that you "educate" her? Would you also snap at that person, if she offered you her peanuts, "What, you think ALL INDIGENOUS PEOPLE EAT PEANUTS???" For someone who is requesting that people not pigeonhole her, you're making an awful lot of assumptions yourself.

Cultural appropriation and the exoticizing of ethic identities and peoples is an annoying trait of the global marketing machine -- it's been and it always will be. But I don't think a piece telling people that they "annoy the fuck" out of you isn't going to inspire them to rethink what they're doing.

From your title alone -> you

From your title alone -> you missed the point. Further reading of your comment -> you really missed the point.

I think these were a great

I think these were a great series of points that need to be expressed more regularly! The commodification of indigenous cultures through mass produced clothing as well as within film (Avatar anyone?) is infuriating, especially considering genocide as a result of capitalism, white supremacy, and colonialism are still happening to this very day. I'm not saying individuals who are affected by fashion trends (aren't we all to some degree?) makes one a bad person, but we need to face the ways that we contribute to the oppression of indigenous people via consumption practices and prejudiced belief systems that we may uphold. I would love to hear more discussion about this! Thanks Jessica!

Hmm, when I saw Avatar I

Hmm, when I saw Avatar I pictured the "conflict in the Middle East". When I saw it again I gathered that the general message was that there are things in life worth more than money such as family, love, the world we live in, giving back, and simply being happy. But maybe I'm just an optimist; I don't (or choose not to) see political strife in EVERY Hollywood blockbuster. Especially when I feel the overall purpose is for good. But that's a different subject for another blog.

Avatar/Pocahontas spoof

Also, James Cameron says

Also, James Cameron says that he was thinking of the Lakota when he wrote Avatar.

What about Mardi Gras Indians?

Interesting stuff. I was actually thinking about this watching the new HBO show Treme, which takes place in New Orleans. I know very little about Mardi Gras Indians, except that there are numerous "tribes" and the members of said tribes are not First Nations people, but African-Americans. Is there a difference between African-American folks appropriating Native costumes, dances, etc. and white people doing it? And since Mardi Indians themselves are a long tradition, are they included in the hipster/hippie crowd that is thoughtlessly ripping Native people off? I guess my question is, if other historically marginalized people wear moccasins and feather earrings as fashion, does it bother you as well? It seems like there's a difference, but I can't put my finger on it, and since you didn't address it here I'm wondering whether it's something that's come up for you.

more on that subject

Racialicious (a blog Jessica has also written for - that discusses race and pop culture) wrote an interesting article about the Mardi Gras Indians. Check it out here:

Don't be so sure they aren't

Don't be so sure they aren't Native American. I'm Maliseet, part of the history of my people is that we intermarried with French settlers in Canada who were known as Acadian. The Acadians were forced out of Canada and many of them settled in Louisiana, you may have heard of them as...Cajun. Yup, most if not all Cajun people have Native background, either Maliseet or Mi'kmaq. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they intermarried with black people in the area. I also wouldn't be surprised to find out that black people in the area intermarried with the local tribes. This might be a way for Native/black people to flamboyantly compete with others in the parades, and show their pride in their heritage.

Fighting over who started environmentalism?

"Organic living and environmentalism as “new” concepts...I don’t need certain members of the movement pretending like they started this"

Do you have examples of the phenomenon? I'm sure some people will say they innovated a new product or legislation to minimize environmental issues—but are there really people claiming they are the first to live in ways that utilize all materials/resources responsibly and respectfully in ways done by indigenous peoples (from around the world)?

Hostile much?

I *do* have some Native ancestry- enough to claim proudly, but apparently not enough to "count" to the author. Her defensive, hostile and generally angry tone does no service to the Indigenous community nor to her own self-claimed authorty as the arbiter of all things Native. Many of her points (Native women were the first to acknowledge that periods aren't gross?) fail to recognize that these same concepts are fairly universal and are held by the early peoples of pretty much every continent- including Europe. She needs to take a breath and get over herself. Anyone claiming that HER culture holds the patent on the things mentioned in this article is just as delusional as the morons who are actually engaging in cultural appropriation by playacting at being "indian."

Yep. Reading her fantastical

Yep. Reading her fantastical claims reminds me of Al Gore inventing the internet.

why, because he never actually said that?

Why, because he never actually claimed to have invented the internet?

Grandmother Syndrome

Listen, I'm not a fan of all. And wearing a headdress is just ridiculous and rude for anyone who does not hold a place of honor relating to it. But, I have a problem with the notion that anyone who is not a pure blooded native person can not identify with the culture.

My great-great grandmother (direct) was a full blooded Cherokee who married a white man who had a daughter who married another white man who had a daughter who married a third white man and those people had me. I have dark olive skin and dark hair but bright blue eyes...I'm more white than anything but I have always wanted to identify more with my great great grandmother. It is things like this piece that make me fear wearing her turquoise necklace in public, because no matter what I'm just another white girl co-opting someone else's culture....even if that someone is my family member.

psst...Jessica Yee isn't a

psst...Jessica Yee isn't a "pure blooded native person". So she isn't saying what you think she is. Let's try reading for comprehension. She's talking about white people who obviously have no clue about their background, only some rumor about a very distant "Cherokee princess" relative. As a Cherokee, don't you know they have no royalty? There is no such thing as a Cherokee princess.


"As a Cherokee, don't you know they have no royalty? There is no such thing as a Cherokee princess."

Annoys me to no end. Not just with the Cherokee but any of us. And you never hear about "Indian princes" just these make believe "princesses" bullshit. Hell, most people don't know, ignore or refuse to acknowledge not just the how and why someone's ancestoral 'princess' was married to some whiteboy but how she was likely treated.

Se:kon Jessica

When I get angry I just say this to myself Jessica...

Yethi'nihstenha Onhwetsya Akwekon enhskat tsi entitewahwe'nonni' ne onkwa'nikònra,tanon tenyethinonhweraton' ne Yethi'nihstenha Onhwentsya ne tsi
tyakotkawenhatye' naho'tenhson'a skennen aetewanonhtonnyonhseke'. Etho niyohtonhak ne onkwa'nikònra.

it helps.

Gawd, a good lot of you

Gawd, a good lot of you posters sound like you've taken Derailing 101.
Read it. Seriously. Then come back and read this post again.

And please stop talking about "honoring" Native people, if you want to do something educate yourself on the *modern* situation of Native people in this country and talk to your politicians to get things changed. Check out, or Indian Country Today and listen and learn.

Sorry, but I do not buy into

Sorry, but I do not buy into all of the hippy-dippy "we are all one" crap. The overwhelming majority of "white people" have no idea of what my community is like, what life is like, what the reality is like, what it takes to get through a typical day...and what is more, they don't WANT to know these things. You seriously think that any white person would want to leave the comfort of their privileged life to live in my reality? Um...yeah right. They will never know who we are, or what we our reality is.

I have seen honest, caring, seemingly compassionate white people who preach the "we are all one" crap pull back at the last second, right when they were about to gain access to a community. Why? Because it freaked them out and they realized that...we are NOT "all one." LOL.

To the contrary. We surely are not "all one." "Native" communities are very different not only from each other, but are worlds apart from the white society. I would never claim to be "all one" with another Native community -- I don't know their community's reality, and they don't know my community's reality. We could support each other politically, but I would surely not expect the people on the rez in the next district to be able to profess that they are "all one" with my community. 'Cause they're not. Just as I have no business claiming to know who they are. Sure, we can share cultural, linguistic, social similarities, etc etc but their community is theirs alone just as my community is ours alone.

A community is like a family, and no amount of moccasin-wearing, or sweat-lodge attending, or powwow-hopping, will get you into have to be a community member. Funny how this fundamental aspect -- community as family -- is what is so lacking in white society. For us,you have to have lived that reality, and sweated over the years to see the community get to where it is. You have to have seen children born and grow into adults and been involved in their development. I sure as heck wouldn't appreciate anyone coming into my community, claiming to be a big "unifier," when they have no idea who we are and don't really care. Indian or not. We are NOT all one, and never will be.

You seem to have a lot of

You seem to have a lot of unfounded stereotypes and hatreds against white people...just so you know, 2/3 of poor people today are white. So clearly not all of them are privileged.

stats plx

I'm not sure their comments were "unfounded," you don't know anything about their experiences. And they certainly offered more backing information than you. "2/3 of poor people"? do I want to know where you found this "statistic"?

Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

It was in my book for

It was in my book for college sociology.

i am white, and i am poor. i

i am white, and i am poor.
i acknowledge that if i had money, i would pretty much have the world on a plate. but i don't. i grew up poor, i lived in crumbling rental houses and i can remember times when i was small and my family could hardly feed me and my siblings. being poor pretty much cancels out all the benefits of white privilege, except for the whole thing about being "color blind." i'm trying to be more aware of this stuff.
my ancestors came from Ireland, i am only a few generations off the boat. and when the Irish came to America, they were looked at the same way that assholes look at immigrants today. by other white people.
i know shit is messed up, i know that firsthand. many of the streets and towns i live in here on Long Island (FYI, not all people on Long Island are rich- it's not all The Hamptons. A whole lot of us are just poor schmucks who work for the rich people, and/or live in their real estate) have Native American names. Some streets near me are called "Commack" and "Winganhauppauge." who lives on these streets? white people. I remember learning in school what surely were pared down and abbreviated histories of the people who lived here originally. the Montauks, Massapequas, Setaukets, Shinnecocks, Manhassets, etc (that's all i can think of offhand). my learning at school was supplemented at home by my dad, who told me about a lot of the really deplorable things that this country has done, in more honest detail than social studies textbooks. there are some really old books and biographies on the subject in my bookcase, like "
but here's the thing- my ancestors didn't kill your ancestors, and i don't really see what benefits i am reaping (other than the one i mentioned earlier). i appreciate the beauty of Native American culture, but i'm not dressing up like those people in the picture.
my boyfriend's parents were on vacation once not too long ago, and somehow ended up at some talk about Native American culture (i don't remember the whole story), at the end of which the speakers gathered around and pointed fingers into the audience and told them it was all their fault, and some other really angry stuff. what did that accomplish, do you think?
so what have i done, other than be born white in this lifetime? i have blue eyes and blond hair, and i live near places named after people who aren't around anymore.
also, i subscribe to the whole "crap" belief that "we are all one." we are all one animal, when you get right down to it. we're different, but we're all descended from the same pair of apes, somewhere far down the road, right? whether we like it or not we are all fundamentally the same. we're all human. racism, sexism, homophobia, all the religious bullshit, i hate all of it. i am doing my best not to be part of the problem (or many problems), and in fact be part of the solution. but sometimes i feel like all whites are lumped into this big wilfully ignorant, racist blob or something.

