May 15, 2014

Emerson Windy in a headdress

Dopey: Rapper Emerson Windy's Native American Shtick Sparks OutrageHip hop artist and "vaping" advocate Emerson Windy has gone all in with a faux-American Indian look and attitude, and Natives are asking him to cease and apologize.

Windy's latest video is for a track called "Peace Pipe" off his album Herojuana. In the video, as on the album cover, Windy wears a feather headdress. The song's lyrics are mainly about smoking marijuana (unsurprising, given the album's title), which he conflates with the idea of the Native American "peace pipe." The idea of a "peace pipe" itself is a vast oversimplification that dates to early contact with Europeans--American Indians from all over Turtle Island smoked pipes on various ceremonial occasions.

But that is likely beside the point--although there are some shots of what looks like a pipe in the video, Windy is more likely referring to a vape pen--akin to an e-cigarette but used to inhale vapor infused with concentrated marijuana oil. Windy actively promotes a line of flavorings called "Mr. Good Vape"; the company's logo can be seen at the start of the video, and bottles of flavorings such as "Melon Head" are on display in some shots.

The video also contains footage of powwow dancers, as well as shots of Monument Valley, on the Navajo Nation. Here it is:
The track's chorus goes "Pass that mothafuckin' Peace Pipe, CHIEF / Blow a bag with me," and in one section Windy riffs on "Arapahoe":

They call me CHIEF up in this bitch, ho
Windy know a rap-a-ho (heya heya)
Windy Boy a rap-a-ho (mic checka)
I'm a certified trap-a-ho
Gotta sell my dope, bitch I gotta go

Another manifestation of Windy's Native fetish is the name he uses for his followers and fans: "Windyians."

The American Indian Movement of Indiana and Kentucky has launched an online petition (which at the time of this posting has 631 of its target 1000 signatures) demanding that Windy remove the video from YouTube and apologize. Their statement reads, in part:

This song and video are disrespectful and demeaning towards Indigenous people of this land. We are also calling on Mr. Emerson Windy to MAN UP and remove the offensive video and send out a letter apologizing for his blatant disrespect and his insensitivity of the struggles of Native people of this land.
Put Down the Peace Pipe and Step out of the Costumes

By Carolina Castoreno“Peace Pipe” is the video that Emerson Windy released this week. In this video he is dressed in “Indigenous attire” and raps about passing a peace pipe. Let’s start with the fact that Emerson mixes the regalia of a headman, medicine man, and a brave all together. Really Emerson, you wanted to be all three? Talk about an identity crisis. This is the problem with wanting to play dress up; people can’t even get that part right. If you wanted to portray a football player, would you also carry a baseball bat or a hockey stick? Why in 2014 is it still trendy to put on “Indian” costumes? But then again, just go to any typical Midwestern Pow Wow, and all you will see are non-Natives in costumes. That’s another issue we need to address in Indian Country, but I digress.

So you want play Indian? You want “smoke ‘em good peace pipe?” Please, pile on the stereotypes. A peace pipe is not a recreational tool to give you a good buzz. The pipe is a gift from our Mother Earth to be used ceremoniously only. It is not a plaything. When you portray it as just another vehicle for getting high, you perpetuate the negative imagery that society paints on Natives, that we are all drunks and like to “smoke peyote.” News flash, we don’t smoke it. What you are doing is equivalent to someone using a rosary or prayer beads in a sacrilegious manner. It demeans our spiritual beliefs.

I read Mr. Windy’s bio on his official site. He appears to enjoy philanthropy and spreading awareness about causes such as homelessness. Those are very commendable acts. The bio also states that Emerson likes to “push the limits.” Well, he has indeed pushed the limits with the Native community. Not even Native rappers would dare insult our elders or ancestors by playing dress up in a music video. Take for example Frank Waln, who gifted the anthem “Oil for Blood” to the Anti-Keystone XL Movement. While many of his videos depict the poverty stricken reservation life, never does he pose as a holy man or pervert his own culture to turn a dollar.

Has our society learned nothing from the countless incidents of “Black Face” or even “Yellow Face” in cartoons and movies? There was internet outrage over the group of white students who threw an MLK party by dressing up as “thugs with watermelons.” Did Mr. Windy condone their behavior? In a society where people of color continue to be pushed to the margins and still face racism from majority groups, it is unacceptable to have to face discrimination from one another.
From Gray Wolf on Facebook:I am amazed that not more people are speaking out on the outright insult and disrespect perpetrated by someone who due to the suffering of his own people, should KNOW better! Here we have this ignorant uneducated house negro dressing up in "redface," disrespecting the sacred pipe and prancing around like some Las Vegas showgirl and only a few so-called activists standing up and speaking out on this vile behavior! Okay I know, we are all busy...but too busy to address insult and disrespect??? I will remind you all, what we allow will continue! We ALL need to speak out on this issue...Comment:  I think these critics have missed a key point in Windy's presentation. "Chief" is a slang word meaning:(v.) To smoke marijuana. Commonly used as slang for "getting high," "smoking up," etc.

Yo let's go chief after school today.
So this isn't just some random appropriation of the Plains headdress and peace pipe. There's a whole subculture associating getting high with "chiefin." Which they're visualizing as being an Indian chief.

Meanwhile, how original is it for Windy to conflate the tribal name "Arapaho" or "Navajo" with the derogatory word "ho"? Not original at all.

Get a clue, loser. There's nothing original about any part of this act. If you have no talent, find a job doing something else, please.

For more on the subject, see Humboldt Republic's "Chief Life" T-Shirts and Snoop Dogg in a Headdress.

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