November 08, 2011

Jenner responds to "Indian giver" controversy

A correspondent took the time to contact Kris Jenner, the Kardashians' mother, about her "Indian giver" remark. Here's the e-mail and the response:From: "Tara J. Ryan"
Date: Thu, 03 Nov 2011 19:40:46 -0400

Dear Ms. Jenner,

As you well know by now, our community and even before you made the tasteless and thoughtless "Indian Giver" comment, are disappointed to say the least with your ignorance and cavalier manner in such public forums with regard to our community.

None of our community members spend their entire days on every single ignorant person in this country, can you imagine for a moment if we did? We'd have no lives and no money to put food on the table, however, this is definitely a teachable moment as I posted on your daughter Kourtney's official page for her awful Live DWTS display of "leather and feather" costume of not just herself, but also of a toddler, her son, your grandchild. I can only imagine your response if someone was making racial and ignorant commentary and public displays that reflected the blood that ran through the veins of your family or any member or your family's ancestry, what your response would be, especially with all the air time at your disposal. What a shame.

Kourtney's personal blog comment "Hi dolls. Please don’t forget to watch Rob tonight on Dancing with the Stars at 8PM on ABC. It’s a special Halloween episode! I’ll be there, Halloween costume and all! Pocahontas is in the building!!"
No, Ms. Jenner and Kourtney she [Pocahontas] is not, and was not, as she passed on long ago, having lived a very difficult life.

A family of people in this case, specifically two persons, who very publicly on National television in one week, in the very month that is supposed to be a teaching and learning month that is National Native American Heritage month (November) are in a "bubble" of ignorance, especially ridiculous since you are surrounded by so many people of color and your children and late ex-husband are of Armenian descent.

I can guarantee, based on your own show, that I actually used to watch up through the wedding no less (and am kicking myself for it now) and your family being so "open", with Kim in the beginning of divorce proceedings this week and everything that's going on, you wouldn't be as calm or as classy as our community has responded thus far to this.

At the very least, since you are on the air nearly 24/7 right now and our children, families, etc. can't get away from Kardashian images even when we want to, a real, genuine, public apology is in order, with some in depth explanation as to how your family could possibly be so out of touch given your past and present reality. This is a sooner rather than later, immediate action suggestion. As my experience in PR isn't just because I felt like doing it one's been over 15 years in the making, with high honors and a degree, a family in entertainment and broadcasting from birth, this one isn't going to just "go away".

Just a couple of examples that it won't:

There are many more, even and especially from the African American and especially the hip hop community as well, but I've spent enough time on this, you are going to do or not do whatever you wish. It is your choice, as doing greater things for OUR community, is mine.
Jenner's responseFrom: "Kris Jenner"
Date: 11/04/2011 06:56 AM
To: "Tara J. Ryan"
Subject: Re: This week's events, some thoughts to ponder

Hi Tara..thank you very much for the very well written note re my careless remarks yesterday on GMA...I am truly sorry if I offended anyone with something I said and I certainly had no intention of hurting or offending anyone...I am probably the least judgmental person you will ever meet, and never would make fun of anyone, of any race....I was asked a question on the spot and because of my dry sarcastic personality I was apparently trying to find a bit of levity in a really tough situation. I was on a book tour in nyc that was booked several months ago and never expected to be thrust into the media storm that occurred but nevertheless would do anything for my kids. obviously not an ideal situation and I'm sorry that careless remark came out of my mouth...I grew up in the 60's and in school it was a silly think kids would say if you took back a gift etc and I'm sure kids never gave it a second thought as to the kind of pain it could cause...but I get it and profusely apologize...I also feel so bad that you take offense of my daughter and grandson and their costumes...I think you can look at something real negative, or the glass half full..I always choose the glass half full because its so much more productive. Kourtney loves fashion and I assure you its a compliment that she is inspired by the indian community and the amazing native grandson wears moccasins almost every day because she likes the way they look...I would look at that at a nod and smile rather than she is trying to poke fun...just another way of looking at it...I am saddened to hear that you might be one of those people who believe everything you read about my daughters decision to separate from her husband. Think about it...obviously something must have happened to have her make this type of decision. I'm sorry you are disappointed but maybe take a step back and use common sense and not judge someone else unless you are walking in their shoes...Just trying to do my best...God Bless you! And thanks for the email..Kris

