Ethnic Impostors (cultural appropriation)

Beware of Ethnic Imposters does seem to go unchallenged and accepted for a White person to impersonate a Native American. New Age “spiritual” Native Americans, shamanism, and cultural appropriation are just a few examples of modern ethnic imposters. There is an obvious monetary gain for those that exploit Native culture in this way.
There is another, more sinister, type of imposter. In many communities ethnic imposters are often mentally ill people who have borderline personality traits that adopt values, habits and attitudes of the Native people that they spend time with. There may or may not be a monetary value in this practice but there is something else to be gained by these ethnic imposters. These individuals have a significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self and present as righteous avengers of past mistreatment. Nobody has been more mistreated then Native Americans (in the individuals thinking) and so these individuals take on the persona, often change their name to something Native sounding and reinvent themselves. Soon the individuals are assuming leadership roles in the political or activist realm which takes away from legitimate Native voices which are often ignored or silenced by the media.
Traditionally Native American people don’t challenge others’ claim to be Native as it is thought to be harmless but it is important that ethnic imposters be challenged on cultural appropriation on all levels because culture is the only thing remaining after colonization has stripped everything else away.

Native American wannabes: Beware the Weasel Spirit

by Lou Bendrick

I once stayed at an upscale spa that had a Native American theme. We padded around on Navajo rugs, awoke to morning drumming and disrobed in locker rooms referred to as kivas. At night, instead  of finding a chocolate on my pillow, there was a woven dream catcher. This failed to soothe my Spirit Self. In fact, I fretted: Was that dream catcher made by an impoverished person on a reservation while my fat ass was at a spa?

I've always been the guilty type. This guilt is why I'm unable to retain an open mind when it comes to my town's latest craze: Native American spirituality, known widely as the Born-Again Navajo movement. (Okay, I just made that term up.)

Although Telluride, Colo., is not approaching Sedona-like sensibilities (as far as I can tell, no one has sent an energy cone up to the mother ship), former dentists here do rename themselves Moonfeather She-Wolf and Blackcloud Dancer. Peruse the local newspaper and you might find Shamanic Healers listed next to Windshield Repair Services in the classified ads. Moonlight drumming is the second-most popular activity after golf.

Amid Born-Again Navajos (most often New Jersey-born Caucasians), spirit animals, or totems, are the latest trendy pets. I thought totems were carved things sold next to the rubber tomahawks. Of course, I also thought a sweat lodge was pretty much the same thing as a Swedish sauna.

This cultural ignorance is why I have chosen the spirit name White Dork. True, I could have picked Rainbow Claw Warrior or Crying Sunshine She-Bear, but White Dork seemed somehow more fitting. Most Born-Again Navajos have spirit animals, charismatic megafauna such as wolves, bears or eagles. I think I've finally found my own spirit animal, too: The weasel. Small and beady-eyed, symbol of irritation.

Like many Americans, I found myself "questing" for life's deeper meaning, attempting to find a less patriarchal, more nature-based spirituality. This is why I recently participated in a ceremony that involved a new moon (that is, no moon), chanting, drumming, singing off-key, rattles, water bowls, feathers and several New Jersey-born women huddled around a lump of charcoal in lieu of a campfire on the deck of a condo. (Let me remind you, I have chosen the name White Dork.) While parts of this ceremony were beautiful and meditative, I felt something was missing. Namely, a Native American.

True to form, I felt guilty, too, like I'd performed a Japanese tea ceremony at a backyard barbecue or received holy communion at Wal-Mart. I felt like a White Dork who was taking the best of another culture's spirituality without earning it, looking for a New Age quick fix instead of doing the long, hard work of self-exploration. I was a hypocrite, conveniently adopting values but not living them - communing with animal spirits and buying shrink-wrapped beef.

While much of this cultural co-opting is at heart very well-meaning, Native Americans are getting weary, if not pissed off. Members of the Lakota tribe have declared war on exploiters of their ancient spirituality. Their declaration states that they have "suffered the unspeakable indignity of having our most precious Lakota ceremonies and spiritual practices desecrated, mocked and abused by non-Indian "wannabes," hucksters, cultists, commercial profiteers and self-styled "New Age" retail stores and ... pseudo religious corporations have been formed to charge people money for admission into phony "sweatlodges' and "vision quest" programs ..."