I respect your story, but

I respect your story, but you mention Native speakers pointing angry fingers at an audience. Please do not assume that we are all like that. I am wondering what your point was for including that little anecdote. If Native people started writing all of their anecdotes and stories of being discriminated against and abused by white people here, your head would be spinning. Please don't pin the one negative experience that you had on all of us. Anyway, are Natives not allowed to even feel their anger at being colonized then? So, of those of us who do feel anger because we are being colonized, we are just supposed to sit there and take the colonization and be quiet about it lest we offend the poor white people? I guess we should just keep it inside, and let it kill us then, right? God forbid we offend anyone's delicate ears.

Different people will deal with getting screwed by colonization in different ways. Some get angry. Some don't. Maybe the system should change so that it stops screwing them in the first place, don't you think?

Yeah, we are all one animal...if you subscribe to the theory of evolution. Well, following that, when you look at North American political leadership, be it municipal, state, federal, provincial, whatever, it's always the one "white" ape that ends up dominating the political power structures. Funny how we are all one in a lot of peoples' minds except for when it comes to sharing power. Sure, they may allow the odd token Native as puppets for their cronies here and there, but for the most part, those "white" apes rule the roost. Look at the makeup of the Senate or the House, or the Parliament if you don't believe me. I'm not making it up.

So no, we sure aren't all one when just being white, no matter how poor you are, gets you a leg up over everyone else, especially the Natives whose land is being appropriated as we speak. Benefits are being reaped by white people, while too many of the Native people are living in 3rd world poverty.

This standard white person

This standard white person response to the reality is everywhere: "but look at me, I'm poor too." They use this to deflect the attention away from the Native person's reality, and in effect, they neutralize it and then it disappears and it is invisible and ignored once again. Very disrespectful. How will white people ever be able to understand, when they focus on their own reality instead as a defensive strategy because they will not face the truth? White privilege is never "canceled out."

How can one not see the benefits that they are reaping? Some serious education is required!

The other tactic being used here is the "my ancestors didn't kill your ancestors, I am a recent immigrant." They feel that this statement frees them from any responsibility from the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples.

Stop subscribing to crap beliefs. Drop the hippy crap and get real. I agree that we are NOT all one. Too many of the colonizers are wilfully ignorant, it is true, and this is the problem.

We would get a lot more

We would get a lot more accomplished in this world if all the working class people worked to support each other. There are people of every race, religion, and ethnic background who are being subjugated by the ruling class. Why are we still arguing over whose relatives had it worse when there are people across all backgrounds living in poverty? White people have been murdered and enslaved for profit too. We should all strive to end racial hatred, but that needs to be across the board, including hatred towards those of European ancestry. The people in Congress are not the same people who are dieing in coal mines--but many of them have the same color skin. Let's not judge people based on their skin any more. If working class people band together we can start creating a future where subjugation of ANYONE is no longer business as usual.

That is *not* what I think

That is *not* what I think as an immigrant. Whichever former nationality of ours does not automatically absolve us from our new country's history. Neverthelesss, I should not shoulder the entire blame after the first step onto American soil because you regard every white person the same. The Finns actually have a saying for this, "The company makes one alike." Suera tekee kaltaisekseen. I get that. My countrymen were not imperialists, and my family suffered at the hands of Russia - but not for the duration or cultural extent of American indigenous peoples.

Did Noella, the Romanian girl below my original comment, escape Ceauşescu's regime? Must you dismiss the cruelty of a dictator charged with atrocities (and where his abortion ban tripled maternal and infant deaths, thank you 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days), who bankrupted Romania, because the political victim in this scenario is white? While not a game of our-struggle-is-the-same, we should accept variation in white experience too. I just want a little bit of the perspective you ask from us.

As an Irish-American myself,

As an Irish-American myself, please don't say "off the boat." It's a stereotype and trivialization and makes you sound like you learned about your culture mostly from "pop culture."

No hatreds towards anyone at

No hatreds towards anyone at all. Just stating the facts.

Here we go with the "poor white people" defensive crap. Yeah, whenever I walk around the upper-class, affluent neighbourhoods where the people who make over $100,000 annually live in mansions, I never see any Native people living there. If you don't believe me, go take a walk yourself.

Whenever I apply for a job in a restaurant, store, local business, corporation, or wherever, I am seeing that Native people are never the owners or managers. If you don't believe me, go check it out yourself.

Yeah, white people sure do have it hard! LOL. Funny thing is, like I am saying, all these people only care about are their own homes, their own jobs, their own cars, their own careers, their own children, etc...and have no idea of what it is like to live on a rez and don't care anyway. Ironically, that is how they got to where they are in the first place -- by appropriating Native land and resources. But to state this, means that I hate them?

Umm...yeah...right. Go "boo hoo poor white people" to someone else. Even impoverished white people are privileged...because they are born that way.

Acknowledging that some

Acknowledging that some white people do not share into the privilege of other whites does not diminish your own experience or the problems specific to your community. Your hate will not get you empathy or clarity from the white people most likely to want to work beside you to dismantle racial AND class privilege.

Once again, no hate here,

Once again, no hate here, just the plain stating of facts...typical defensive strategy of white people though: the same old, "angry Indians that hate white people" just because the Indians are speaking out against inequality and oppression. Pathetic, how white people cannot bear to hear this and get so offended. It's as if Natives are gagged. Next,they cry: "reverse racism!"

It's all not very new, I have seen it millions of times. But can Natives never speak out against oppression without being labeled by white people as "full of hate"? It's sickening to see. Too bad so many white people can't bear to face the truth and instead,they go on the attack and accuse Natives of hating.

Oh yeah: our communities don't want anything from white people. We have no use for empathy from white people, and we don't need white people to "work beside us to dismantle racial AND class privilege." We have had quite enough from the white culture and society for the past 500 years, thank you very much. We have struggled long and hard to get where we are, while the colonizers have been amassing their fortunes and estates. We will do our own dismantling all by ourselves, just as we always have had to.

You cannot hate other people without hating yourself.

Oh, please. I take no issue with anyone's words but your own. Your tone is hateful and strident and accusing. You belittled someone who doesn't belong to the current oppressive white culture. You go on to say you don't want anything to do with white people because ALL OF US contribute to the problem, even those who are aware of the struggle and do more than write to the President to pardon Leonard Peltier. But you don't care about that. I'm probably playing God when I tutor Notoweega Nation kids near my hometown of Dublin, Ohio. I can't possbily care about them because my Native heritage is several generations dilute. I have no fortune, I live in a studio, but because someone with the same skin color profits off the backs of everyone else, I am universally complicit. I don't suggest white people are the only ones to save you, but you cannot reject everyone who isn't like you and expect to get anywhere. That's fairly basic advice.

Dear We are NOT one, I would

Dear We are NOT one,

I would like you to go back through your last several posts, reread what you wrote, but for every time you see the word "white" I want you to replace the word, "black".

For example, "...our communities don't want anything from black people."
"We have had quite enough from the black culture...."
"pathetic how black people cannot bear to hear this.."

Would that be racist?

That was left off the

That was left off the cultural appropriation bingo card: "because I'm X minority, I can't be racist too."



Why not?

Why not?



OK not racism. Then what

OK not racism. Then what about ignorance? Many people of color do not use their skin as an excuse to hate.


How did you come up with that? I can see power as being necessary for racial oppression but I a pretty sure even the powerless can be racist. I don't see how this disproves the concept of reverse racism, unless by power you mean white... I don't personally see those words as being the same; granted that whites hold the majority of power in this country. While I understand the feeling that there may not be reverse institutional racism (although affirmative action kinda is, but still totally necessary) I would like to know how one can completely dismiss the concept of reverse racism on an individual basis. I am not trying to argue or anything, I just don't quite understand how people belonging to minorities can't be racist against the majority. As people aren't minorities capable of the same thought processes as the people in the majority?

No, they can't.

Anon, if you look at the comments posted above you, you'll see that someone already pointed out that racism=prejudice+power. Individual people of color do not have the power in this culture, therefore reverse racism is impossible. POC can be prejudiced against certain people, just the way anyone in a marginalized group can be, but they cannot be reverse-racist because of their lack of power.

Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

yes, they can

My post was in response to that comment. I have to say that, just because someone makes up a definition for a word doesn't mean that that is the actual definition. Furthermore, I think it is extremely prejudice to say that POC do not have power; yes it is a greater struggle for POC to both obtain and maintain power do to the sociological barriers I am sure we are all aware of. To discredit the power that POC have fought for just to justify a simplified definition of a complex problem is extremely disrespectful. Also, the concept of power in itself is a complex one. While I admit the power POC hold may not be enough to register (often, but it does happen) on the larger scale & in the obvious sense of institutional racism or discrimination; on an interpersonal scale the power a POC may hold over an umm non-POC (or white or what ever ya wanna call em) can be immense. If you add into that situations where whites are the minority to a large majority of POC you can quickly find that all the socioeconomic barriers don't do a thing against the power of majority rules & in said situation prejudice easily turns to racism. The racism=prejudice+power equation just doesn't work because all of those words are extremely variable based on context. I think to make it work better you could use discrimination=prejudice+power+acting on said prejudice by exercising said power. That isn't nearly as catchy and it still doesn't logically eliminate reverse racism as a form of racism. The simple fact that it is referred to as revers racism is racist in itself. Not addressing this the fallacy of (Racism=Prejudice+Power)=Zero Reverse Racism now is essentially saying that hate crimes & discrimination aren't as bad if the victim is white & that it is always ok to hate the race with the majority of power.



In his autobiography by Alex Haley, Malcolm X expressed regrets at not replying positively
to white people who expressed interest in aiding the Black civil rights cause, and stated that going to Mecca and seeing White Muslims there taught him the difference between white skin and the expression of white supremacist attitudes (and that not every person with the former did the latter)

So? Martin Luther King, Jr

So? Martin Luther King, Jr said the biggest obstacle to equality was well-meaning White people.

And that, my friends, is why

And that, my friends, is why white people veered off the subject human commodity. They hurt you, but they can't help you. Anonymous and others like her want nothing to do with them.

I don’t want to feel the same kind of hare for white people I sense from them.

Serious Suggestion

The first thing we, as White people, can do is let First Nation People, and in general People of Color, speak.

We can let them say whatever they want. A racist society has policed what they can say since forever. It says, "you may only speak if what you say is palatable to White people." It says, "you may speak, as long as you don't make me feel frustrated." It says, "you may speak, as long as I'm not asked to listen/as long as you have your own blog/as long as I'm allowed to tell you you are wrong." The first thing we can do is let People of Color speak and respond only with, "I heard what you said."

This is not easy. It is incredibly hard. It goes against everything we have been taught, in activist communities ("get involved!"), by the racist culture, by whatever anti-oppression work we've engaged in. We may think, "but I'm a woman, and everyone always tells women they shouldn't speak too!"

But it turns out, letting someone speak doesn't mean you don't get to. Listening to what they say, accepting their anger, their annoyance, even if they say something that you are bitterly opposed to, and saying "I heard what you said." and nothing more when they are done, is an incredibly subversive act. It is an act in support of all people of all races everywhere, because it says that this person right here deserves to be heard. It steps towards equality, because personally accepting that this person speaking has things to say that are as important for you to heard as anything else anyone else has ever said. You do not have to agree. You certainly don't have to understand. But listening to things you don't understand, or you don't agree with, and just listening anyway, that is the first act of ally-hood.

Because what they are saying isn't for you to understand, and it isn't for you to agree with. Having space to be wrong, to be misunderstood, and to still get to speak without having people jump down your throat? That's a privilege everyone deserves.

Generalizations are always wrong.

Does the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act, Uranium Radiation Victims Committee, or Abandoned Minelands Reclamation Project mean anything to anyone here?

In the 1940s thousands of American Indians/Navajo men mined uranium and beryllium (radioactive substances) for atomic weaponry without skin protection or respiratory masks against radon. Needless to say, toxic exposure caught up with their health: cancer, renal disease, pulmonary fibrosis, thyroid disorders, chronic beryllium disease, sterility, myelodysplastic syndrome, radiogenic lower motor neurone disease, inter-generational illnesses and more.

Rocky Mountain News compiled the best journalist overview of the compensation clusterfuck:

Statements expressed in the comments how I, a Scottish-American female, am an ignorant colonizer and "only care about [my] own homes, [my] own jobs, [my] own cars, [my] own careers, [my] own children, etc." insult my life's work to correct this exploitation of land, worker, and family.

Not all one

"We are NOT all one, and never will be."

You'll see to that!

Um...yeah right. As if

Um...yeah right. As if little ol' me could be able to make sure that that happens. Wow. Yes, I have such awesome and great power and influence over the world, don't I?

We are NOT all one, and never will be, because you can't presume to know someone else's reality by wearing the same clothing as them, or taking courses about them, or whatever the "we are all one" people try to do to "be Indian." Many Native people are extremely offended by those who preach that "we are all one," yet it is fake b.s. because they really want nothing to do with us. We never will be "all one," and it is no fault of mine...people need to look inside and check to see who they really are first.

You're actively fighting

You're actively fighting against unity on a public forum. What does that accomplish?

Practice what you preach. Get to know the people you are attacking, regardless of what color they are.

Why should I?

Why should I "get to know" people who can't even be bothered to acknowledge their own privilege?

I spent years getting to know people who didn't believe that I should exist, that I couldn't exist, that I shouldn't be allowed to continue to exist. I empathized with people who refused to believe I was human, who believed that I was an object of consumption, who knew me to be a valid target for consequence-free violence.

It's not worth it. I can understand their loneliness, their power, their abject terror at loosing that power, their identity and self-worth defined by not being me. In the end it does not change their minds; it does nothing but require me to seriously entertain the idea that I deserve to be killed for who I am.

People who behave in ways I find unacceptable will be told their behavior is unacceptable, and I owe them nothing. I get more results this way. It turns out that those people? They are wrong, and plenty of them know it. The rest of them were never going to empathize anyway, but if told "do not do this" some of them listen. I no longer care if I change their mind; I just don't want to have to deal with their unacceptable behavior.

it's funny...

You know, I've always heard the phrase "we are all one" as a threat of homogenization. To me "we are all one" has always meant "it's time for you to start acting like me, and then we'll all get along much better".

Re: You'll see to that!

Don't you know? All white people are one. For the ills of Europeans past (primarily English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, and Belgian, sorry if you're anything else as a European you have no real defense) we're all one enemy. Wanting to ignore our differences but not overlook our problems is just another one of the White Man's lies! We can't possibly come together vascillating between persecution and retaliation like this.

Everyone has a story...

I know there is a large majority of rich white people. But not everyone who is white is "lucky" enough to be in that category. I grew up in east Van, with an abusive father who was soon out of the picture, and a broken mother who had to raise three girls on her own. I stood in food bank line ups, had Christmas dinners only because of food hampers and wore nothing but second hand clothes until I was old enough to work. In my school classes, white kids were actually the minority. But I didn't even think/notice anything of it cause my mum taught me that the color of your skin doesn't make you any more or any less of a person. It's what you do in life that defines you. She also told me to never judge or assume. We can't know the choices anyone makes until we walk in their shoes. I grew up very sensitive and empathic to what people go through.

As I've gotten older, I've read about all kinds of people and their cultures all over the world. And there is social injustice happening all over the world. For the people in Palestine who are living in rubble, for the Aboriginal people who are still dying of TB right here in Canada, for the people in Rwanda who died because of their ethnicity, it all comes down to letting our differences divide us. (And while we're busy being divided, there are forces at work who step in with their own agenda)

I don't know what people mean when they say "we're all one", but I know what I mean when I say we're all human beings. When we take away the words themselves that divide us by race, religion, politics etc, what is left standing behind those words?

Human beings.

For me it all comes down to human beings hurting/abusing/exploiting other human beings. Cultures are important, heritage is important, but all these things should add to the rich diversity of who we are and not let it separate us.

I guess what I'm trying to say in this reply is I agree w/ Jessica in her frustrations of what she's had to face in life. She shouldn't have to avoid putting stickers on her laptop just to get some peace and quiet. But in defense of some of those white people spouting hippy dippy stuff, we're just trying to help the world see that it's okay to be different because we're connected.

Cherokee Princess Syndrome

Dear Jessica,

I always present myself as 'Native First'... I am always proud of my heritage, and my culture. I often am asked to start a dialogue about my native heritage. Yes, it is inconvenient to start such a long discussion when you are, say, going out for a campus club dinner, and the inevitable, hey, whats it like being native talk starts.

But as I am sure you know, the government run education system does nothing to educate the average citizen on what it is like for people on reserves, what the political climate is like, or how spirituality intersects with our daily lives.

But I always look to these as opportunities for starting a relationship with an ally. I hope that whenever I take my time to talk to someone about these issues, I can spark this discussion in a way that will benefit both of us in the future.

Please, in the future, do research before blogging. The appropriation of our medicine goes far beyond being pro-menstruation. When educating others who have little knowledge of our culture, use the exlax example.

Invite people to engage with in conversation. Because of Guswentah, EVERYONE has the responsibility for our future, to respect each other, to be educated on our history. Throwing a fit and saying 'don't fucking talk to me about this' does nothing to help anyone.

I was like you once. That

I was like you once. That shit gets old really fast. Kudos for still sticking it out though. But there comes a time when you'll realize that the only "education" people want to hear is the part that doesn't make them uncomfortable.


Perhaps it's not about what they want to hear, but what they need to hear? And maybe it would mean more coming from you, maybe that's as important as hearing it from someone in their social/cultural group. I understand that it's tiring, frustrating, and for someone who is exhausted fighting these battles everyday asking for more patience is asking for the impossible, but are you really comfortable abdicating any responsibility for combating ignorance on a subject that you have a vested interest in spreading information about?


