Headdresses & Cultural Appropriation

Headdresses & Cultural Appropriation

Why do people sometimes dress up like “Indians”?

There are some important things to think about when tossing on that war bonnet…

  • Do you know which tribe uses that headdress and for what?

  • Did the person who sold it have permission to recreate and profit from it?

  • Is it a plastic one made to imitate a standardized stereotype of headdress?

  • 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?

  • If a Native person sees you in an Indian headdress, will you feel awkward?

  • Would you rock a blackface or a swastika at a party? How is this different?

Taking off the headdress is about respecting the realities faced by Native Peoples today.

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.

A Note on Spiritual Practice…

In pretty much every corner of the Earth, our own ancestors faced oppression against spiritual knowledge, as our tribal communities and the earth worshipping traditions assimilated to the dominant cultural. Many came to America to escape religious oppression.  We are all indigenous to the Earth. 

However, some of us have more privileges: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, being able-bodied, etc.  These privileges affect peoples’ access to power & resources that affect our livelihoods.  Before thinking that America is a melting pot, visualize a tossed salad of heritage and tradition.   We need to come together.  But before we can just do that, we’ve got some work to do.

We do not need to take on the earth-based spirituality of Native peoples to fulfill our feeling of cultural & spiritual lack.  A growing number of us are looking to our own roots and inside ourselves to recover and remember the ancient earth-based knowledge and spiritual wisdom of each of our ancestors.  Now can mark a beginning journey of consciously deepening our understanding and honoring our ancestors traditions.

Beyond the indian Headdress

Wanna really pay tribute to Native people?  Connect with 500+ years of Indigenous people’s resistance.

The world’s last remaining resources and pristine areas are also where indigenous communities live and are being targeted for the last dregs of ‘resources’.  Indigenous communities, by fighting to protect their traditional ways & resisting further assaults on on their ancestral homelands & sovereignty are leading the struggle to protect Mother Earth.  

Victory in reclaiming the earth will require a broad movement that can help bridge cultures, issues, and nations.  It is more critical now than ever to support these front-line communities as they protect their homelands from desecration!  As we recognize connections among our various issues, a new kind of movement can emerge, one that is larger, deeper and more powerful than anything we have seen yet.  Indigenous peoples’ voices and experiences are essential and central to our collective survival amongst global environment, ecological, and political catastrophes.  Their win is our win.  By learning about how to be an ally to these leaders we can help create the space for the massive changes that we all long for…
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