Karlie Kloss modeling for Victoria's Secret; professor Nancy Marie Mithlo; and Gwen Stefani in a controversial music video.

Nancy Marie Mithlo's TEDxAlbuquerque Talk on Images of Native Women


Nancy Marie Mithlo, Chiricahua Apache, is an Associate Professor of art history and American Indian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who recently gave a TEDx talk in Albuquerque regarding images of Native women in popular culture. She specifically addressed a number of recent incidents that received significant coverage here at ICTMN.com -- Paul Frank Industries, No Doubt, and Victoria's Secret.

She ended her talk by citing the title of a column by Sasha Houston Brown: "Nothing Says Native American Heritage Month Like White Girls in Headdresses."

It's an informative presentation that all Americans ought to hear -- we recommend forwarding this one.

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Cute's picture
Submitted by Cute on

pat walker cosme's picture
pat walker cosme
Submitted by pat walker cosme on
I feel very quiet and so grateful for that wonderful talk... thank you

indianmedicine's picture
Submitted by indianmedicine on
Ms. Mithlo, thank you for surfacing the "Stereo Typing" of the NAI people. It is said that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"; however the Entertainment Industry is the greatest harm to NAI Image when the best of Historical Records available are ignored. Unfortunately, the NAI Youth are exposed to this as "Historical Truth"; and they become "caught up" in the misinformation / disinformation of NAI History. As you surfaced, part of that developed because NAI People did not "Speak Up" on the error's of Society, and the other is Society did not "Speak Up" on the Errors of Red People's History being taught in our Schools.. I would like to see that the School Curriculum's include a "Living History" emphasis to US History as part of The Educating of American Society that has been neglected for so long. I hope you do not find this sexist, but you are an Attractive, Educated, Poised, Mature Native American Women; who is making a difference in what you do, say & project to American Society; and "Red People Culture". I hope you are looked on by the "Red Society" as an inspiration to carry forward for future generations to learn from. We know that "Indian Medicine" is that which Heals the Person & The Spirit and not necessarily taking medicinal measures for the Body only. That is a lesson to American Society that is not taught in our Schools, and presented as a Way of Life that "Red People" include in their culture. You are "Indian Medicine" to The Red Society Culture that is needed.

Mike Whiteley's picture
Mike Whiteley
Submitted by Mike Whiteley on
Dear Nancy Marie Mithlo, Thank you for sharing your insights into Native American culture. This is a very important subject, not only to Indian Americans, but also to all non-Indian Americans, such as myself. When I was a child, I was a 'paper feather' Indian. Of course, I would have chosen to be an Indian over a cowboy seven days a week, and, if I could have, I would have chosen to have been born a Native American, but, at the time, I couldn't change the culture of my upbringing as I was but a child, and knew no better that I was being programmed to stereotype a people that I am very fond of. This is sad. Later, as I entered Cub Scouts, again, I was exposed to the stereotype in various literature and project-related badges of this organization, which I would like to believe had a little more heart behind them than a desire to cast the Native American in a bad light. In fact, I was inspired to make my own rattle, work in leather, sing song, make and play drum, and perform a few simple dances, which have stuck with me all these years. The exposure was something that I craved, as Native American culture, for some, is a closed circle to the equally stereotypically labeled 'white man', which term is just as offense to me as the words: nigger, spick, gook, wetback, and many another prejudicial, hate-filled slang is to anyone it may be wrongfully directed to. But I am not your a-typical white man, even if I bear the name Whiteley. I am a human being. That's all. My birth land is Oroville, in Northern Calironia. I was born in the vulgar year of 1970. I despised the cultural divisions that were readily apparent to my eyes, though I was but a child then. I saw blacks living in a run-down, trashy suburb that few white people visited; Mexicans isolated in small, shanty villas on the edges of farmlands; Asians, transplanted by our government into predominantly white neighborhoods, where they were shunned by many of their new neighbors, who all thought they were going to eat their dogs for dinner; and I saw Native Americans, sadly hanging on by a thread of hope that one day they would not have to face another death of a Brother or Sister, Mother of Father, of theirs from alcoholism, suicide, and drug addiction, or depression, because, like all the other non-predominant cultures of the day, they were alienated for fear of superficial surface differences. Fortunately, for me, my hometown has a semi-large population of Native Maidu, and is the discovery place of the ultra-famous Ishi. By virtue of this fact, I was lucky to have parents who were active in softball when I was young, and who closely aligned themselves with one of these families, in particular. I became very close to the Matron of this beautiful family, who took me under her wing, and both cherished me as one of her own, and who taught me some of her ways. We would often go camping, and there I would sit and talk with her for hours upon hours about life. She would teach me to read the fire, to honor the Great Spirit, have respect for your Elders, how to bead, what a Turtle really was, and something I will never forget, which was the heat of her fastball! I would sit in for my mother, who was her catcher. And not only did I gain respect for her, I also gained respect for my own Mother. No on could pitch like Patsy Seek, as she is known, could. No one! Even as I write this to you, I am filled with emotion, and tears are in my eyes, for I know some of what she has endured in her lifetime of dedicated counseling to the many children of her peoples, who suffered in schools, for reasons that only she could truly understand. It breaks my heart to think of what the Native American has had to endure, and continues to endure in this so-called civilized world of ours. It is a crime and a shame, and a stain on the human record, that this is so. Now, I will be the first to admit that there is a certain charm that Native Americans naturally exude. I like to think that this comes from deep within a soul, which is still so closely aligned to the Great Mother and Great Father as manifested anywhere and everywhere in nature. I find the tough, leathery skin, deeply etched Crow's feet from many a good time, plump body with warm embracing arms, and charming smile that knows no bounds, upon my Indian Mother's face, to be some pretty darn good qualities in anyone, but especially her. I always wanted to grow up and marry one of her daughters, alas, I found my True Love to be from another culture altogether different than my own, however, and not Native America. Just the same, I do find it derogatory that even today in this wonderful new age, where information is right at our fingertips, and Native American cultures have re-gained a certain degree of recognition from our government, which in my opinion is still not enough, that people take it upon themselves to exploit the Indian for any reason, be that selfish greed, or just plain outright ignorance of the sacred reverence with which True Indians hold their cultural dress, dance, song, and ways. It is gross, and hurtful, shameful, and leads to the promulgation of a lie, versus the Great Truth that is inherent in all the teachings of all the Native American Tribes I have ever took the time to get to know, even just a little. I thank you, for my Native American Mother, Her Mothers, Her Fathers, Her Brothers, and Her Sisters, and most of all, for Her Children, of which I am one. Taking the time as you have done, and no doubt will continue to do, gives me Great Hope for a future where there is a chance for Peace on Earth. This may not occur for some time as deep wounds take a long time to heal. Yet, the process of healing is underway, is growing stronger with each day that one, such as yourself, takes the time to be 'Idle No More,' stand up and make a difference in our world, by educating people about these character defects, if not outright shortcomings of our time here on Earth. I wish you, and all your Ancestors the very best in your Great Work. Sincerely, Michael Whiteley

Chris Foote 's picture
Chris Foote
Submitted by Chris Foote on
I guess I know too many Indians to realize this is an issue. My wife is indigenous and the girl who I should have married is Indian so maybe I do see them as sexy. Maybe it's just because I am part Indian. The activism is the first of these so called negative stereotypes I have seen. I highly suspect that the rape stats have much more to do with the poor standard of living on many reserves than this imagery.