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Stop Helping! Band Angers Natives With Shirt; Insists It's Pro-Native

ICTMN Staff
12/2/13

Kudos to Mastodon for forging new territory in the proliferation of racist and sexist imagery.

We've seen offensive t-shirts that make light of Native suffering and depictions of sexualized Indian maidens. But the hugely popular metal band has combined the two in a Thanksgiving themed item that it has defended as an image that will raise consciousness to the Native side of the Thanksgiving myth.

The t-shirt depicts a smiling man in Pilgrim garb aiming a shotgun at a Native woman in skimpy clothing who is on her knees, wearing an expression of shock, and offering him a Thanksgiving turkey.

In the wee hours of the morning on November 29, the day after Thanksgiving, LastRealIndians sounded the alarm with a Facebook post entitled "LOOK AT THIS B.S." (We do not know when the shirt went on sale, but a writer at ChartAttack.com says it was early November.) Commenters jumped on the image and a serious backlash began brewing. While the image is no doubt shocking, it took a female Native Mastodon fan to put into words not only the anger but the disappointment in both Mastodon and the band's fans. In a long and poignant open letter to the band at idolatrine.tumblr.com, Mastodon fan Erica wrote:

My heart sank when I saw the new Mastodon “Thanksgiving” shirts. ... I want to believe that the shirt was designed with the intent of trying to disrupt the lie of American Thanksgiving; a holiday based on the story of Pilgrims and Indians coming together and sharing a nice meal, when in reality what occurred was genocide. And of course, a critical element of “conquering” Indigenous people used in the United States and Canada is the rape and enslavement of Native women. I want to believe that you knew all of that when you approved this shirt. But there are better ways to make political statements than printing t-shirts with disturbing imagery that reinforces racist myths rather than challenging them. ... There is nothing subversive or edgy about a scantily clad Native American woman on her knees serving a white man who is pointing a gun in her face.

Mastodon addressed the controversy on its own Facebook page -- well, sort of. The band's statement defends the shirt as a challenge to the Thanksgiving story -- which didn't seem to have upset too many people -- while ignoring the concerns raised by Natives about the choice of imagery:

"whether you choose to believe or not, the American Indians were massacred by the white settlers who became the Americans we are today. this shirt represents this atrocity and celebrating in the face of this atrocity is chilling. we may have a sick sense of humor, but we are far from being 'Racist' as some of you who might not get it are calling us."

Following Mastodon's response, Erica updated her original post with some choice comments from Mastodon fans:

“All I know is that I’m thankful for smallpox blankets lol”

"Fuck em, they all just drunks anyways"

“No the Indians gave us the land… And now they want it back… Indian givers… Who cares it’s a shirt u don’t like the shirt, use it for a diaper u cry ass cry babies”

"I’m sorry some of my ancestors were smarter, more industrious and slightly more ruthless than the peoples they found when they got here."

"Grow up and quit be bitches. If the Indians wanted to land,they should of fought harder. Fuck em"

"Rock and roll mother fuckers, man the fuck up! Dude has a gun pointing it a hot Indian with big tits!"

Erica also included several rebuttals from the Facebook thread, as well as this one, a great rule of thumb:

"Protip: if you have to publicly come out and say 'I’m not being racist!' you probably are."

As of Monday, December 2, Mastodon has not issued any further comment on the shirt.

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Comments

jayson thorne's picture
jayson thorne
Submitted by jayson thorne on
with all the sports mascots and false teaches of thanksgiving, not to mention Halloween I wish I could say I am surprised or even that upset- sad i lknow

Lyle McDonald's picture
Lyle McDonald
Submitted by Lyle McDonald on
Way to give them a ton of free publicity. You just sold them hundreds more shirts.

fran jones's picture
fran jones
Submitted by fran jones on
I think some of these Morons need to go to school and learn how to form a sentence. The only reason whites survived was because the Indigenous people had pity on them. They should have just let them starve-no need to save white trash!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Well, that settles that. Mastodon fans are even bigger dicks than Redskins fans. They must be a two-bit band anyway, I've never heard of them and I listen to a lot of metal (and punk, and classical and world music). Either way, it's not like we've never faced insummountable odds as a people before. This is just another group of assholes who never had ancestors die on a forced march out of their homeland. I'll make sure to plaster the area with anti-Mastodon grafitti should they ever come to this area (which I doubt as the Southwest has a large percentage of Native population).

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Let's have a ghost dance to get rid of all them whities who think nothing of what their ancestors have done to continue to live in hate. Go home you are all immigrants!

D.'s picture
D.
Submitted by D. on
Seriously, you are as ignorant as you have been depicted and you did it without any provocation.

Julie Blue Phienix's picture
Julie Blue Phienix
Submitted by Julie Blue Phienix on
Pathetic. Sexist. Racist. Let me see white boy on his knees with her rifle up his turkey.

hammertime's picture
hammertime
Submitted by hammertime on
White people cannot grasp what their ancestors did to the natives a few hundred years ago, most are brainwashed from birth .. so they got to poke fun and mock the natives with t-shirts and sick imagery like this..... only a complete dumbass would wear a shirt like that, but I know there are lots of them out there who dont know any better and might buy this shirt....... .there is a spiritual sickness in most of the white people... you can see it in how they war with one another all over the planet and how they depict other races.... this is just another small example of it....

bury's picture
bury
Submitted by bury on
I have enjoyed Mastodon. I'm also a big fan of B-movie/Exploitation culture. This is nothing more than visual sarcasm - and anyone at a movie convention would probably get it. Anyone at a rock show - well, I wouldn't make bets. Mastodon are not geniuses and I believe that they surely thought this was funny by way of making fun of the Thanksgiving myth in a B-movie style/Exploitation (i.e. so low-budget that it may exploit stereotypes to find success) style. The problem with that style is that it does in fact exploit stereotypes and the sarcasm can not always be taken for granted. What's interesting is that I found this site today while promoting the idea that Native Am/Indian sport logos are problematic - specifically the Chicago Blackhawks'. There was an excellent article here on the topic and I decided to stay and check out the site. I wouldn't buy this shirt, and I think it could have been taken quite differently had the woman been replaced with a guy. The current image is laughable and doesn't really provoke much thought. So, in that regard, it's a Fail.
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