Born-Again Navajos - if they're devout - must take this declaration of war seriously. After all, among its soldiers are White Dork and her Spirit Weasel, pathfinder of cynicism and King of the Rodent World. Together they will rain on the parade of any Rainbow Spirit Journey - and then go take holy communion at Wal-Mart.

Lou "White Dork" Bendrick is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( She lives in Telluride, Colorado.

Top Ten Ways to tell if you are from the Wannabi (want to be) Clan

By Dr. Coyote (borrowed and adapted from an earlier posting)

10. You were born white but just realized that there was a possibility that you are native, you just don't know what tribe, and so you joined AIM or you know you are native because of your cheekbones or feel it in your soul.  And dang I just enjoy buffalo burgers or jerky so I must be….

9. You think Russell Means is a god, and he can do no wrong, or support Leonard even though you are not quite sure if he is innocent or guilty or what exactly the particulars are of that case?

8. You think Fry Bread is traditional food and smoking a cigarette or using commercial tobacco outside your tipi/tent counts as a prayer.

7. Protesting for Indian rights (doesn't matter what tribe) means a sit in or holding a sign while trying to wear your new ribbon shirt you bought from the white guy at the local "trading post".  Well only if it fits in your schedule and you happen to be in the area (within a 10 minute drive and there is free parking)

6. You go to the local Indian bar and buy the ndns drinks cuz you want to talk about their customs and "culture” and sing pow wow songs like the old times and just hang with the skins, but cant stand the idea of a warm tall bud at 10 AM on the side of the road after sawing up firewood or being up all night hunting or fishing

5. You try to date an ndn girl but you decide she's too round and rugged for your tastes (and her name wasn’t Running Deer) and her hair wasn’t jet black anyway and it was short so you decide to date the hippie wannabes with the hemp jewelry and long hair instead, plus she has a dog that is part wolf and your think you are wolf clan ennit.

4. You get the pre-requisite tribal tattoo placed where everyone can  see it, so they can ask you what tribe you are, but no one ever  does OR your car is carefully calculated to look “NDN” (i.e. dream catchers or safety pin headdresses on the mirror or bumper stickers bought from a vendor at a pow wow) OR the more tacky beadwork the better and  you wear your hair long for no particular reason and braid it because it looks cool, and hey doesn’t the smell of burning sage in your clothes make you smell Indian?

3. You find your beadwork for your regalia in a pawnshop and  proudly wear it at every powwow not knowing that everyone who is a  serious powwow person knows where you got it from and you've only been to contest powwows and no traditional powwows  because they don't run them on time and every one shows up late.  (ndn time) Besides going to every Pow Wow in every small town is what it really means to be on the red road right?  Traditional ceremony, isn’t that a pow wow?

2. You had a vision or sweat and found out you were Indian all along but just separated from the people and need to reconnect with the blood…What live on a reservation(or urban relocation area)  with no electricity and get paid $9 an hour if you can find a job , commodity cheese what is that?  Get all my health care from the IHS Clinic????

And the Number 1 way to tell if you are from the Wannabi (want to be) Clan DRUMROLL…

1. You use phrases like ennit and NDN cause you are a true skin and you are easily offended and whine about this post because while some of it is true about others….HEY, who in the hell does that Dr. Coyote thinks he is judging me as a Native if he ain’t walked in my moccasins…

(just laugh!)


Iron Eyes (profile/cultural appropriation)

"Native American" icon created his own story

By Katherine Yamada

August 27, 2014 | 6:14 p.m.

Iron Eyes Cody, who lived most of his life as an Indian, was very active in the Scouting program here in Glendale and often shared his knowledge of Indian lore with local groups. So, it was a surprise to many when a 1996 newspaper article said that Cody was not a Native American.

Cody presented himself as an Indian, both in his private and public life.

"Iron Eyes learned much of his Indian lore in the days when, as a youth, he toured the country with his father, Thomas Long Plume, in a wild west show. During his travels, he taught himself the sign language of other tribes of Indians," according to a 1951 unidentified newspaper article on file in Special Collections at the Glendale Public Library.

The article said that the television star and his wife would appear at a Glendale Historical Society event to tell the story of the "Indian Sign Language in Pictures'' and would demonstrate Indian arts and customs. Plus, the couple would bring along their 3-month-old "papoose" Robin (Robert Timothy). All were to be attired in Indian regalia.

