Photo by Josh Disher. Source:
Tassels in her prop canoe during a show

Burlesque Dancer Tomahawk Tassels Suspends Indian-Themed Act


Minneapolis-based burlesque dancer Tomahawk Tassels is hanging up the sexy Native American shtick -- for now, at least.

Local culture guide reports that Tassels, who was born Amanda Riley and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, won't be wearing a feathered headdress or buckskin bikini when she performs tonight at local venue Ground Zero with Dr. Farrago's Burlesque Theatre, nor will she on Saturday at Amsterdam Bar & Hall as part of Le Cirque Rouge. 

Tassels, who says her father, whom she did not know growing up, was an unenrolled Cherokee Indian, has weathered criticism over her costume and act for years. Tassels' situation of late is a strange one: She's been attending Idle No More events wearing what many natives would consider a parody of traditional dress, and finding a chilly reception.  According to, Tassels fears for her safety. However, she also says that the Violence Against Women Act is a factor:  “I’ve heard the statistics [about the higher rates of rape and assault for Native women] quoted to me constantly. My response is that rape is awful anytime -- I don’t support that… it’s one of the reasons why I’m suspending at the moment. Maybe VAWA will get passed, maybe it won’t be as much of an issue.” 


Although cognizant of the statistics, Tassels doesn't feel there's a connection to what she does: “Getting onstage, you are empowered. It’s not saying I’m sexually available to everyone in this room, it’s not an open invitation.” She also sees attacks on her as a form of blaming the victim. “Why blame the woman when the issue at hand is the male dominated culture that is negative and hateful toward women?” she told

She gave an explanation for her decision on her Facebook page which read, in part:

I have raised the white flag. Said my piece. Suspended the art that is supposedly offensive. Questioned, debated, gotten angry, felt misunderstood, cried until I can't cry anymore. Blocked all the haters. Tried to remain humble, honest, and true to myself. Now, I must move on. ... I am willing to step back. Listen. Research. Educate. Strengthen myself. Find clarity of vision.

Although Tassels is speaking in terms of surrender and education, she is apparently going to keep using her stage name even if she leaves the costumes and props behind. Some Natives see that as evidence she isn't really serious about change, and they've organized a Retirement Protest for Tomahawk Tassels tonight.

At Last Real Indians, Chase Iron Eyes offers his support to the protest, making a direct connection between Tassels and "the un-nerving Violence Against Women, especially Indigenous women, the rapes, the molestation, the beatings, the recent gang rape of a Native woman -that’s what Tomahawk Tassels promotes."

Below is a video of Tassels doing her act:

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Yolanda Moore's picture
Yolanda Moore
Submitted by Yolanda Moore on
I think that you have a verry cute show, keep up the good work and don't let any one tell you what you should be doing or not, they don't pay your bills, If you are happy doing what your doing break a leg, I can say this I was a dancer for over 40 years, and wish I could still work, God Bless you and keep dancing.

w.j.mitchell's picture
Submitted by w.j.mitchell on
first of all she has on clothes that men wore atleast bottoms women never wore thoses,ever

Stefanie's picture
Submitted by Stefanie on
I wish people would stop finding reasons to bitch about whatever they can find. Get a life!

dragonsn24's picture
Submitted by dragonsn24 on
I am a person who has seen the US coast to coast. Been to Canada many times. Visited more than a few strip clubs with friends (even co-ed clubs). I have never seen a performer present an act like this one. It's not art, it's porn. Presented for the sexual arousal of men, period.

NATIVE PRIDE's picture
Submitted by NATIVE PRIDE on
That was the most stereotypical shit I ever seen. Not offensive my ass!

jimmy blue thunder's picture
jimmy blue thunder
Submitted by jimmy blue thunder on
and this is not racist let her try it in blackface &see what happens