Let’s give the headdress a rest

Categories: Native, Politics

Photo from Mail Online.

It’s only been one week since No Doubt took their video down after the outcry from Native Americans, First Nations, and their allies after their ‘Looking Hot’ video was released. I wrote about it on Tuesday for The Guardian.

After the posting, there was still outrage from Indigenous people as to how the video was made in the first place, and from non-Indigenous people still wondering what the big deal is. “It’s just a music video.” “It’s artistic expression.” “I’m Native, and it doesn’t offend me.”

Oh great. Even after reading numerous posts and explanations on why Native appropriation is not okay, people still think that Indigenous people are simply being too sensitive, even by some Native people.

Photo from Huffington Post.

And then Thursday happened. Victoria Secret photos were popping up everywhere and the outcry continued against Native appropriation, the use of a sacred headdress, and the sexualization of Native American women.

An online petition has been started by activist Bree Herne on Change.org and it’s got over 3,000 signatures. And that’s maybe what it took (along with the blog posts, media coverage, and Facebook and Twitter comments) to finally get Victoria’s Secret to apologise.

Native Appropriations posts the apology on Facebook:

“We are sorry that the Native American headdress replica used in our recent fashion show has upset individuals. We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone. Out of respect, we will not be including the outfit in any broadcast, marketing materials nor in any other way.” Tammy Robert Myers, a spokesperson for Limited Brands.

I am glad that Victoria’s Secret issued the apology, took down the images on their Facebook page, and will not be airing that portion of their fashion show this coming December. The apology is definitely a little weak, but it’s great that they did at least acknowledge the error and are doing something about it. Prior to this, they had taken down the photos on their Facebook page, but had preceded to delete any comments by those offended by their showcasing of the model Karlie Kloss in a headdress.

Photo from Crystle Lighning’s FB.

On the same day that the Victoria’s Secret photos are spilling out all over the internet model/actress/singer Crystle Lightning posted this above image as her profile picture on Facebook. There was a buzz created after the post on whether or not it was appropriate for this Indigenous artist to have a photo of herself taken in a headdress. She is a plains Native woman after all, but isn’t the issue of the headdress wearing one that we were all saying was only to be used in a traditional ceremonial context for Native men?

This reminds me of the message that Britt Reed shared on Indian Country Today, where she felt that the media portrayals represented who she was as a Native person as she grew up separate from her culture. Maria Tallchief was raised in Los Angeles from the age 8 to study ballet and when she returned to her hometown of Fairfax, OK in 1953, Principal Chief Paul Pitts of the Osages in a ceremony at the Tallchief Theater placed on her a headdress and pronounced her an Osage princess. So we don’t really have princesses in Native American history, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t used in a way to honour Maria Tallchief. And then we have an artist honouring an artist. It does leave room for interpretation.

Photo from Daily Mail Online.

And here’s one we can all agree on. Gwen Stefani’s son Kingston dresses up just like Mommy in her video! I mean, like a Native American, for a Halloween party last month.

I am really hoping that we can all just put the headress to rest. I am deeply appalled that the vast team at Victoria’s Secret hadn’t learned from the Paul Frank party, and the No Doubt video that it’s just not appropriate to appropriate. I hope future would-be offenders take note and take time for cultural understanding in what is truly a great way to ‘honour’ Indigenous peoples.

Nelly Furtado does it right in her ‘Big Hoops’ video where she includes
two traditional Native American hoop dancers and a fancy shawl dancer.
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5 Responses to “Let’s give the headdress a rest”

  1. AYC

    Speaking of the headdress, I was somewhat appalled by Lana Del Rey's use of it in her new music video, "Ride". I'm surprised there wasn't more controversy surrounding that, especially given the context in which it was portrayed. I'd really like her to answer for her so-called artistic decision on that one…

  2. Dre Noline-Deer

    No matter what words one uses, tradition is tradition, culture is culture, honor is honor, and respect is respect. It saddens me see our own people being "ok" with and not regarding these sacred items as they should. Sacred is sacred. It is not for us to question what those before us held as having power. This dialogue is much needed and I thank you and others like you for using your voice. Our voices are sorely needed to be heard. .

  3. R Romeo Cote

    I've not actually seen the No Doubt video in question, nor do I really intend to… but the stills I have seen of it call to mind images of Custer's Revenge… and thats just, uhg.

  4. Trevor

    The Native culture is dying and to have it embraced in a positive manner is OK with me I am proud of your history, but our present is appalling. We are clutching at straws trying to make a stand to be impotent again. we are the minority now. I'm not saying to give up our ways, but to embrace the future in a positive light rather then greed and substance abuse. you will be hard pressed to find someone that is fluent in any native language, we only sing for show now and the people that do sing get paid to do it. I will say that I am more white then native my dad is a half breed and my mom has five other nationalities. I don't look native unless you know what your looking for but my sister does. And we both have made is in the "white world" we need to grow up and stop fighting with our own sensibility's and show the world that we still can contribute. Some people still want to live off the land and that's ok and we need to fight for them to be aloud to do so. but for the ones that want to live in the city's. Then be apart of the city make a positive conurbation but above all else stop bitching that the white man owes you something you have chosen to live in the city off the backs of the "white man" and ME time to grow up or we will lose our culture for ever.


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