February 23, 2010

Hair makes the Indian?

The Politics of Native Hair Part 1

By Gyasi RossI wonder about the perception(s) of hair within our Native societies. I remember in college, when a Native had long hair, there was a presumption that the long-haired Native was “traditional;” I think that there’s usually a perception that a Native with long hair IS, in fact, somehow more Native (or Nativer) than a short-haired Native. In that school context, sometimes the long-haired Natives in school would play into that perception that they were, in fact, “traditional” so that they could spew off some pseudo-religious babble and make the giggling little hippie girls think that were “deep.”

Interestingly, the vast majority of the older “traditional” people that I know tend to have very neatly cut hair. Of course, some have braids, and some have mullets—business up front, party in the back. Many women have the hair hanging down and parted in the middle, straight out of a Cher video, some of the serious “rez” bangs and some have more contemporary hairstyles. Point is, there is no one style—fortunately—that defines Natives. Still, in some people’s eyes, the hair makes the Native.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Defining Who's an Indian.

Below:  John Redcorn of King of the Hill.


Seadhlinn said...

There is also the issue of "short hair = professionalism", which I run into a lot. When I did debate in high school, I was told repeatedly that my long hair was "distracting" or "unprofessional", even if I wore it back. My father had also been told point-blank on a number of occasions to cut his hair, which he formerly wore long (he now keeps it quite short). So regardless of what your culture normally does, or what you personally prefer, outside influences can be a major factor in choosing a hairstyle, especially if one has distinctly "non-white" hair.

Also, I get a lot of "Indian cred" questions from people because I do not have the stereotypically straight, black, shiny hair (neither does my father).

dmarks said...

The short hair = professional, long hair = traditional thing can be found quite close to home

Sead, why doesn't your blog allow comments?