January 13, 2009

Indian Princess "tribes" go sledding

At least a cardboard sled won't sink, Indian Princess tribes findA makeshift sled, fashioned out of cardboard and painted to look like a candy cane, ended up as the winner Sunday at the annual sled races, sponsored by the Indian Princess tribes in the Big Waters Federation's Mountain Nation.

The red-and-white-striped, pontoon-styled sled fit nearly all 16 girls from the Kiowa tribe inside. Even better, the so-called 'Kiowa Kane' had the farthest run, going 10 yards farther than its closest competitor, down the hill at Melas Park in Mount Prospect.

All eight tribes in the Mountain nation brought their sled entries to the morning competition, including members of the Osage tribe from Mount Prospect, who hosted the event, and brought their creation that looked like a pirate ship.

The winter sled races stretch back more than 20 years in the program, with Indian princesses and their dads working together to create a winning sled, using nothing more than cardboard, duct tape, liquid nails and paint.
And:"The best part is making the sleds with your dad," said Amy Kruse, 10, of Arlington Heights, whose Navajo tribe designed their sled look like a container of McDonald's French fries, prompting its members to stack themselves inside.

Other entries ranged from the Zuni tribe from Prospect Heights with their teepee-shaped sled, to the most elaborate of the day, a monster truck model, made by the Ottawa tribe from Arlington Heights.
Comment:  A "Zuni" teepee-shaped sled? Thanks for proving how organizations like this perpetuate Native stereotypes.

This article mentions five "tribes." I trust the "princesses" could tell us something basic about the tribes they belong to. For instance, which state they're located in.

But I wonder if they could pass a simple quiz on their tribes' cultures. For instance, the one below. Match the tribe and the cultural reference:

1. Kiowa
2. Navajo
3. Osage
4. Ottawa
5. Zuni

a. Shalako
b. Pontiac
c. Oil wealth
d. N. Scott Momaday
e. Blessingway

I expect all my knowledgeable Newspaper Rock readers would score 100% on this quiz. If not, hit the books or the search engines!

I don't know much about this "Indian princess" organization. It could be the same one on Facebook or a similar group. But the organization is misguided from the start, since Indians basically didn't have princesses. No doubt it has phony titles and rituals like the Y-Indian Guides and the Boy Scouts' Tribe of Mic-O-Say.

Below:  "It's so much fun to stereotype Indians! Whee!"


dmarks said...

"Comment: A "Zuni" teepee-shaped sled? Thanks for proving how organizations like this perpetuate Native stereotypes."

Wow. I wonder what is faster in the snow: a Zuni teepee, a Chickasaw totem-pole, or an Ojibwe kiva?

gaZelbe said...

The tipi thing is obviously stereotype-indulgent. No argument there.

The princess thing, however, is less clear-cut. Pre-European contact, there were a very few isolated hereditary monarchies in North America. Those tribes would have had princesses. As we all know, this is not commonly known history and not what the "Indian princess" stereotype refers to. The "Indian princess" trope requires a plains Indian culture with a hereditary monarchy which did not exist.

However, the modern tribal princess, powwow princess etc, at least among the plains tribes, can to a large extent be traced to ceremonial women's roles in the military societies of some plains cultures, including my own (Kiowa). The role and responsibilities of many of today's modern "princesses" are very similar to their traditional counterparts. It is the title "princess" that presents a gross inaccuracy. The choice of that particular word can be immediately traced to the European mythology of "Indian princesses". Why was that word chosen? a limited command of English? a concession to achieve at least partial recognition by Europeans? I don't know. But I think its important to point out that at least among some plains Indian cultures, the role of the modern "princess" is not stereotype-indulgent, even while the title, unfortunately, is.

dmarks said...

If I recall correctly, I came across a postcard in my collection of something like a Kiowa princess. I'll post that if there is interest.

Rob said...

I don't think non-Native girls should be emulating "Indian princesses" or "honored Indian women in Plains military societies." They shouldn't be emulating Indians, period. Whether they get the title right is a detail compared to that.

I'm guessing these girls don't know anything about tribes with hereditary monarchies or military societies. They're pretending to be Indians because it's fun to mix and match chiefs, princesses, shamans, braves, tipis, council fires, tom-toms, wampum, and so on. This is a practice we should discourage, not encourage.