On Cultural Appropriation
I am a Caucasian, and this is my stuff. Is this cultural appropriation?
I don’t think so.
It’s called having a healthy appreciation for Native American culture, and a deep respect for both nature and my personal spirituality. Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by Aboriginal culture, lifestyle, and spirituality. My father took me to Pow-Wows in our area, and put me in a camp that taught me a bit about the Aboriginal culture (since that was the tribe that was in my area at the time). I learned how to set a teepee, how to light a fire by rubbing sticks, how to make pemmican and a tea using cedar pines, among many other such things.
Many (if not all of) the items above were bought from Native Americans at Pow-Wows andNative American art stores.
My spirituality is similar if not somewhat related to some of the Native American beliefs, and I was raised to love and respect nature. I identify as otherkin, and am a Green Pagan Witch.
This is not cultural appropriation.
[Image removed for being egregiously awful]
…And this is.
Using such a sacred item in such a disrespectful way is offensive.
Please understand this difference, and stop whining and throwing “cultural appropriation” everywhere.
Sweetie, you might want to sit for this, because I have a lot to say.
You don’t get to decide what is and isn’t cultural appropriation. The person who is hurt gets to tell you what is hurtful, not the other way around.
Let’s start with some fact checking:
‘Aboriginal’ isn’t a tribe. It’s a word describing indigeneity. The original native folks of a land are its aboriginal people. For example, white people are aboriginal in Europe.
Therefor ‘The Aboriginal Culture’ was not ‘the tribe in your area at the time’
What time, by the way? Do you think that the NDNs in your area are gone?
“I learned how to set a teepee”
So a plains culture, then? I hope?
“how to light a fire by rubbing sticks”
If you weren’t using a bowdrill, this is some bullshit. Nature Survival Skills aren’t an NDN thing, they’re a nature scouts thing. NDN people have routinely used the most convenient technology available to them; bowdrills and flint/striker were popular pre-contact because they were the height of technology in the 1490’s. Casual observation tells me that the most popular firelighting method among NDNs is this:
(beaded lighter cover by Mary Whiteshield Lomax)
Cedars and pines are two different kinds of tree. Cedar pines aren’t a thing. Both of them will make a tea that cures scurvy, though.
“Many (if not all of) the items above were bought from Native Americans at Pow-Wows and Native American art stores.”
Yes good. It’s good to support native artists. But here’s the thing though: You can still appropriate using things that you’ve bought from NDN artisans.
Have fun with your pagan self, but don’t think for a minute that you know shit about ‘Native American Beliefs’. Because you think that those words mean something. NDN spirituality is not monolithic, a frillion nations have a frillion belief systems, some of which are mutually exclusive to others and none of which are based on converting outsiders. We do not recruit.
You have a problem, and it’s name is romanticism and/or exoticism.
It’s not that you’re buying/owning.displaying in your home art made by NDN people. That’s cool. In fact, that’s invited.
It’s that you’re doing it because you think it has some kind of deeper meaning than ‘look at this amazing and beautiful art that I bought!’
It’s because you think that making fire with sticks and preparing pemmican and drinking cedar or pine tea or otherwise engaging in anachronistic play is somehow genuinely NDN. Let me ask you, would you visit a living museum like Old Sturbridge Village or Colonial Williamsburg to feel more genuinely white? To feel -deeply connected- to something magical and spiritual?
This attitude is not less hurtful to me than fucking hipsters frolicking in fields in war bonnets.
I want you to take a few minutes and go watch Chimamanda Adichie talking about The danger of a single story. I can wait.
The kind of racism you’re exhibiting HURTS ME.
When you only speak about Native American people in the past tense, in certain contexts. When you only mention us as pertains to White history. When you talk about us in stereotypical ways and think that we have just one culture and that you can be a part of it. When you conflate being NDN with anachronism and animals and magic. This is racist. This is how racist thought is cemented in your mind and the minds of others.
When you make posts like this absolving YOUR form of racism because it’s not as egregiously awful as OTHER forms of racism, it adds one more post to the ponderous pile of this shit that creates the pervasive cultural notion that this is what people should think of when they hear ‘Native American’ , and IT HURTS REAL NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE. It creates, in the minds of the people that see your post, a stereotype - a caricature of what Native people are/should be like that erases us in reality and removes us from their perception of the modern world.
I am tired of cultural appropriation.
I am tired of having to constantly be an educator of people who largely don’t want to be educated and of people I’m trying to educate getting self-righteously angry (And refusing to learn. And continuing to be angry) when they’re confronted. I am tired of being -hurt- by racism. I am tired of people who claim that they love and admire ‘Native American Culture’ but in fact know fuck all about Pan-Indian culture or the fact that ‘Native American’ is a blanket term for hundreds of hugely disparate indigenous nations across two continents and that we do NOT have just one culture.
And before you argue that you didn’t MEAN to be racist or that you were just having fun, before your many white allies rally around you to tell me how wrong I am and what a good person you are and how you are not a racist…know this:
Racism is not in your intent.
Your intent is immaterial in how racist your actions are.
This isn’t about you BEING a racist. It’s about you DOING A THING that is racist.
Your intent doesn’t change it. Your ignorance of its meaning doesn’t change it. It’s got nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with the meaning of your action in the context of sociocultural history.
Please watch this video.
If you think that the stuff you did at summercamp or the DEEP FEELS about the art you bought are somehow ‘celebrating’ anyone’s culture, that speaks to some really problematic shit in how you’ve been educated, what you’ve been exposed to, what you think you know about what Native Americans are and who we are. And while it’s not your fault that the culture of your upbringing has handed you that shit on a silver platter and said ‘eat it’, and not your fault that you did eat it without knowing better, it’s still bullshit and it’s still hurtful. You have the Internet at your disposal. You can become educated as to what Native Americans really are like and what we really are about. And it’s not this Colors of the Wind bullshit.
And while I’m at it re: educating you, lemme just grab a quote from a subsequent post:
“It’s like nobody cared up until a few months ago, and now everybody is crying “cultural appropriation”!”
FOR FUCK’S SAKE, CHILD.
WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS SHIT FOR THE LAST 200+ YEARS. YOU ONLY STARTED NOTICING A FEW MONTHS AGO. THAT DOESN’T MAKE THIS SHIT NEW.
Look at your life, look at your choices.
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