May 18, 2011

Whooping "Indians" at 2011 Stanford Powwow

Adrienne Keene writes about her second visit to the Stanford Powwow in her Native Appropriations blog:

Playing Indian at Stanford Powwow, Year 2

She first visited it last year, which led to this posting.

Again she notes the wannabes in hipster headdresses, including one whohad multi-colored feathers in her hair and warpaint on her face, and right before I snapped the picture, was war whooping (hand over mouth, other hand in the air) to her friend across the way (who was also wearing feathers and paint).And again she reminds us why this is a problem:In the grand scheme of powwows, Stanford powwow tends to have a lower ratio of wannabes "liberally interpreting" Indianess (i.e. creating an image of what they think an Indian is based off things they read on the internet and supplies they can find at a craft shop) than some powwows I've been to, but it still makes me angry.

I still don't know why people think it's OK to don feathers and warpaint and come to a Native community cultural event. I still maintain that it would be exactly the same as donning blackface and wandering into a Black community event. These people are dressing up as a race other than their own, based off of egregious and racist stereotypes from Hollywood and other forms of pop culture. All they have to do is look out in the powwow dance circle to see that they look nothing like "real" Indians. But the American narrative of "playing Indian" is so ingrained, people don't seem to see it as taboo, the way blackface remains today.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Whites "Play Indian" in Swamplandia!, Indians "Win" Oppression Olympics, and Racist Cupcakes vs. Chiefs.

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