By Gale Courey Toensing
The photo showed a head shot of Cromwell wearing a variation of a gustoweh, the traditional Haudenosaunee feathered headdress, at the Mashpee Wampanoag’s 88th annual powwow over July 4th weekend.
Pro-casino blogger Hal Brown took umbrage at both the comment and the copyright violation of using the photo without permission or attribution, and posted a response on his blog, Brownie’s Heckuva Blog, headlined “Mark Belanger’s insult and injury.”
“He mocked the Native American headdress Cromwell was wearing. … Then in his comment section he says that ‘It could be Carmen Miranda in drag.’ Making this insult worse was the injury, i.e., the fact that he violated copyright by publishing the picture without permission,” Brown wrote.
Brown was also annoyed at the posted comments and their misspellings.
“Those who commented on this blog demonstrate the same level of insensitivity to Indian tradition. Some excerpts (the word is actually spelled headdress): 1) ‘What the heck is that on his head is it an indian headress? Looks like a bunch of paint brushes.’ 2) ‘Buy a box of beads and feathers, labled made in china, and make your own headress.’ 3) ‘A picture is worth a thousand words. And in this case, a million laughs.’”
On the one hand, we have a bunch of yahoos insulting Indian culture. It's another in a long line of examples of racism against Indians.
At least Cromwell isn't wearing a Plains headdress. You occasionally see tribal leaders from places beyond the Plains wearing them--an unfortunate example of Indians stereotyping themselves.
On the other hand, the gustoweh doesn't look much like any of the gustowehs pictured here. And why is a Wampaonoag leader wearing a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) headdress when he isn't Haudenosaunee himself? Unless there's some subtle connection I'm missing--e.g., "My grandmother was an Iroquois princess"--this seems wrong.
For more on the subject of stereotypical chiefs and headdresses, see The Big Chief.
Below: An Onondaga gustoweh.