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Cultural Appropriation: “I Am Not A Costume”

Cultural Appropriation. Stereotyping. You may have no idea, but these things can have a greater impact on certain people more than you think.

On October 27, 2015, Lasell had the great privilege of having writer, blogger and activist Dr. Adrienne Keene speak on the issue of the current day view of contemporary Native cultures.

It is so easy to get caught up in fashion trends and pop culture. It is so easy to think that wearing a headdress and moccasins will be adorable to wear on Halloween. Or having a neon colored dreamcatcher hanging in your dorm room is a cute touch. Dr. Keene informed the audience how these cultural appropriations are eating away from the sacred aspects of this culture.

The stereotyping of the generic Indian, or the Hollywood image of Indians, shows little to no respect of how much importance there is in every detail of the Native American culture.

Within the 562+ tribes of Native Americans in the United States, there is a wide range of diversity - each tribe has their own language, government, and spiritual practices, making them all unique and beautiful in their own way. To put your own (incorrect) twist on values of a lifestyle is demeaning to Native people, causing their self-esteem to decrease and have a negative impact on their life. It erases what they really are and their significance to the world. Who cares if you did not “intend” to poke fun at the native culture - you still gave offense to them simply by taking their sacred beliefs so lightly.

Dr. Keene makes the point that there are ways to go about respectfully wearing Native based clothing. The easy solution is to buy from the original designers themselves. This is more appropriate because the Native people know how to represent themselves and are aware of when certain items cross the line for non-natives to be wearing.

Beyond Buckskin Boutique offers native based designs all done in a respectful manner. Visit their site to view the beautiful and original work of the Native people.

Next time you are on the edge of thinking if what you are wearing or purchasing could come across as offensive THINK of the three S’s:

  1. Source- where is this coming from?

  2. Significance- could this be offensive?

  3. Similarity- how does this relate to the Native American culture?

To learn more, visit Dr. Keene's website/blog and Facebook page, to become aware and share your own discussion points on this topic.

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