Michelle Williams Sports Controversial Indian Look on Cover of 'AnOther Magazine'

March 12, 2013

Actress Michelle Williams, who appears in the film Oz: The Great and Powerful, is featured on the cover of the Spring/Summer issue of AnOther Magazine dressed as an Indian -- a styling choice that is not going over well in Indian country.

In the photo, Williams wears long braids, beads, feathers, and what Ruth Hopkins described at Jezebel.com as "a decidedly stoic expression." But Wiliams' outfit eschews regalia, consisting instead of flannel jeans, and a robe. "Are they endeavoring to capture the spirit of the American Indian Movement (AIM) circa 1973?" Hopkins, an ICTMN contributor, wondered. "Is this an ad for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) or the American Indian College Fund (AICF)? Nope. It's a 33 year old white actress hyping her latest Hollywood project by wearing a cheap costume designed to make her look like she's the member of another race."

Connecting some dots, Hopkins and others see an issue that goes beyond a single ill-advised photograph.

For starters, Williams' current screen role is as Glinda, a witch in the fantasy world created by L. Frank Baum of Wonderful Wizard of Oz fame. (Note the tagline on the magazie cover: "There's No Place Like Home") It is a lesser-known fact -- though better known among Indians than non-Indians -- that Baum wrote two virulently anti-Indian editorials while he was editor of the Aberdeen, SD-based Saturday Pioneer. It is safe to say that Baum isn't Indian country's favorite children's author. It's a pity Williams didn't know that, or keep it in mind, when she sat for an interview with the L.A. Times last week. “Quadlings, Tinkers and Munchkins didn’t mean much to me; it wasn’t my language,” Williams said, referring to various races depicted in Baum's world. “But when I thought of them as Native Americans trying to inhabit their land or about women getting the right to vote, it made a lot more sense.”

That remark was the basis for the headline of Aura Bogado's piece at TheNation.com: "Native Americans Are Not Munchkins: An Open Letter to Michelle Williams." "I hope you’ll read through this letter and think twice before once again choosing to participate in actions that preserve deeply racist convictions in popular culture," Bogado writes. "By wearing a braided wig and donning feathers, and calling that 'Native American' in a photo shoot, you’re perpetuating the lazy idea that Natives are all one and the same. Because you were born and spent your childhood in Montana, I expected more from you."

The cover in question is one of a few that AnOther Magazine is featuring on its Spring/Summer issue. All were shot by Willy Vanderperre and can be seen at FashnBerry.




Lori P.
Submitted by Lori P. on

It's amazing how the non Native always want to try and be Native. Commercial representation is always a far fetched idea of who we really are and the young actresses in these ads should realize we are real people who do not like to be depicted by there theory of who we are. America needs to get it together and realize there's more to life that trying to be someone else.

LuzMaria Lifeis
Submitted by LuzMaria Lifeis on

Despite, the issue of Dress, She knows her Roots, where she came from what she is doing, its nice to know she is fully dress, Even more so, than most i've seen!.. My aunties used to wear clothes like these years ago, i feel no derogatory displacement here, Traditions still shows us. The Women should be Respected.

A Random Navajo
Submitted by A Random Navajo on

When will Hollywood use actual Native actors more often than Whites in Native roles?
Since it is obvious that choosing white actors for native roles is a sign of their ignorance to really recognize younger Native actors who would better fit into many roles.

Glen Douglas
Submitted by Glen Douglas on

If Baum was german and wrote "The wizard of Oz" after calling for the extermination of jews,gypsies etc. his book would be buried some where. Why is it ok for some reason for this to continue as well as the Washington "Redskins" ,the Cleveland Indians logo which looks very similar to the caricatures that nazis used to depict jews ? Why are Native people the only ones treated this way in popular media and sports? Racism, I guess so.

Submitted by Wade on

Oh please! Much ado about nothing in this case. Whatever happened to "imitation is the highest form of flattery?"

Submitted by Anonymous on

Seriously? This is what we're wasting our time worrying about? We got bigger fish to fry, Indian country!!! Get a life and make a difference for the people! Stop worrying about someone wearing her hair in braids with a feather, omg!

Give It A Break
Submitted by Give It A Break on

I see nothing wrong with this look or choice she has made. Its a feather and necklace, come on. One trip next month to the big social gathering in Albuquerque and you'll have more and even the reverse. Indians imitating blacks, etc. Go to the trading capital of New Mexico and see even worse. We have lots of battles to be fought and fighting, but this is not one. Let it go.

Lee Ann TallBear
Submitted by Lee Ann TallBear on

Now this is what I call being over-sensitive! She is not carrying a pipe; wearing a headdress; or a skin tight piece of leather draped over one shoulder. If we are going to be the "stereotype police" that is about all we will ever get done and there is much to do in Indian Country to make it better.