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Ryan reflects on the exchange:Kris Jenner

Disgusted and considering the comments made by Ms. Kris Jenner using the phrase "Indian Giver" in reference to Kim not giving back the ring on National Live Broadcast television, then making no public statement that she made any kind of mistake or had any remorse or apology for it, on Thursday, November 3, 2011 I emailed Kris directly to suggest that she do exactly that, and quickly (full emails are below), as it resonates to leave a comment like that just hanging out there in the wide public arena for all to digest and not apologizing just further just solidifying her total lack of knowledge or consideration for the weight of her words on our community, especially our impressionable youth. She responded that the glass should just be seen as "half full" (full comment below).

Kris' comments about Kourtney Kardashian

In the same email, since I was making direct contact, I chose to also broach the subject of Kourtney's appearance, again, on National Live Television on Monday, October 31, 2011 in a "Pocahontas" "costume" and her references to it, as something that she may re-consider doing in the future and use it as a "teachable moment" to try and move forward with more cultural sensitivity for our community, from our Elders through most importantly, our teens and others who may have watched her show. These type of people, ones who aren't exactly fully aware of the resonating affect of their statements and actions, don't have to be perfect, but this set of statements and actions in one week was very telling, especially after receiving her response, dashed on from her Blackberry on Friday morning, November 4, 2011 at 6:56am EST without a thought or care for writing them out, further showing that with her so called "media savvy" how little she truly thinks of our community.

She responded regarding Kourtney and Mason's "costumes" and Kourtney's subsequent postings on her website, etc. (literally passing the ignorance from mother to daughter (Kourtney), and then Kourtney to her son), that just because Kourtney has so much "fashion sense" that her choices should dictate how myself and my community feels about such a "costume" and take it as a nod and a smile, essentially, a compliment. This clearly indicates that she sees nothing wrong with the statements she made, and her daughter's actions, and in fact believes because it's members of her family doing and saying these things that we should somehow be honored.

As you know, with all the posts on Facebook, in Blogs, emails, video responses posted on YouTube calling for her to get educated and publicly apologize (though clearly, as stated below, she wouldn't mean it) made by our community members, that we as a community, do not feel honored.

Though I am normally business only, especially publicly, I feel it's time to make an exception. There are some times when silence is no longer "Golden".

Thanks Rob!

Tara J. Ryan
Tijer Lily Co
A Native American Arts and Entertainment Company
Comment:  I'd say Jenner apologized decently for her "Indian giver" remark. Then she undermined it by not acknowledging a worse offense--her daughters dressing as stereotypical Indian chiefs and maidens.

"Glass half full"? There's no positive side to these chief and princess stereotypes. I haven't heard a single Indian say, "Wow, it's great that the Kardashians are falsifying and trivializing our history."

And Kourtney "is inspired by the Indian community"? If the Kardashians know anything other than what a stereotypical chief or maiden looks like, I'd be surprised. If Indians inspire you, try learning something about them. Then try sharing your knowledge rather than ignorance.

For more on the subject, see Sophie Turner's "Poca-Hotness" and Whites Defend "Right" to Be Racist.

Below:  Khloe Kardashian in a headdress.


Anonymous said...

Jenner's response was babble.
Tara at least had a cohesive thought.

Anonymous said...

The randomness of Mama Jenner's response at the bottom with the derogatory tone, and out of the blue rant about Kim's marriage is weird.

Anonymous said...

just daft in anything that's not scripted I guess

Anonymous said...

Trying to get a cohesive thought out of a reality star might be asking too much.

Prufrock said...

I emailed this to and they just posted it with a link to your site!

Anonymous said...

I think people are way too politically correct these days and overly sensitive. I think the "indian giver" comment was beyond ridiculous on Jenner's part and displays ignorance. But getting upset over the costumes is over the top. It's pretty obvious when people of non-aborignal descent dress up in costume, they aren't intentionally trying to hurt anyone. And I don't see why it would. Third, you're not Indian. You're First nations, Aboriginals, etc. I'm so tired of hearing the word "Indian" misused. It should only refer to people from India. Columbus was a bonehead and thought he was in India when he "discovered" America, hence the incorrect term of "Indians" placed upon First Nations people.

Anyway, I think Jenner's apology was sincere. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

everyone just needs to calm down
this is one thoughtless comment that has been taken to such huge extremities. why not focus on the alberta tar sands in reference to native people? so much more immediate work needs to happen there

Anonymous said...

Lemming alert...can't decide if they're informed and we're "Native American" "First Nations" or "Indigenous" and uses semantics to get really specific, tells our community what we should feel, "thinks" she's sincere, guarantee you above commenter never talked to her at all, ever.

Talk about being two faced, you aren't "Indians" from India, so the comment doesn't apply to you, THEN, it's all too PC, what??? lol

Anonymous said...

The much greater issues for our community are directly addressed in the communication (in this case an email) and is the point for it being sent actually...get rid of the nonsense from the "trending now" sections of the Internet, so when our community does speak and work on VERY IMPORTANT ISSUES, there's room to be heard.


Maybe look up her work, and you'd know the things she's worked on, especially environmental activism. Our community is a small, on the sites on her links page there's some cultural work with our biggest leaders. Off handed comments happen, but we are a community, and I like to check things out first before commenting ideally.

I hope we're viewed for our public voice on whatever we work on without being dismissed, I think when our community is so easily dissed and dismissed in the US by a non-reality tv person, that's a bad it's not your cup of tea maybe...the worst thing that happens to us as a community when we fight each other...that's the biggest enemy we face.

Anonymous said...

People have become way too sensitive to comments people make. People say things on the spot, and yes, sometimes it comes across as completely hurtful and ignorant, but aren't we all guilty of it at one point or another? Secluding a small portion of the population from being able to make this mistake because they are in "the public eye" is completely ridiculous. Was her comment offensive? Of course. Did she try to make it right? I think so! She responded what seemed to be almost instantaneously apologizing for her careless remarks. I would rather an immediate response than a fake, made-through-a-publicist, half assed apology.

As for the costume thing? People need to get over it. There is nothing disrespectful about dressing up as Pocahontas. Go on Facebook to see all of the girls dressing up on Halloween and give them a hard time about their costume. We have to own the statements we make, but we have to forgive when a moment gets the best of us.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand: dressing up as a nurse is offensive for nurses? Dressing up as Lady Gaga is offensive to lady gaga?

Anonymous said...

She didn't try to make it right, seems very clear from the time (24 hours later) she got called out on it and caught off guard...thinking she was responding to a teeny bopper above a potential lemming, there's even an attempted scolding in there from her and some shock at the beginning that the girl can write or something, seriously, is that an assumption of surprise because she's Native? Call me pc on calling that out...looks wrong to me...looks like exactly what it is a dash off email from her phone, with only one (maybe two) thoughts in her head, Kim's image (what is with bringing that up out of nowhere in her response email??)

Ms., Miss? Ryan even wrote that no one is perfect ,etc. it's right up there, I don't get some of these comments where people didn't read what it is they're commenting on?

Anonymous said...

finish my comment and saw the nurse one? what? Answer..there is no such thing as being born a nurse, being a baby nurse, a child nurse, a teenage nurse...get it yet??? probably not, unfortunately. Nurses don't have Sovereign Nations on this land, that's a choice, being a nurse or anything that is something someone chooses is exactly that, but one's ancestry, how they look, are treated and viewed from birth just because of it? Wow, the duh factor is really kicking in there.

dmarks said...

"Go on Facebook to see all of the girls dressing up on Halloween and give them a hard time about their costume."

The parents should be ashamed.

Jaine said...

Stunned at some of the ignorant comments in this thread.

Why do people always think professions are comparable with race, let alone think they can tell another race how to think, act and feel?

At the end of the day; that many people find this offensive is reason enough to not do it. Have some respect.

dmarks said...

Jaine asked: "Why do people always think professions are comparable with race"

Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief.
Doctor lawyer, Indian chief.

Anonymous said...

