If a Native person sees you in that headdress, will you feel awkward? Do you feel you are simply borrowing from a culture’s style because you think it’s awesome or that it’s a harmless case of flattery?
Sporting that headdress or other imitation accessories that were not received through cultural rights or permission and the understanding that comes with it, means being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism.
We embrace raw, creative, and authentic self-expression. But by embracing the current tribal trends you aren’t asserting yourself as an individual, you are situating yourself comfortably amongst a culture of power that continues to oppress Native peoples.
Native peoples are still here, fighting for basic human & religious rights, and for respect. But because the majority of society learns about Native cultures in textbooks, cartoons, and movies, the realities they face and even their existence remains invisible. At Halloween, Indian costumes are sold alongside Spiderman, mermaids, and fictional characters. Many of us grew up playing “cowboys and indians” or watching sports that have Indian mascots. These experiences support the entitlement of non-native people to reenact our storybook versions of exotic, romanticized stereotypes (noble savage, warriors, pristine environmentalists, shamans or magic indians). It is a kind of American Indian image painted by white oppressors. So sporting that headdress means being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism, perpetuating stereotypes that native people have been fighting against for just as long.