Hi everyone

I'm only going to repeat these few points in response to some of the comments. Most importantly you need to remember that many people survive and live through racism, colonialism, and oppression differently - and this is how I survive what I face. I am not speaking for all Indigenous people, or everyone from my nation for that matter. I represent myself and myself only - ALWAYS. This post was based on many of the experiences I have which are in themselves long, complicated, and hurtful stories and if you ever meet me in person I would be happy to share them. No I don't tell people to "fuck off" all the time, nor do I do any of this all the time. This is how I feel right now - and at the very minimum I'm allowed to have my own feelings about the things I experience. I'm not policing and I'm not giving you the rules - I'm telling you how I FEEL, so take it or leave it.

I'm extremely proud of my culture and by not "presenting" as Native - I meant people don't always automatically know I'm Native. That's not my fault.

Also special note about the word "Indigenous" and "Native" - some folks here seem to think that they're exclusive to North America and they're absolutely not. Nowhere did I even say that and if you know some of my work you would know that I talk about the inclusiveness of "Indigenous" quite a lot and I use Native because that's what I use with my family and community so I'm just accustomed to saying it. "Indigenous" means the First Peoples of every area of the earth, before there were continents, countries, cities, and borders. So absolutely I'm talking about the First Peoples of Europe, of Africa, of everywhere!

Please reread these points for your own clarification (and the first quote here is probably the most important):

"This isn’t a hate letter, or reverse racism (as if there were such a thing!). It’s also not an attempt to discourage you from finding out more about Native people – and in fact I strongly ENCOURAGE you to do some actual research and knowledge seeking so you might get our culture right and think twice about things like permission and respect before you act on your appropriation."

"I’m not hating on the DIVA cup or suggesting that the “divine goddess” isn’t a great story to hear, but I am wondering where your assertion of Indigenous midwifery knowledge is"

"It’s not enough to romanticize our medicines and teachings about women’s bodies and power"

"I’m not here to burst your bubble of unity and friendship, those things are great – but I am here to remind you that while some of you want to be our friends and ignore so-called “cultural differences” – you can’t ignore the history and current day presence of colonialism and racism."

"Know that there is such a thing as cultural protocol and that many of us are in crisis now of how to protect Indigenous knowledge."

"Why are we so invisible to you?"


thanks for clearing some of it up. but please read my comment. i spent like an hour writing it and as soon as i posted i find you had written this. i dont take back what i say, but i do appreciate everything you feel and are doing for your community. thanks again.

oh yeah...

and the part of encouraging people to do their research? yeah after reading that article i was really turned off about wanting to learn more since i felt i didnt have the blood, what right do i have to this knowledge? i mean even learning about the culture seemed like a big nono after reading this article which is why i think many people viewed it as seeming hostile and defensive. im just saying all this becuz im really sick of this attitude people have about not allowing certain people to learn. jeez...

She didn't say you couldn't

She didn't say you couldn't learn. She's asking you not to appropriate the culture without learning. I think you might want to brush up on your reading comprehension first, though.

I'm really sorry to see the

I'm really sorry to see the responses that you are getting, and all of the defensivessness coming from posters.

To the people who are complaining about Jessica not taking the time to "teach" people about native/indigenous issues are completely ignorant to the work that she does. She does amazing social justice and education work. Thing is, oppressed people are always expected to explain themselves and teach everyone else on the terms of the privileged. It's not her job to answer every single question or engage in every single conversation at all times. having something like a mohawk flag sticker on her laptop is for HER, it's not a "come ask me anything" sign, that's just rude to expect it to be.

Also, I don't think many of you understand how appropriation works. People from non native cultures get to choose to take parts of native cultures they find interesting, and personally empowering, but they never take living below the poverty line, lack of access to clean water, beating from police officers and many of the things that many native people (although not all) face within North America. Being able to divorce native cultures from histories of colonialism is an aspect of privilege.

It's important have an understanding of the ways in which native cultures were systemically erased by colonizers. Native languages and cultural traditions were made illegal by the American and Canadian government. Native children were sent to residental schools and boarding schools in an attempt to illiminate their cultures, being beaten for speaking languages.

So, I ask you all that if you want to take the time to learn about native cultures/religions/art/whatever, also take time to learn to something about what white society has done to native people as well.

Saying "this isn't hateful"

Saying "this isn't hateful" doesn't make something not hateful. There's a reason people were offended by this post. I'm not saying you don't have the right to express yourself. You do. But so do we. I'm one of those people who found this article offensive. I appreciate that you were brave enough to write it, but when you write an entire post about how a specific race of people annoys you...there's nothing "reverse" about it.


There was never anything hateful about the article's tone. It's offensive because you and others won't shut your trap, listen and pay attention. Jessica is saying/expressing, like so many other Natives, ''what you're doing is actually and truly hurtful so please stop it" yet many of yall are too full of yourselves with self-importance that you refuse to not just listen but realize that what you or others are doing is really hurtful to someone else in rather insidious ways.

Excuse me but, you have NO

Excuse me but, you have NO IDEA what my race is, where my ancestors came from, the heritage of my family, or the traditions through which I was raised. Nor will you. Your inablity to respond to my argument with anything other than, "Shut up" (and I think you will agree the silencing of people based on their race is very much a part of racism) speaks volumes about your own judgment and bigotry.

Part of being a reasonable adult is the ability to listen to another person and then actually consider what they have to say. As far as I'm concerned your attempt to silence me, because you ASSUME I am white, is an act of blatant hypocrisy.

... Okay, I listened. I


Okay, I listened. I still think people who find this article "offensive" are missing the point. If this describes your behavior, it is supposed to alienated you because she wants you to STOP BEHAVING THAT WAY. Don't behave that way? Then the article isn't about you.

Racism is prejudice+power. Asking you to stop whining about how this post, unlike most of the rest of the world, didn't take into account the fact that people might WANT to appropriate native culture, and it might hurt their feelings if they are asked to stop, isn't racism. It is, instead, the only reasonable response.


Anon beat me to it but the irony makes me snort a bit.

And I never did make an assumption about you. Chill, be reasonable, listen and pay attention. It'll take you a lot farther.

my condolences

My condolences for the BSery, cluelessness and fail you've been gettin for this all just because you're not only speaking truth but asking people to stop doing something hurtful to us, let alone stop refocusing the situation on them and their supposed pain.

""Indigenous" means the

""Indigenous" means the First Peoples of every area of the earth, before there were continents, countries, cities, and borders. So absolutely I'm talking about the First Peoples of Europe, of Africa, of everywhere!"

This pretty much addresses my arguments with your post, but it raises a question for me: how can you tell, particularly with concepts as widespread as environmentalism or periods not being a bad thing, whether people are appropriating your culture or honouring their own history?


Also who said anything about "pure-bloods"? That's not even in my post and I'm multi-racial myself.

"grandmother syndrome"

"grandmother syndrome" disrespects us too. what percentage of native blood do i need for my actions to be "celebrating tradition" instead of cultural appropriation? my own Cherokee aginisi would denounce your arrogant ass. cheers.

The fact that you even ask

The fact that you even ask this question shows your insecurity with your native identity. I'd say that your fathers mother taught you very little. Was she so distant from her native heritage that all she had were a few words from her own aginisi or agilisi?

^ This is needlessly

^ This is needlessly judgmental.

Jessica said nothing about

Jessica said nothing about blood quantum. Probably because...not every nation determines membership by blood quantum and that has nothing to do with her. But that commenter puts words in her mouth and then speaks of "her arrogant ass". That was needlessly judgemental and monumentally ignorant. She is obviously so far removed from her ancestors that she knows nothing except for the word for grandmother on her fathers side in Tsalagi.


i believe in respecting and honoring what comes before you, and respecting your elders as well. i was not taught these things by my mother. my moms family is white and my fathers family is mexican. i look like him even if i never knew him or his culture. i dont speak spanish and grew up brown in a white family. up untill recently i was ashamed of both. what i have come to realize is that i have no reason to be. you know why? i have "taken" and adopted the hawaiian culture as a part of me. i have been dancing hula since i was 6 years old and when i say that its not like i was just taking a class. when you are devoted to dancing you become immersed in the hawaiian culture and your fellow dancers become your sisters and brothers, you develop a real connection between these people and a deep deep respect for the people who taught you, your kupuna (elders) and your kumu (teachers) among others. now im not saying native american culture is in any way the same to polynesian culture, but the huge difference between these cultures that i see is their level of openess. hawaiians are very open to sharing their culture with others and spreading aloha because honestly it is better to have everyone, even non natives, have the knowledge than to let it completly die out, and i am so grateful to this philosophy. though even i'll admit i laugh at those haole who are new to dancing, but we teach them anyways. i know that the natives here on the mainland have a much longer history of suffering and americanization and really, i can understand this deep hate of white people, they nearly destroyed you! and im not asking you to forgive history but i'll say i am worried about what your culture is going to end up like in a few years if you arent open to sharing it. if you dont like the ignorance people have of you then fix it! teach them the right way! dont get all huffy and upset and tell them to go away! i hate the ignorance people have of hawaiian culture and not being of the blood i myself am worried of appearing ignorant too. but that is wrong, if we dont know the truth about something and want to know more how are we going to learn about it if we dont ask? i dont want the knowledge of the first nations to die out but it will if you arent more willing of sharing it.
i really love your articles, jessica and i hate hipsters as much as anyone but for someone as smart and seemingly openminded as you, you are really close minded. i mean this article makes you look like one of those "angry native-dont talk to me" stereotypes. i thought youd be different and more open than that.
sorry about the long comment everyone but i thought id contribute since i find the comments are often more interesting than the articles themselves.
Aloha to all the natives out there, im sorry if i offended any of the aunties and uncles, i didnt mean to appear ignorant, i just covered the basics. i still have LOTS to learn (im only a teen).
and of course im sorry to anyone offended by me taking on a culture that isnt mine, ive been apart of it for the majority of my life, over ten years and its the only culture i know and has given me so much more than youll ever know.
this is all my opinion and observations of life so far, i havent completed my education yet so obviously im not going to know a lot of what others know, so give me a break.
(fyi: barefootdancer refers to me dancing barefoot, not as a fake indian name- that would be offensive)
mahalo for reading!