While most might say, "Okay now, lets all calm down and stop being so sensitive about racial remarks involving Indians", somewhere in America, a native(s) are getting harrassed by a cop, thug, employer, church minister, teacher, judge, etc., and some non-native is tying down a headdress with feathers getting ready to do a dance that invites scorn and ridicule. Ultimately and unfortunately, blood gets spilled and maybe even an Indian gets killed AGAIN?(yawn)?

Anonymous said...

If a person is so hurt by Kris Jenners thoughts or opinnions then that person is in for a very sad life. Real Natives have nothing to prove. We know who we are. And harmless comments made by strangers won't affect us. Get over it. And as for the costumes, I guess all the Native children I see dressed a ninjas, samurai, Italian mobsters, European princesses and knights and monks should be banned as well. I KNOW! Let's just ban halloween altogether. That way no one can have fun. No costumes, no jokes and soon no talking or breathing! Good luck...

Jaine said...

dmarks, that must be an American version, the one I know goes:

Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Sailor,
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Beggar Man, Thief.

Never heard the Indian Chief one.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad a lot of people aren't affected by her comments, but something led you here to this blog...unfortunately a lot of our own Native kids are or have been watching this drivel, and with all the producers out there peddling a potential opportunity for fame "like the Kardashians" to be the next "Kardashian", our models, our kids, our young ones are's not about halloween, it's about how it's time for all mascots, non-sense and for the US view of our people to be more than just a side show, so they can go to school in peace without being told by their friends that some Kardashian wore a costume, and is she Native too?

I guess most people posting that they are "cool" with it and that should make it o.k. for everyone else, it's clearly, in my opinion, people who don't have kids, or small young ones in their lives. Espcially ones who aren't surrounded by other Natives, but live the 1% life, where they are the very small minority where they live and in their schools, except for their immediate family, which is unfortunately, the majority of our kids experience in reality (pun intended).

I agree with the comment above.

"the worst thing that happens to us as a community when we fight each other...that's the biggest enemy we face."

Anonymous said...

Jaine, yes unfortunately

"the Indian Chief one" is one of the many things that is different in American. I checked your page out, your support of the Maori in your nation is so important.

but again yes, here in the US is where we face the greatest racism here, in Europe (especially Germany, and Austria) but also elsewhere, and people like you in New Zealand, are much more informed that the people here. The Navajo rug fair that is going on here now in Utah, filled with International dignitaries from all over the world, the western European block, and of course Sweden, Holland, etc. They travelled so far, but anyone who's not a local from the US, not a's very different.

I think it's because, on a subconcious or concious level, the whole idea of us being the one race, when one is ignorant, that those who have that mindset cannot tell to "go home" and we are here already, don't like to feel like they are visitors in what they have always known as home for themselves. The entire concept that this land was taken with blunt, blood force, and the people who live here now, still, are still here, makes them more than a little bit uncomfortable. I'm not asking anyone to feel guilty for the past, or something they didn't do personally, but I d$@m well do want accountability for anyone who is racist in the present day!!!

Quoting Blackfire from 'Silence is a Weapon' song, "did you think we would just go away?" Some of these people think their lives would be easier for them if we did.

Too bad. We're not, and anywhere that a person lives, but Kim wore a burka in Dubai, with her own middle eastern people, she had enough respect to do that, but here in the US, they act like own the place, they wish they did. But too bad, no one does!!! lol

Jaine said...

Thanks Anonymous
Unfortunately it is like that in New Zealand regarding racism against Maori. Many New Zealanders are appalled at the racism leveled at Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals but don't see how their own attitudes towards Maori are just as bad. =(

Many here also have a bad case of "We weren't here first itis".

In the early 90s a Maori leader made a statement along the lines of "if you think racism against Maori is bad when we are poor and disempowered then wait until we are in a position of power". I believe this is true, it seems the more powerful Maori become politically (and rightfully so) then the uglier the racist backlish agaisnt them is.

Maori are 15% of our population which means a stronger voice politically and a stronger presence than indigenous in the States and Oz. In this age of social networking, as Native American voices get stronger (and I believe they will) then, unfortunately, the backlash will too. I hold fast to the hope that after this ugly backlash, racists will learn that eliminating privilege and learning to actively listen and respect other cultures and languages isn't scary and is for the betterment of everyone everywhere.