Limited Time Offer: Mass Profit and Exchange of the “Real Indian”

A few weeks ago I ran across a blog about Native appropriation. One post specifically talks about how racist it is to dress up as Native Americans for Halloween.

And I know what you’re thinking, so what? It’s December.

And here’s what I’m going to tell you: read this anyway.

Cover of "Pocahontas (10th Anniversary Ed...

Cover of Pocahontas (10th Anniversary Edition)

I remember watching Disney’s Pocahontas when I was little and wanting to have long black hair and would sing “Colors of the Wind,” like nobody’s business.

The thing about Pocahantas, and so many other movies– is that it’s a stereotype.

If you’re having doubts, watch this documentary. Done? Keep reading.

In a 2012 TedTalk, Nigerian author Chimanda Adichie said that, “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

How many stories of Native Americans do you know of that don’t thrive within the boundaries of ecological indian, fierce warrior or deeply spiritual and wise? The problem with the single story of Native Americans is that it takes away people’s  individuality and humanity. It’s a socially acceptable form of objectification. Literally, you are buying an identity and wearing it.

Companies profit off a single (historically culturally diluted and exploited) piece of Native American identification–in which objectification, tokenism and sexualization can come at a discount every October.

You don’t see costumes sold in popular retail stores for “Black Baby Momma” or “Privileged White Business Man.” But you do see costumes for “Hot on the Trail Native American” and “Reservation Royalty Native American.”

The thing is, what’s being said here is far beyond the acceptable objectification of an entire culture that was driven to near extinction due to genocide. It’s that Native American identity can be bought, sold and shipped in five days or less by people who know little or nothing about it.

Wanna learn more? Click here.

And while you’re at it, check out this TedTalk by photojournalist Aaron Huey:

One Response to “Limited Time Offer: Mass Profit and Exchange of the “Real Indian””
  1. Pete says:

    Not being a writer or educated person I did have a bit of a hard time following the posting but I do understand your position. Thank you for the symbolism with the Pocahontas story it helped me see what I have been missing.

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