June 14, 2010

"Cherokee Heritage" in Extreme Poodles

Adrienne Keene of the Native Appropriations blog finds another example of stereotyping for us. This comes from the Extreme Poodles grooming contest:

TLC's Extreme Poodles includes some Extreme Stereotyping

Contestants were allowed to "pre-dye" their poodles (with non-toxic veggie dye), but all cutting, trimming, and styling was done on a stage, in front of an audience and judges. Each poodle had a theme, and when the groomers presented the final product, they dressed up and had music relating to their dog's "theme." Other themes? Lion King, Roller Derby, Garden of Eden....and then the family you see above, with their entry titled "Cherokee Heritage."

If you can't tell from the image, that's a poodle, shaved to look like a buffalo, with an Indian head carved on his side, complete with a headdress. The family are dressed as "Indians" with wigs, turkey feathers, and fake buckskin.
Another blog provides some "justification for this stunt:Apparently, Angela is part Cherokee, so she is celebrating her own heritage.

[S]he has conscripted her father and nephew into wearing Cherokee headdresses and bird costumes to stand and prance around the dog, while Angela herself beats a drum.
Adrienne tells us what's wrong with this nonsense:If you can see from the first image, her son is wearing a bird costume with wings, so I'm sure he was busy flapping around the table. And beating a "tomtom" (you can see it on the edge of the second picture)? That's not totally stereotypical or anything.

There are many cringe-inducing and anger-inducing parts of this, but the one that is bothering me more than anything is that she says she's "honoring her Cherokee heritage" through this display.

We can debate the finer points of tradition and whether or not Cherokees hunted buffalo (there were definitely some bison/buffalo running through the Eastern Woodlands way back in the day, but Cherokee aren't considered a buffalo culture like the Lakota/Dakota), but my point is that the stereotypes this woman drew on were Plains Indian stereotypes--the Hollywood Indian. Not anything close to Cherokee culture.

The write-ups I'm reading seem to be giving her a free pass because of her claims of "honoring," but me, not so much.
Comment:  Me, not at all. This is stupidity on a massive scale. It's bad enough to win the Stereotype of the Month contest in any month not containing the Dudesons.

Didn't all Indians live in one big Lakota/Cheyenne/Apache/Cherokee/Blackhawks tribe that roamed the Plains from Canada to Texas? That's what most Americans seem to think. Alas, most Americans are ignorant about Indians.

This reminds me of the Oklahoma shop selling t-shirts with Indian skulls in Plains headdresses. I think the owner used the whole "I'm Cherokee/honoring my ancestors" bit. Thereby proving our point: that stereotypical thinking begets more stereotypical thinking.

For more on the subject, see "Authentic" Chiefs from "Blackhawks" Tribe and The "Honor" of a Plains Chief.

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