"native-dont talk to me" stereotypes. You just used a stereotype.
It is not up to First Nations people to make oppression more palpable to you. I find it funny how people are open to certain aspects of First Nations peoples (the beauty) aka romanticized aspects you are comfortable with but when it comes time to really listen, listen not speak...people stop trying to understand.

Part of privilege is thinking you have the right to define things, conversations, contexts, and pick and chose what you want to talk about, listen to while ignore things you are uncomfortable with.
This was Jessica venting which she absolutely has a right to do and the fact you think she needs to explain herself to you is an issue. If you think you have a right to demand how First Nations people should speak to you about their experiences of oppression that is the problem.
Maybe it would be more useful to do some internal reflection on privilege. And for the people who have experienced being poor but are white this is still privilege even though it a different experience of privilege b/c of classism . There is still white privilege present even when you are not able to access all powers/benefits of white privilege.

Please read barefootdancer's

Please read barefootdancer's comment again. You could really learn a lot from her or him.

Thanks for saying this. I

Thanks for saying this. I expected better of Bitch readers and the ignorance and entitlement is really getting to me. I wasn't "the angry Indian" until I slogged through these comments. Now I am.

I have many Polynesian,

I have many Polynesian, Maori and Native Hawaiian friends who would soooo disagree with you. Most of them say the same things Jessica says.

And "not sharing" culture doesn't make it die out. There were historical reasons and oppressive policies design to stamp out Native cultures around the world and saying "it'll die if you don't share it" is a gross simplification of entire histories.

Educating myself

Hi Jessica,

Great post! One request: when you ask people to educate themselves on Native cultures and indigenous peoples, could you please post some links to websites you think are good places to start? As you know, academia is very white-washed (at best), and on other forums when writers have posted feminism 101, white privilege 101, understanding media 101, etc. posts they included links for further reading.

Thanks, and keep educating!

Why assume no one else takes

Why assume no one else takes their culture as seriously as you? My family immigrated from Turku when I was 3. Though we fare better than many others, largely due to white privilege where we're not treated as poorly as Hispanic immigrants or suspected as illegal, it's been a long struggle, especially since my parents' accents are much too thick for most American-born citizens to understand and has made jobs difficult to land. We are working class and could not even afford state university. Anyway, I wanted to say that it is interesting how homogenized white people are in this country. Our personal heritage is ignored, a Scottish redheaded regarded no differently than a deeply olive-skinned Sicillian, in the United States. Not marginalized as a group, but we are expected to abandon familial traditions for mainstream culture. For those offended by major sport mascots, would you mock me for protesting on similar grounds the Vikings who brutalized the suomalaiset? Television ignores immigrants beyond the Mexicans, illegally crossing. I do not identify with every brunette on screen and endured the humiliation of being little more than resume filler in "Confessions of a Shopaholic." My history is left out of American textbooks, not even the Winter War taught. Our folk costumes were not deemed important or interesting enough to appropriate by the American mainstream. One white person is the same as another to you, but I assume treating a Lakota the same as a Navajo, this causes offense. Just like people telling me I should not be so sensitive if called Scandinavian...

My family escaped political

My family escaped political oppression in Romania....only to become The Oppressing here.
European-American = White Devil
I do not appreciate. Experiences differ but God made us the same. Remember this.

Also I am discouraged they

Also I am discouraged they mistook our point of view as a denial of accoutability. Neither of us said being a non-native, non-imperialists excused our participation in a dialogue and/or solution.

I am also from Romania and I

I am also from Romania and I understand where you position yourself vis-a-vis European oppression/domination.
But what you don't understand is that coming from an "underdog" country does not make you the "same" with Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples. You (and all the ignorant people here) need to understand that Whiteness is positioned within a social, political, economic and cultural context that privileges and benefits the dominant culture i.e. generally whites, while it oppresses and marginalizes the "other". Instead of complaining about having the same plight as oppressed peoples, become an ally. Be respectful, humble, inquire. Examine yourself critically! Examine your position within society critically. Appreciate the invisible "white knapsack" you carry on your back every day. And know your place. If Native communities don't want you, step back. It is not a right to be an ally. It is a privilege that we need to earn, given the historical legacy people that look like us left behind and continue to carry out.

and btw: coming from Romania (assuming you're not Roma), what was your view, treatment of Gypsies/Roma in Romania (or your family) and what did you do, as the dominant person to be an ally to the Roma?

"And all the ignorant people here but myself..."

WHERE DID I SAY I WAS THE SAME AS A NATIVE PERSON? WHERE?! Tell me since I'm really curious how you took my pointing out that white people can also be oppressive and oppressed and shouldn't be maligned as a single entity.

So you're also from Romania...

Coming from Romania (assuming you're not Roma), what was YOUR view, treatment of Gypsies/Roma in Romania (or your family) and what did YOU do, as the dominant person to be an ally to the Roma? What do you do for American Indians now, cleverly deflecting whitey?

1. i wasn't replying to your

1. i wasn't replying to your comment but the one above!
2. i didn't mean all people are ignorant!
3. Actually, i do a lot of work in Romania with Roma people...but don't really feel like i need to justify myself.

....AND....i do lots of work

....AND....i do lots of work and partnerships with Native peoples in Canada,but again don't really feel like i need to justify myself

Buuut... everyone else must

Buuut... everyone else must justify themselves to you. Even women expressing their support. Taking other rants at face value, you're still part of the problem if you're Caucasian, you don't get to stand on the other side of the issue, Native American partners notwithstanding. A few hours a week cannot override a lifetime of privilege. I want to know what level of committment makes any difference at all. It's really frustrating. Somebody will flame my comment and I'm black! At my level of education and job performance I hear and expect whispers of affirmative action and the incredulous notion people of color progress at the expense of White America with the assistance of White America. But slaves didn't get back onto the boat after emancipation and return to Africa you know. All non-Natives benefit from stolen land and genocide; framing our problems around white people breaks the realm of experience into tiny pieces left inside the puzzle box. Minorities watch their own backs. This happens all the time.

sweetheart, ain't nobody

sweetheart, ain't nobody gotta justify themselves to me.

and it is incredibly disappointing that regardless of what someone does, what they dedicate their lives to i.e. social justice, advocacy, partnership etc., NOTHING overrides the colour of their skin, or the bullshit "lifetime of privilege" you talk about. You know nothing about me or the person sitting next to you. Structural issues, notwithstanding, privilege is contextual and fluid. You talk of it as if it is a solid structure.

As a woman (with all the bullshit that comes along with being a woman, raised in a hetero-patriarchial society), a recent immigrant, a queer person, and yes "white" person, i have had my share of privilege and oppression. However, i will not sit and complain about it all day long. I will dedicate to life to working with marginalized people, whether white, black or native, gay or straight, able bodied or differently-abled- to kick patriarchy, heterosexim, hompohobia, racism, colonialism in the ass....

is a lifetime of commitment enough to you? how about raising your kids within a social justice lens? is that enough?

why should it?

Enough for what? Yes, many of us (as women, as homosexuals, as religious or non-religious people, as immigrants, and on) experience within our own realms areas of privilege and of oppression. But those of us with white skin in North America (and around the world) *do* have a certain amount of privilege inherent to that. That's privilege we did nothing to earn, and thus it is just as fair and logical that we cannot "live it down" completely, as it were. We cannot pay it off because it is not a merit-based privilege. We don't get to escape that particular designation any more than a person of color can escape racism through personal merit and achievement. Poor white people! We can't escape our privilege! Poor us! Non-white people have the audacity to expect us to acknowledge that privilege!

Now, on an individual basis I think it's right and fair to expect our friends to acknowledge those of us trying to work against privilege. But we should accept gracefully our inescapable inclusion in discussions about white privilege and oppression. Our very presence on this continent--regardless of our individual ancestry--is a privilege bought with the blood of the First Nations. True, there is no undoing it, but I think we should suck it up when they express ire and resentment towards further appropriation of their culture and the insensitivity of the white population as a whole.

Working for rights of marginalized people, raising children with a sense of social justice--shouldn't those things be minimums? The base-line for enlightened people? I do this because it's right, not for a pat on the back or inclusion in every social and cultural circle. And I think you do too. We're trying to clean up a mess that we bear responsibility for perhaps not as individuals, but as members of a whole.

couldn't agree more

I totally agree with you!!!

Beautifully written. "My

Beautifully written. "My ancestors were massacred too" is a trap of convenience for those in favor of denial over sympathy. Many of us had the option of escaping circumstances First Nations cannot.

Armenians were the first genocide of the 20th century. Remember April 24:

Most of the comments here are really depressing

seriously, what are we debating here? its basically an issue of non-native peoples decision to follow a certain fashion towards cultural appropriation vs the distress incurred to some native people over the present and historical background that lies behind this appropriation. Quite frankly, if it means that I, as a white european, have to go without wearing moccasins or a headdress, or using hopi ear candles made in china, or dating a woman who wears faux-native clothing, or have to experience the ultimate 'horror' of BEING UNFASHIONABLE, then yknow what? I can live with that, especially if it means I wont be adding to the upset it clearly causes.
Assuming we all have a human right to freedom of expression through the clothing we wear, and considering many of us sacrifice that right in order to secure a job, its not too much of a stretch for me to sacrifice a small part of that right (which I would only use on occasion anyway) to show some basic human decency towards folks who are justifiably upset by such behaviour.
In short, quit defending your 'human right' to dress up like a group of people who, in many cases, continue to be denied any human rights at all.

