November 24, 2012

Warrior women wear headdresses?

Michelle Shining Elk's posting on Crystle ("Crissy") Lightning in a headdress led to another debate on Facebook. From Carol:Bravo to Crissy for not being afraid to take her own stand! We may not all agree with this but we must surely admire such courage and I respect her greatly for following her own truth. I would expect nothing less from one raised by such a strong, compassionate, single mother who became her own warrior to raise her children in such a crazy world. Native's have suffered long from the historical trauma inflicted upon us. Family relationships were destroyed when we were forced to follow the European tradition of male-female relationships. We no longer follow our own tradition of holding women and children sacred. I admire all the women out there who become their own warriors!!Bravo to Michelle for calling out Crissy for violating a basic tenet of Plains culture: that women don't wear headdresses.

In response, Carol posted the following links:

Native American Women Warriors Vice President Sgt. Maj. Julia Kelly, representing the Crow Nation, is a retired Command Sergeant Major of the Army.

Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute.

American Indian Women: The Warriors

My response:

The first headdress probably was bestowed by tribal leaders to recognize a soldier's service. The second may have been worn as a publicity stunt in violation of cultural norms. Or--since Winnemucca was Paiute and the headdress isn't a Plains headdress--her tribe may have had different rules.

The only explanation that applies here is "publicity stunt in violation of cultural norms." The other explanations don't apply to Crystle Lightning. There's still no justification for a young Native woman to appropriate a Plains headdress for her own commercial purposes.

Now that you've found a couple of exceptions to the rule, try addressing the rule:

An Open Letter to Non-Natives in HeaddressesFor the most part, headdresses are restricted items. In particular, the headdress worn by most non-Natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations. These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.

So unless you are a Native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.
P.S. Crystle isn't a warrior, so your posting on women warriors is irrelevant.

Round 2

More comments from Carol:Who are you to judge the paths we take? Are all battles fought only on the battlefield? Before you judge a person's path in life perhaps you should walk in their moccasins for a while. We are all warriors in our own way.Lana-Rae:Don't the Crow women in Montana wear them? I know they do a dance...some kind of war dance w/ headdresses on?And Andrea:Well if we all do our research into history it would seem NATIVE women did wear headdresses to honor their fallen fathers, brothers and husbands who earned their right of passage as warriors and this is not discounting that Native woman were also considered warriors who were clan leaders and in this day would not a woman be considered a warrior who has served her country or nation?

No, the posting on women warriors is not irrelevant, it's fact and facts cannot be denied. Crystle's intentions were honorable to honor Native America and the First Nations People and to dispute otherwise is insult to her and her mother whom I have known for many years and whom I consider a true warrior woman.

Let us stop the division, it serves no purpose.
Who are you to judge that Crystle is right and tens of thousands of traditional Natives are wrong when they say women shouldn't wear headdresses? I'll go with the vast majority of Natives over a tiny minority of Natives on this issue.

Crystle isn't honoring a fallen father, brother, or husband. She isn't a Crow woman and she isn't performing a traditional ceremony. I'm pretty sure she hasn't served in the military. So again, irrelevant.

Every person who wears a headdress believes their intentions are honorable. As does every person who stereotypes Indians: Johnny Depp in his Flying Nun costume, Saginaw Grant in the execrable Dudesons episode, every fan who has cheered Chief Wahoo or Chief Illiniwek, et al.

Their intentions are irrelevant when judging the outcome. So are Crystle's. Like every other woman who wears a headdress inappropriately, she's violating the tradition stated above. Period.

When you find a case of a Native woman honoring a ballerina from another tribe who's also wearing a headdress, please let us know. Because that's about the only case that would apply to this situation.

Meanwhile, you haven't begun to address the standard position stated above. Nor have you begun to address the blatant stereotyping involved in donning a headdress like a million Indian wannabes. I guess these issues are too hot to handle because you keep ducking them.

As for the so-called division, quit disagreeing with Michelle and me, Andrea, and the division will stop. We're stating the standard position held by most Natives. You're disagreeing with them because you arrogantly think you know better.

Round 3

Andrea again:LOL, I don't believe you got your tens of thousands of figures by taking a census. Traditional Indians/Indigenous people do not criticize period. You are right Native Celebs she is not a Crow woman, she is CREE and get your facts straight. Arrogance is not my style which is being exhibited here by your criticism of this fine young woman.I've read thousands of articles, blogs, and comments on the Plains headdress subject. Unless you're a Plains Indian or have read about Plains headdresses as much as I have, my understanding of the situation wins.

Another respondent raised the issue of Crow women wearing headdresses legitimately. Learn to read all the comments so I don't have to explain them to you.

I guess you're not Native since you're criticizing me. In fact, you're well-known for criticizing anyone who challenges your positions--e.g., your criticism of Adrienne Keene in the Johnny Depp affair. Fortunately, I'm not bound by that restriction.

It's arrogance to state the position held by most Natives? Wow. I guess you know as little about the definition of "arrogance" as you do about the Plains headdress tradition.

Again, you haven't begun to address the standard headdress position stated above. Nor have you begun to address the blatant stereotyping involved in donning a headdress like a million Indian wannabes. Whenever you want to start addressing these issues, go ahead.

For more on the subject, see Crystle Lightning = Maria Tallchief? and Crystle Lightning in a Headdress.

No comments: