May 11, 2011

Geronimo "Make Believe" t-shirt

Adrienne Keene writes about a t-shirt she noticed in her Native Appropriations blog:

Um, Not Make BelieveSpotted this on Pinterest, comes from a company in Omaha called Make Believe Clothing Co. Best part? It's called the "Geronimo" shirt. Here, I wrote them a note, and re-designed their shirt for them.

Dear Make Believe Clothing Company,

You might need to sit down for this news. It might come as a shock. Guess what? American Indians are not "make believe." There are real Indians alive today! Omg, I know, right? Your shirt seems to imply that we're pretend or fantasy characters.
Comment:  Adrienne goes on to speculate that "maybe you were trying to make a social commentary about how this particular stereotyped image of a Native person is make believe and only bears minimal resemblance to the millions of Native peoples alive today, or even to Geronimo." Maybe. Or maybe it was some sort of statement about belief. E.g., if you believe, and imagine the world ("make believe") you want, you can be like a generic Indian, who dreams of peace and harmony and buffalo and tipis. I.e., a natural paradise--a land untainted by pollution, plastic, and population.

Actually, since the company name is Make Believe, they probably didn't intend much of a message. They probably could put any dreamy or starry-eyed person above the logo. (Note the stars where an earring should be.) Be like an Indian, or anyone who thinks, and "make believe."

Whatever the message is, the shirt fails because it's unclear. It also fails because that message has nothing to do with Geronimo. You could find Indians who "make believe," but they probably won't be death-dealing warriors like Geronimo. Put Sherman Alexie or Louise Erdrich on the shirt and then you can talk about Indians who make believe.

For more on the subject, see AIM Fights "Runs with Beer" T-Shirt and Michigan Opposes "Indian Name" T-Shirts.

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