*WILD APPLAUSE* Thank you!

*WILD APPLAUSE* Thank you!

But remember, it's not JUST

But remember, it's not JUST about our right to dress up as a culture that our dominant culture is still actively trying to wipe out without making any effort to mitigate the effects of our own appropriation through self-education, solidarity work, etc - it's also about how ANGRY Jessica Yee is! Seriously! She's so ANGRY! It's hurting our white person feelings! Who does she think she is to not consider the feelings of white people! It's almost like her post wasn't about our feelings at all, which obviously makes it offensive and mean.

Seriously, though, I agree with Anon 100% here. These comments mostly ARE incredibly depressing. Jessica, I'm really sorry that people have been so fucking disrespectful to you and your truths here. I don't know why people are so pointedly ignoring the obvious intent and message of your post in order to make you into their own personal Native Straw Woman (Who Is Attacking Them Personally And Their Ancestors And OMG How Dare You Try To Make Them Feel Bad, Bawwww, Etc) but I suspect it has a lot to do with denial. Your posts at Bitch are appreciated. I read every one and am always glad that you've chosen to add your voice to the magazine's blog.

Why is the appropriation of

Why is the appropriation of Aboriginal culture offensive, but not the appropriation of other cultures?

Aren't there more important battles to be waged than on fashion/clothing? Some of us have real challenges to fight.

So what does anyone think of

So what does anyone think of the abundant opportunities to purchase Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Huichol, and other styles of clothing and accessories here in the Southwest? If I, as a mixed-breed Caucasian American, like the look of a native-made item of clothing or an accessory, am I that much in the wrong for buying it from a store and wearing and enjoying it? What about all of those tourists who come to Arizona and New Mexico to do this? These items are available in public stores in all of the tourist hotspots, after all. For that matter, do I not have the freedom to go into my local Nepalese import shop and purchase one of those great, colorful woven tunics made by--ahem--a native culture, albeit an overseas one?

Comments Policy

Hi everyone,

It's great that a dialogue is taking place here, but PLEASE keep our comment policy in mind ( That means no hateful or oppressive language. Everyone deserves respect, regardless of whether or not you agree with their experiences/opinions.

Also, as the web editor here, I invite you to contact me ( if you feel attacked or oppressed by any other commenters.

Just respect everyone and we should be fine. Thanks!

- Kelsey

Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

This is not "great" or a "dialogue"...

First off, I just want to give my support to Jessica Yee. Jessica, I think you're an incredibly brave, brilliant activist and scholar. I love, love, LOVE reading your posts over at Racialicious! I always learn something from them and, as a Black woman and descendant of Native Freedmen, your writing makes me feel EMPOWERED. Thank you!

I also wanted to comment to say that, no, I do NOT think that this comment thread is "great" or even a "dialogue." And it makes me angry that you, Kelsey, would vaguely characterize it as such. Confession: Your comment, in and of itself, isn't what annoys me. I fully admit that what I'm saying isn't even specifically in response to YOU or this blog. But I'm bringing it up because this is part of a HUGE, HURTFUL pattern that's been going on since before I was born.
Basically, I frequent a lot of feminist blogs and I'm just flat out TIRED of seeing-- over and over again-- women of color and other marginalized people being thrown to the wolves in the comments section. It's happened to me, just as a random commenter, a couple of times and the response from mods is always the same: Silence, or a delayed, weakly-worded "reminder" to "everyone." Not a condemnation of blatant racism, personal attacks, derailing and just general mean-spiritedness. Not even a show of support USING THE OP'S NAME and acknowledging the risk she's taken in writing this piece. Just "Everyone deserves respect, regardless of whether or not you agree with their experiences/opinions."
And I think that's bullshit. And it proves to me, yet again, that in mainstream white feminist spaces I am STILL not worthy of protection. Those dehumanizing "Strong" "Noble Savage" or "Angry Black Woman" stereotypes must have REALLY taken hold cuz no matter what disingenuous, hurtful, oppressive things people say the response is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS "Welp, at least we got a great dialogue!" No! that's not what you got. You got a dogpile of privilege and a rehash of the same colonialist mess that got us here in the first place!
But I can't tell you how to feel or what to say. So I'll just say for myself, to Jessica Yee and Donna and the other women of color in this thread, I HATE that you have to put up with ignorance like this! You DON'T deserve it and I think you are all BRAVE AWESOME HEROES for just BREATHING let alone spending time and energy responding to these comments. So thank you thank you thank you for just BEING!

That's all.

Yes, thank you... and No, it's not...

Yes — thank you for the bravery you demonstrated in sharing this, Jessica (coming from someone who will not use her real name in the comments here b/c has been burned too many times by blogs). I too love your posts and was excited to see you posting here, on the bitch blog, where I felt like things had gotten a little narrowminded lately. Thank you for posting, and post on, if you can — I very much like to read what you have to say.

And No — it is not a dialogue here. I feel sad to see some of the comments made here (but not surprised necessarily) and I felt surprised and sad that it took so long for another bitch mod to jump in or comment or say anything. Maybe everyone else was out of the office that day, but that just didn't seem right to me on a post with that much backlash. Did just everyone not know how to respond? Because that is what scares me about the bitch blog too, sometimes. Voicing a different opinion and being called a traitor/ungrateful/reverse racist/what-have-you. It makes me sad that some readers do not understand the place for racial analysis with feminism + pop culture here on the bitch blog, because as Shelby noted above, there are feminist analysis with race + pop culture blogs that seem to handle the multiple issues much better. I have truly stopped commenting, and now tailed off in reading, the bitch blog because of this.

It is kind of silly to post this stuff in the comments section. I was even composing a letter to the bitch folks that would express these feelings, like, it seriously feels awful and against my will but I simply cannot read and support this silencing behavior any longer. Maybe I'll still do it, but right now, I am too sad about this to be composed any more.

King was right...

"I was even composing a letter to the bitch folks that would express these feelings, like, it seriously feels awful and against my will but I simply cannot read and support this silencing behavior any longer. Maybe I'll still do it, but right now, I am too sad about this to be composed any more."

I know EXACTLY what you mean, Cakes! A few weeks ago I saw a post on that was just hurtful from start to finish. (a comment thread of middle-to-upper class adult (mostly) white women critiquing an anonymous letter apparently written by Black elementary school girls in Washington D.C.) As a former Black girl in the inner-city, I was SO hurt that they were tearing apart a PRIVATE note between CHILDREN and I felt SO SO wrong even reading it... but I couldn't help but comment cuz I felt SOMEbody had to stand up for these girls, you know? Kind of like how I feel here. I mean, I KNOW none of this is worth my emotional health and my PHYSICAL health (stress from racism is, literally, a killer And I am not at all invested in fixing feminism or wiggling my way into feminism or theorizing about feminism... But it just feels like I physically CAN'T stay silent when I see someone being attacked like this. Like I can't physically STAND seeing the implicit assumption that none of this crap causes REAL TRUE MEASURABLE harm to Native women and our communities (and to ANYONE!). And I still hate admitting it, but I think it's important to do so-- this kind of racism hurts me. The racism that lets commenters say this shit, the racism that lets mods (supposed "friends") sit back and stay silent-- it all is harmful and it hurts. And it will CONTINUE to hurt cuz, guess what? I don't have any ancient mysterious Magic Negro healing wisdom powers. All I have is the same humanity YOU and WE have because I AM A PERSON TOO.

***Blech, I meant for that to be a quick co-sign to Cakes bit it turned into Rant Part II. Whatevs. I think my anger is worth the space =)


Hi Shelby,

Thanks for responding. While I hear what you're saying, I do think there are many comments (not all, true) in this thread from people who are participating in a dialogue (many of whom agree with Jessica), or at least trying to, which is why we have held off in deleting many of the comments in this space.

That being said, we at Bitch would really appreciate it if you did write to us (and this goes for anyone else here as well) and let us know any suggestions you have for making this a safer space for all participants. We are not used to getting this volume of comments on any post, and are still figuring out what our role can be in fostering a true dialogue here.


Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!


thank you for saying this. i think it all the time. i'm so tired of white people appropriating the same cultural truths that at one time they persecuted people for. & then pretending like it's in honor of them. fuck that.

thanks again.


Thanks for the easy place to point people. And everyone saying "you should educate people!" or critiquing tone, may I recommend another resource:

For people who think this stuff is new, or is being over-hyped:
I got sent to hippy camp when I was a kid. We were housed in poorly-constructed tepees that were completely inappropriate for the environment, so we froze and coughed all week, and did bead work with no discussion of what it meant or even why we had those colors, and got told sanitized "coyote" stories that were really anything but. It was seriously like they had watched some 1950's western and then decided that was how to get kids to "connect to the earth". Personally, I learned that "get back to nature" works much better if you can at least be bothered to do proper research. At 16 I saw a tepee constructed by someone who knew what they were doing, and learned the meaning of "cultural appropriation".

Then again, my mother totally had the "I'm part Native American! From way, way back!" thing for a while, until I got old enough to ask if that meant we were descended from a white rapist.


You may want to update your bookmark

I also recommend the post on how to suppress a discussion on racism.

Oh no!

I didn't realize that had gone down! I loved that I could type it from memory, even though I'm sad at how often I have...

Thanks for the extra link too; I'll definitely keep it handy.

Congratulations Juan! You

Congratulations Juan! You passed with flying colors! You must have REALLY studied before posting on this blog! I'm impressed. Seriously. You totally nailed it.

