But Why Can't I Wear a Hipster Headdress?
The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has been created perpetuated by Hollywood and only bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures.
The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance.
"Playing Indian" has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstrel shows or dressing up in blackface. Like my first point said, you're stereotyping and collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you're asserting your power over them.
Yes, absolutely. But, I'll paraphrase Jess Yee in this post, and say these are very real issues and challenges in our communities, but when the only images of Natives that Americans see are incorrect, and place Natives in the historic past, it erases our current presence, and makes it impossible for the current issues to exist in the collective American consciousness. Our cultures and lives are something that only exist in movies or in the past, not today. So it's a cycle, and in order to break that cycle, we need to question and interrogate the stereotypes and images that erase our current presence--while we simultaneously tackle the pressing issues in Indian Country. They're closely linked, and at least this is a place to start.
As I've said many times, all these things are linked in the minds of many Americans. They oppose tribal sovereignty, think Indians get too many handouts, don't want to hear about America's genocidal history, and love their mascots and headdresses. If you dismiss Indians as figments of the imagination, you don't have to think about climate change, budget cuts, or artifact theft and how these things affect real people.
For more on wannabes wearing headdresses, see
Indian headdresses at Coachella
Swedish "chief" dances with tomahawk
Coyote headdress and other tribal fashions
Exploitation upsets Mardi Gras exploiters
Kesha in headdress and warpaint
For more on what's wrong with this, see What's So Wrong About Kesha? and The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.