Culture Not Costumes, A Regalia Year in Review
In this article, Indian Country Today Media Network takes a look back at some of the 2011 coverage regarding the issues of culture and regalia.
Regalia, as many ICTMN readers might be aware, are often mistakenly referred to as “costumes” which would indicate dressing up as something, which you are not on a daily basis.
However, indigenous regalia which is a beautiful testament and reflection of our culture and heritage—oftentimes seen at a pow wow, has been both respected and bastardized in 2011—sometimes this regard has been displayed out of naiveté’ and other times out of downright disrespect and irreverence.
In this review—some coverage is a testament toward respect while other coverage proves unfortunately otherwise.
January 25, 2011 - Carol Berry
In this article, elder pow wow goers recall the period after World War II as a time when women dancers initiated a break from traditional dance styles and began to share some of the footwork, flashiness and color of men’s fancy dance styles, much to the disapproval of others.
In the article, Berry explains how 30 years later, regalia has now grown brighter and more edgy with “the shine and shimmer of taffeta” and fabrics in “neon hues, sequin-spangled net, metallic microfibers and rainbow-beribboned shawls.”
March 20, 2011 – ICTMN Staff
This pow wow photo gallery is a sample of the massive collection maintained by The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The actual collection boasts more than 300,000 images and includes the single Ponca Indian in dance regalia in 1898 in Omaha, Nebraska and modern pow wow photos such as ones from the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
April 15, 2011 – ICTMN Staff
A well-produced video/commercial for the 2010 Tulsa Pow Wow produced by Ryan Red Corn, Sterlin Harjo and the production staff at Buffalo Nickel Creative shows dancers putting the finishing touches on their regalia.
August 5, 2011 - Stephanie Woodard
In this article jewelry makers and elders Germaine Tremmel and Bird Mountain speak of their jewelry-making workshop, Sacred Hoop Within.
According to Tremmel, Hunkpapa Lakota, materials used in Native American jewelry and regalia “demonstrate the ancient economic, social and spiritual relationships of peoples all over Turtle Island, who traded bone, horn, turquoise, metals, stones, shells, and other items that they used in personal adornment…Through regalia, the exchange of wealth became a way to show high status and influence and to demonstrate agreements that nowadays we could call treaties.”
October 10, 2011 - Sasha Houston Brown
In a letter to Glen T. Senk, CEO of Urban Outfitters Inc., Sasha Houston Brown, Dakota and Santee Sioux, writes of an unfortunate experience when visiting an Urban Outfitters store and expressed disgust at artist Ke$ha’s culturally offensive retail collection of “plastic dream catchers, artificial feather jewelry and hyper sexualized clothing featuring an abundance of suede, fringe and inauthentic tribal patterns.”
Citing the The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. Brown wrote, “Urban Outfitters Inc. has taken indigenous lifeways and artistic expressions and trivialized and sexualized them for the sake of corporate profit. Your company also perpetuates the worst stereotype of Indians.”
October 26, 2011 - ICTMN Staff
In this candid gallery, a series of photographs from Thosh Collins’ Facebook Page (Pima/Osage/Seneca-Cayuga) illustrates an evening of blatant disregard toward the honor of wearing Native regalia. Collins noted how Americans viewed Native culture as something that is no longer present and “our image is up for grabs for anyone to misuse.”
October 27, 2011 - ICTMN Staff
In an attempt to thwart and educate would-be Halloween celebrators, Students Teaching About Racism in Society launched its We’re a Culture, Not a Costume campaign to point out that stereotypical costumes such as blackface, geisha, American Indian or terrorists are degrading to their respective cultures. The posters appropriately state “This is not who I am, and this is not okay.”
November 3 and 14, 2011 - ICTMN Staff
Kardashian drama took place beginning in November when Courtney Kardashian dressed as Pocahontas during a taping of Dancing with the Stars. According to Us Magazine, Kourtney K. indicated the knee-high fringed boots, “completed her costume.”
Soon after, Kardashian momager, Kris Jenner used the term Indian-giver on Good Morning America referring to daughter Kim keeping her $2 million engagement ring.
When Tiger Lily Co. owner Tara Ryan sent an e-mail to Jenner asking her to publicly apologize for using the racist term, Jenner said she was “truly sorry” and “had no intention of hurting or offending anyone.” Jenner added, “I grew up in the 60s and in school it was a silly think (sic) kids would say if you took back a gift etc. and I’m sure kids never gave it a second thought as to the kind of pain it could cause…but I get it and profusely apologize.”
November 17, 2011 - ICTMN Staff
Katy Perry’s birthday party with a wild-west theme was not the brightest day in reverence to Native American regalia. Specifically, the image of Perry dressed in a pink cowboy outfit pointing a gun toward her husband Russell Brand who was wearing a full breastplate and a dream catcher tied to his waist.
December 7 and 8, 2011 - ICTMN Staff
In mid-November 2011, Duke University student Nicole Daniels was invited to a Pi Kappa Phi party and discovered via text the party’s theme: Pilgrims and Indians.
Daniels was not impressed and wrote an article in the university newspaper, the Chronicle. She outlined an excerpt in the fraternity’s e-mail invite: “In 1621 some crazy pilgrims had a pretty brutal harvest. Word on the street was they didn’t have enough food for half the bros in Plymouth. Then some hot natives came along with some extra food.… On Saturday, the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi will be honoring that party spirit. There will be a cornucopia of treats in our modern-day teepee. Tap into your inner pocahotness, wear a few feathers and party like you don’t care if you survive the winter.”
She refused to attend and the party sparked considerable controversy.
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