LOVE this! Great, great

LOVE this! Great, great article!

I was with you until you

I was with you until you suggested that by using a silicone cup rather than a tampon I was somehow appropriating Native culture...

Wow - another person who

Wow - another person who didn't read her post properly. She isn't suggesting that by "using a silicone cup instead of a tampon" you are appropriating Native culture. Maybe you need to re-read her post a few times. She in fact says the DIVA cup is great - but wonders that when companies make statements about starting or founding something off of Indigenous knowledge where there assertion of that is.

So how about you do YOUR research - do you know anything about Indigenous midwifery knowledge? How women in Indigenous communities throughout the world have had alternative forms of what we know today as "menstrual products"? Only to have the colonizers come, take that knowledge away from them on purpose to disempower the women (who were the center of communities), and then have companies some hundreds of years later say "wow - look at this revolutionary idea!"

How about the revolutionary idea of honoring where stuff came from?

Since When...

Ummmm, since when was "periods not being a bad thing or the blood from our menstrual cycles being sacred" an invention of native peoples?
I thought this up all on my own when I was 11. Perhaps it is an invention of women, again and again through out time.

"Ummmm, since when was

"Ummmm, since when was 'periods not being a bad thing or the blood from our menstrual cycles being sacred' an invention of native peoples?
I thought this up all on my own when I was 11. Perhaps it is an invention of women, again and again through out time."

Mostly N 3 and general assholery, but significant contributions from I 1 and 5., IMO

NOTE: Yes, I AM being hard core dismissive of your comment for my own, personal amusement (and sanity).

Go Jessica!

Jessica, this is an amazing post and you continue to be an inspiration to so many of us in the online social justice community! I am so sorry that so many of the comments here are approaching epic levels of "not getting it" and/or "not even listening."

wow bitches

i really hate feminism now. after thinking that it was a higly openminded philosophy that you represent i read this article and find racism and conservative closeminded bs (yes it goes both and all ways) running rampant in the comments and the article itself. this only affirms my belief that feminism is for white ladies only and to be a brown feminist you literally have to fight your way through to get your view of the world through (GASP-how closeminded/racist of her!). ive been reading you for years now and find you represent a very selected view of the world and i appreciate y'all for trying to broaden it up a bit but honestly i give up. we really cant agree and have it all. fuck this feminist bullshit. ill find my own way in this world.


Yes, good words. Thanks for voicing this as I am tired of voicing it too.
AND I think the more cultural appropriation bothers depends alot on how immersed you are in your culture. Being native/indigenous/what ever you call it, isn't choice, it isn't a coat you put on when it feels good and take off when it is easier not to wear it, like in the board rooms and the schools and business of business. You who appropriate it or sell it would be less likely to do so if it was who you are ALL THE TIME, not just when it's easy.

ALL of this is crazy

Every year I think there maybe a change in cultural historical knowledge of 1st Nations people but this social commentary by Jenn Yee is a great example that truths will be lost to so many people, and the 1st comment "Allison RE: Clothing" is a great example of this. I can't tell if she is being honest or sarcastic (along with many of the comments but that is neither here nor there), the overall theme of the comments is that knowledge is gone from our collective history (and in many cases some people didn't receive it). We live in an age of information, web browsers and internet connections on basically everything but the toaster. Do an internet search first, look locally, gawd forbid check your library; I find asking or assuming that Jenn Yee (or any 1st Nations persons) would be aware or have the information pertaining to ALL 1st Nations people is ignorant and telling.

And the funny thing is that after all this time colonization is STILL happening to 1st Nation people and the majority of society is so uneducated and complacent to their own thoughts that they are unable to distinguish their own opinion or whats right and wrong. Let me just make this clear'er for you. Jenn Yee is Mohawk, she would know just as much of (my) Plains Cree ways as the German would know of the British. The first mistake was grouping ALL 1st Nations people under the title of "1st Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous." I don't even know what that means (aside from the obvious)!! I am in no way similar to Jenn (Mohawk) in language, family values, cultural beliefs, food, clothing, rituals, or dna make up. The only connection I have to her as a "1st Nation person" is that we were taken over by the Europeans settlers.

The truth is that ALL 1st Nation people's history and culture is vastly different. And if the education was there, anyone who asked a question on what moccasins mean would be embarrassed, because they would know that not all "indians" wear moccasins. That the romanticized media version of Tonto sullen, riding off into the distance on his horse is so far from the truth; that I feel pity for those who are gullible enough to believe in even the smallest of ways that it may be "kind of true" or come from a version of something that "may" have happened.

Excellent post Jessica

Excellent post Jessica couldn't agree with you more!

I remember last year or so I started noticing a lot of my (white) "radical anarchist" hipster friends start wearing headbands and feathers and would get smashed out in the woods and getting their redman on or whatever. It was lame babby bullshit and still is.

Right outside of my town we have a native reservation thats home to one of the countries most profitable native owned casinos. With this of course comes every ignorant racists favorite word to throw around, per-cap. I guess when I was younger I just normalized a lot of the casual racism I heard about the tribe and how they spend "our" money, as if per-cap was some federal handout or reparation.

So pretty much I get to face blatant all out racism against the tribe and their money AND hipsters devouring another culture with reckless abandon.


WAY TO GO JESSICA!! Awesome post. It's amazing how textbook the responses are though. Wouldn't expect it from this magazine.

Great Commentary.

This is really refreshing to me and really reminds me a lot of some of Third World feminism's "hey just leave us the fuck alone" essays - which I think is wonderfully radical in a realm where people are still hung up on and have not moved past the limits of identity politics and authenticity.

Awesome post.

Fuck yeah! Thank you for

Fuck yeah! Thank you for this great post! If only we can get conscientious white folks to realize that these are the FIRST STEPS towards a culture that is no longer white supremacist, maybe we can move the movement beyond arguing about whether or not white people can do things wrong.

This is a great post!

Thanks for posting response to previous posters who have been posting hateful comments: think about why you are getting so defensive and angry about really simple suggestions. I can relate to this because my initial reaction was to feel a little defensive as well (I am white), and I think the reason so many of the comments are defensive is because Jessica is addressing the reader ("You need to honor where this comes from"). I think this is awesome that she addresses the reader directly rather than talking about "those other white people" because it forces us to think about and take responsibility for our behavior and privilege. I suggest that those feeling hostile towards Jessica for her post carefully reread it and then reflect. Maybe reading about colonization and the genocide of indigenous people would make it easier to understand why it is incredibly insensitive to say things like "get over it" or "you need to focus on important issues like poverty" or "I'm a woman/poor person, I'm oppressed too (I think that talking about class and gender oppression are totally valid--but that doesn't mean that you should just gloss over racism by bringing them up) "
Oh and also, I am always hearing/reading white people (including previous commenters) demand that people of color educate them about racism-- that's what a post such as this one is doing . Read it! Jessica is telling you very specific things that are harmful that you can avoid doing! When you're a privileged person (and yes, a poor white person has advantages that a person of color does not have), you learn that you are the center of everything and your needs come first. It is challenging at first to read about the ways in which you participate in the oppression of others (as a white woman this was hard for me to understand at first because I was used to thinking about men as oppressors and myself the oppressed), but it is necessary. I would recommend reading "Feminism is for Everybody" by bell hooks because you can learn about the problematic ways in which white women, liberal feminists, and white liberals in general have ignored the needs of women of color...but it is a bit more neutral sounding so maybe you can use it as a stepping stone to having dialogue with people without asking them to censor their feelings so as not to offend you.


I enjoyed this article and found it pretty straight forward and justified. I'm surprised at the surge of negative comments, as these are all things that everyone sees and often participates in. It's also something it's not hard to learn about. For example, the advice to just LOOK at where your "tribal" trinket came from, and if it's made by actual communities vs didgeridoos made in china and sold in Mexico.
Great writing, amazing piece, thank you.

don't hate on the ignorant-but-questioning!

I'm a little confused about commenters hating on Allison, the first person to post a comment here. She seems to be genuinely querying--not expecting Jessica to have all the answers as some commenters have suggested, but asking Jessica to point her to sites, books, or articles with more information.

Her questions are valid--While headdress-wearing hipsters are offensive for obvious reasons, moccasin-style shoes have been mass-produced for years. Where could we read some thought regarding what this appropriation means to various people? Who are some thinkers that might help us understand what it means, culturally & economically, to buy jewelry at a trading post?

Sure, Allison--and I--may have ignorance. But it strikes me as strange to hate on ignorance and then hate on those who ask to be pointed in the direction of more information. While this is a good post, it introduces many issues that are surely discussed in more detail elsewhere.

Where can we learn about

Where can we learn about Native culture(s) ?? hmmm.... what about books?? In my experience independent bookstores have a great selection of books (often local) and even the big chains like Indigo have a Native Studies section next to or around their Gender Studies and Cultural Studies sections... start there.

Great advice, you know, I've

Great advice, you know, I've heard of places you can go to that have books from one end to the other, and they will let you borrow their books FOR FREE! If I remember correctly, these places are called libraries.

I'm not being sarcastic towards you, Jillian, but towards the helpless ones who can't figure out how google works, or those fancy books with all their pages, and therefore need their own brown skinned research assistant to do all the work (FOR FREE!) for them.

Learning about other

Learning about other cultures is great, but most people don't care THAT much. The guy sitting next to you on the airplane who says "Hey! My great-great-grandma was Mohawk too" is probably just trying to start a conversation-not looking for a dissertation on Native American culture. A 30 second response ("Oh really? I'm half-Mohawk on my father's side; English and Canadian on my mother's; don't you hate these airline peanuts?") is completely adequate and a preferable alternative to rudeness.

