August 10, 2009

No pride in Native Pride t-shirts?

Gyasi Ross recounts a scene in a Toronto nightclub and ruminates on what it means:

10.0 Native Pride sucks

By Gyasi Ross[T]his smiling young lady--Labatt’s in one hand, beautifully beaded keychain in the other--danced in one of those Native Pride T-shirts that exposed her belly. Mind you, she kept spilling her Labatt’s Blue on her Native Pride T-shirt--yet she still kept on hollering over the loud music to convince me that she never, ever drinks alcohol. Except for now, of course.

Yet, I’d have to be a true “hoser” not to appreciate the irony of the situation: A beautiful, young Canadian Skin lady who keeps going on and on about her traditional values, her traditional family, and how she paints with all of the colors of the wind. She teased me playfully about my urban accent and my metrosexual clothing (fair criticisms, by the way) and how untraditional I am. Meanwhile, she’s spilled enough Canadian hooch on her Native Pride belly shirt to pickle Teddy Kennedy.
Ross's thoughts on the t-shirt:[T]hat’s the crazy thing--I think that a lot of people wear Native Pride just because they’re nice and fashionable shirts without thinking about the statements they make. Sort of like when people wear the Che shirts.

For example, when I see a bunch of Skins together Native Prided-out, I get caught up in the pride thing too! I want to put my right fist up and stick it to the man! I mean, when I see Native Pride clothes, Native Pride tattoos, and hear Native Pride thrown around in speeches, I get fired up and expect to see the evidence of Native Pride!!

I expect to see healthy families, fathers taking care of their children, sobriety, et cetera!

But then reality hits. And I don’t see what they’re seeing. I don’t see Skins living the proud lifestyle their shirts and bumper stickers and hats indicate. And maybe I’m just missing something--maybe the definition of pride has changed over the years. Maybe I missed the part where Native Pride became just a cool fashion statement and speech technique.

See, I was taught, rightly or wrongly, that actions speak louder than words; perhaps I was taught wrong. Maybe the way that we show Native Pride nowadays is by wearing shirts and hats.

For some odd reason, I thought Native Pride might cause Skins to actually do stuff to help Skins. I mean, that’s what all those Skin leaders did, right? Tasunke Witko. Quanah Parker. Popé. THE Ward Churchill (Ha ha ha! Ok, I can’t even say that with a straight face). Those people helped Skins. Native Pride made them do it. Their actions spoke louder than their words, hats or shirts.
Comment:  FYI, "Tasunke Witko" is the real name of Crazy Horse.

Ross has a good point. Wearing a "Native Pride" t-shirt is like dressing up as an Indian for a sports, Boy Scout, or German "hobbyist" event. You may think you're helping Indians by "honoring" them, but you're neither honoring nor helping them. Show us the actions you're taking to help today's Indians, and then you can talk about your rationale for wearing costumes or t-shirts.

I have a few Indian t-shirts, but none with the "Native Pride" slogan. I'm always glad to inject a smidgen of Indian culture wherever I go. I wouldn't think of doing something disrespectful in the t-shirt, unless maybe it was "fighting the system." I think Crazy Horse would approve of protesting a traffic ticket or whatever from "the man."

For more on "Native" t-shirts, see Duluth Shop Sells "Drunk Indian" Shirts and 1492 T-Shirt Is Negative?


Anonymous said...

Living a straight-edge lifestyle can exempliy self-respect as well as a harboring a sense of "Native Pride", except that I don't own any "NP" logo shirts myself. I do, however have a couple pair of "Homeland Security" shirts and I wear them with pride regardless if I'm helping people or not. Actually, I see the "Homeland Security" shirts as more of a political statement, rather than a fashion one like "NP". I wholeheartly agree with Gyrasi Ross's perception of the "Native Pride" thing, where I, myself have personally seen Indians wearing this brand of shirt, have exibited no sense of pride or self-respect at all. And I think that's a bit hypocritical in the slightest sense.


Anonymous said...

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