And expecting other people to be an expert on your particular culture when we live in a country with hundreds of cultures seems like the height of arrogance. It's like that professor we've all had at some point who is convinced that HIS class is the most important, all other subjects be damned.

*headdesk* I'm sure Jessica


I'm sure Jessica is not saying, "I hate when people are friendly. I'll rudely put them in their place for striking up a conversation!" What she is saying is that she is dead tired of people striking up a conversation with their most ignorant ideas and stereotypes of native people.

One day I was hanging with my boyfriend and told him I need a ride to the rez. His friend overheard and said, "Oh wow I want to go and see the tipis and horses." and no, he wasn't joking. I've also been asked if I know some Navajo guy or Seminole woman who the speaker met once upon a time. Like since we are native we all know each other. This is the kinds of comments and questions we get, and it gets old real fast. Now if I noticed that people regularly say the stupidest thing that comes to mind to everyone else in the world, then maybe this would be the norm, and I wouldn't lose my patience. But somehow they manage to ask intelligent questions or talk about subjects they know something about to everyone else and reserve the stupid questions and subjects for me. That is what Jessica is talking about, why can't these people use a normal conversation starter with us, like they would with anyone else? You know, "I'm headed to Houston for a conference. Where you headed?" "I see you're reading about [actress] in People magazine. I love that movie she was in ______, and the one that won an Oscar, ______ too. Did you see those movies? What did you think?" Then there's no losing your patience. No feeling like being rude. No turning up the ipod.

Not what she meant


I'm sure Jessica does not expect anyone to be "an expert" on her particular culture, rather she just wants people next to her on airplanes to treat her the same way they treat everyone else and not single her out for her stickers or clothing or whatever else as someone who is willing to be a sounding board for their experiences with Native issues.

Yes, we've all had that professor you mention, but nowhere in her post does Jessica imply that her culture is more important than others.

Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Well, for one thing asking

Well, for one thing asking very specific questions is always better than asking general questions. General questions mean you really don't give a damn but are humoring me and sending me on a wild goose chase for information you have no intention of using. ---I'll pretend I care and look progressive to the other white people if I ask the native person to help me learn!--- We see right through that. Specific questions mean you have looked but are getting stumped. We appreciate that, and if we know, will help you find what you need.

There isn't any significance to moccasins that I know about. My aunt used to make them and sell them to white people. They aren't culturally or spiritually significant. We used to do gorgeous beadwork on them too, but I haven't seen them in recent times, only in old photos. For some native craftspeople, check out the Wampum Chronicles front page and scroll down to his links of friends, most of them are artists or craftspeople. He is Mohawk from Akwesasne, so his links will mostly be Iroquois. Off the top of my head I think you can get moccasins at Iroqrafts (my spelling might be wrong, it's in the list of his links). If you want the gorgeous beadwork or quillwork similar to the pictures above look for Ojibwe (Anishnaabe), Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), or Mik'maq craftspeople, but they are very labor intensive so will be expensive, like $250 and up.

I think the problem that Jessica is having with moccasins is less about it being disrespectful than the cultural appropriation aspect of it. Unlike the canoe example I gave before, the shoe designs that white people already have are perfectly serviceable, it's unnecessary for you to adapt our designs. So it is appropriation for all these white people to cash in with their native inspired moccasins when there are so many native people who need the business for something that is so particular and has such a strong association to us. In other words, when you see a hunter using a fiberglass bow, do you automatically think he is doing it out of his love for native people? No. But you are more likely to think that when they wear clothing with native inspired designs, right? Well, why is there no actual native people involved then? Don't they deserve payment for their inspiration and creations instead of white copiers?

white privilege means relying on people of color to educate you

Your comment really should have stopped after the first sentence.

If you want information on indigenous/native people's I recommend Andrea Smith's amazing book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.

And wow, wow, wow that link

And wow, wow, wow that link is gorgeous.

Commenting really ought to

Commenting really ought to be disabled on this post. Readers are getting away with saying the most ignorant, infuriating BS and it's incredibly disheartening for indigenous peoples and anti-racist allies to be subjected to this. If you are going to leave the wall up, then I highly recommend you moderate this section better. Clearly the intersection of race and feminism aren't tackled very much on this site if the knee-jerk response is to deny privilege (ANY privilege, but in this context white in particular) and dismiss legitimate concerns as being "oversensitive" or "trite". It's times like these I'm inclined to shed the label of "feminist" altogether because I do not want to be remotely associated with so-called feminists who continue to marginalize the experiences of women of colour even as they claim to advocate for the respect of ALL women.

white feminists have white privilege


It is impossible to combat sexism effectively without a conscious, intentional working understanding of how unearned and unexamined racial benefits accrue to white women, and how white women benefit from the racial oppression of women *AND* men of color.

Being targeted for sexism does NOT exempt one from complicity in racial oppression.

Sexism and racism are fundamentally entangled for ALL women, which means that some women experience both institutionalized racist-sexism/sexist-racism, and other women experience sexism even while participating in and benefiting racism.

Check out:

--Elizabeth Spelman's book Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist thought -- especially "Gender and Race: The Ampersand Problem in Feminist Thought"

-- Peggy Macintosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"

anything by Tim Wise at
-- Wise's essay on "White Women and the assault on Affirmative Action":

-- anything by bell hooks, but I recommend the book Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, and Killing Rage: Ending Racism, especially the chapter on relationships between white women and black women

--anything by Audre Lorde

Still don't understand


Confused white person. Still don't get it. Wish I did. Been looking into this for a bit and still don't understand. Was hoping that post would shed new light, but...still confused.

Hope this doesn't come across as disrespectful. If it does, I'm truly sorry.

I get the problems with stereotypes and grouping all indigenous people together as some sort of homogeneous group. I do know about the horrible conditions, and the institutional racism. I'd like to be an ally, or at least not part of the problem. But some points in this don't make sense to me. I do wish to understand, though I know it's not your responsibility to enlighten me.

Organic living and environmentalism is part of my heritage too. My ancestors lost this way of life due to conquest and cultural annihilation. In their case it was the Romans. And Christianity. Menstruation as holy, and midwifery, are in my history as well. And many 'ancient' practices used today come from looking back to my past, as well as yours. When someone talks about ways things were done thousands of years ago, often they are talking about European history. Though admittedly sometimes they get that wrong.

Fashion, I don't know. Hollywood fashion churns everything up, and puts out a disturbing mash-up. But hippies with feathers? I don't know. White Americans have had our own indigenous roots erased entirely. We have tiny bits and pieces, but they've been scattered and broken until there is no longer any real way to connect with them. Hippies seem to want to reconnect to their own ancient ways, but have no access. So they appropriate yours. In a yearning for something untainted by Roman Catholicism and modern Imperialism. And perhaps in the process, they taint it. And the fashion industry sees the hippies doing it, and takes it one step further. And hipsters wear it because now it's 'cool'.

As to indigenous knowledge, isn't the spread of lessons from various cultures one way of protecting such knowledge? If we learn from you, and you learn from us, don't we all benefit? I realize the huge disparity in this country, and I know the blood that's been spilled to grant me the wide swath of privileges I now hold. I'm uncertain what I can do to help that. But I don't see how learning from your culture, gaining insights into how to live better in this world, hurts you. If I see someone else doing something that seems better then the way I was raised to do it, I want to emulate. If I see a spirituality with elements that seem more holy then my parents', I want to connect with it. If I see an aesthetic that feels more alive then tank tops and t-shirts, I want to engage with it.

Many white people grow up in conflict with our own recent heritage. It's uniformity, it's imperialism, it's war-mongering, it's power-hunger, it's disassociation, it's greed and corruption, it's pettiness. It's entire power-structure, and soulless mania. Hipsters turning elsewhere for -something-, anything that isn't that, seems a positive to me. And granted, they often get it wrong. They take a piece and miss the point. But that reaching comes from something. A yearning for something other then the lies they've been raised on. A yearning for a culture that is still alive. Because hegemonic white culture feels like death.

Difference between appropriating and learning from

@DanceDreaming, I think the issue here isn't so much cultures learning from one another (because who doesn't want that?) it's about one dominant, powerful culture taking things from another, oppressed culture. The idea of emulating a culture that you admire isn't wrong, I think all Jessica's saying is that it's important to acknowledge the origins of that emulation and make every attempt to go about it respectfully.

Therefore, there's a big difference between a non-Native person wearing a random feather headdress because it's "trendy" and that same person actually engaging with Native people (or at least doing some research) and wearing something that they understand the significance of. Does that make sense?

Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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Yeah, That makes sense

Yeah, That makes sense.

I guess I'm guilty of strawman-ing here. You are right, Jessica wasn't making the statement I was refuting. My apologies.

Another point, which seems to partially be a kneejerk defense of privilege/what about the white people, is also bubbling to be spoken. Really difficult to simply not do it.

One style blogger from

One style blogger from Scotland (who is like the internet version of Juliette Lewis) had this to say about her fondess of headresses:

Told "We can't borrow these cultural accessories and not acknowledge where they come from," she replied:

I have discovered it really doesn't matter if you acknowledge where the inspiration comes from - some people will object and some won't, that's the way of the world. This is very loosely inspired by Native American headdresses but also showgirls from the 30's. I also like it because the jewels have celtic designs which are part of my cultural heritage. Plus, I can't take anything seriously called Bitch Magazine, and the blanket usage of the word "hipster" is deeply unimaginative.

Original post:


If she doesn't think that headdress is inspired by media representations (if not the real thing) of Native culture, she's in serious denial. As far as not taking Bitch Magazine seriously, well, the feeling's mutual sister.

Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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