His wife, a Seneca Indian known in tribal circles as Gayewas, was known in archaeological and ethnological fields for her work at the Southwest Museum under the name of Bertha Parker Cody.

Iron Eyes Cody was preparing a book titled "Indian Sign Languages in Pictures," which he'd hoped to publish the following year, the article noted.

Cody's background was revealed in a 1996 New Orleans Times-Picayune article stating that Cody was born to immigrants from Sicily.

A profile of Cody, posted online on "Hollywood Star Walk" by the Los Angeles Times, said that, in 1919, a film crew used the family's Oklahoma farm as a movie location. Within a year, Cody's father had come to Hollywood as a technical adviser.

He brought his family along, and Iron Eyes Cody soon got into show business. After touring with the wild west show, he returned to both act in and direct several "quickie westerns," according to The Times online report.

Cody was already a celebrity when he became a supporter of the local Scouting program and he often taught Indian lore to Order of the Arrow members up at Camp Bill Lane.

Area Scouts also made trips to his Moosehead Museum in his Atwater home. He was an adviser to the Northwest District Boy Scouts, a member of the Order of the Arrow and a life member of the Order of the Arrow of Verdugo Hills Council.

Sheldon Baker, a lifelong Scout, recalled Cody's visits to Camp Bill Lane in a previous Verdugo Views (Sept. 26, 2013).

Baker said in a recent telephone interview, "When I was on the staff, Iron Eyes would come to the camp. Other times, we would visit him in his home."

Baker has many fond memories of Cody, and said it really didn't matter to him whether Cody was of Indian background or Sicilian.

"He was what he was to us, a friend and a good person," Baker said. "We didn't inquire into each other's background or ethnicity."

Cody, who denied the 1996 Times-Picayune report when it appeared, died three years later and is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

"He lived and worked as an Indian for all his adult life; he labored for decades to promote Native American causes, and was honored by Hollywood's Native American community in 1995 as a "non-Native" for his contribution to film," according to an article posted on the IMDb website.

Fake Headdress (cultural appropriation/news)

Fans of franchises with Indian team names often show up to games dressed as fake Indians. Sometimes fans do the same even if the teams are named Giants and Padres: This week a white male fan attended a game in San Francisco wearing a phony headdress, apparently because Monday was Native American Heritage Night.

Things did not go well after that.

April Negrette, who is real Native American, approached a group of men who were passing around the headdress and told them it was disrespectful, according to an account she posted on Facebook: “The guy asks/yells at me because he’s getting embarrassed and flustered, ‘What do you want from me?’ So I said ‘Give me the headdress’ and he did.”

She declined to return it and security was called. Kimball Bighorse, another Native American, took video of some of this — he later posted it on Tumblr — and both were forcibly handcuffed and detained by security, who returned the headdress. No arrests were made.

The group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry issued a statement that says in part: “It is our feeling that Native Americans should be able to not only attend sporting events free of harmful cultural misappropriation, but also be able to speak out about the desecration of Native cultures, people, and items. … Ignoring Native peoples’ concerns is indicative of the fact that Native people are treated as relics of the past, non-existent, and we hope (the Giants and police) will treat cultural misappropriation as hate speech, as that is the way it feels to have sacred items mocked

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SF Giants Native American Heritage Night (cultural appropriation/news)

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First of all, I don't wanna be on fb buuut....gotta spread the word somehow - so fb friends, help me out! Tonight was Native American Heritage Night at AT&T Park for the San Francisco Giants vs Padres game. There was a group of mostly white guys that were passing around a headdress. I went over to one guy and asked him to take it off, and after much convincing that is was disrespectful he agreed to take it off. Minutes later, another guy in the group has it on. Another native guy (Kimball Bighorse) sitting next to me went over with me and as we were attempting to explain to the group of drunk guys why it wasn’t ok - especially on Native Heritage Night - security gets calls. I started crying because I was so upset that people are idiots/the genocide of our people/cultures and the guy asks/yells at me because he’s getting embarrassed and flustered “what do you want from me?” so I said “give me the headdress” and he did. Security shows up and are some sad ignorant people of color that couldn’t comprehend what was happening and demanded I give them the headdress back because the “native” friend the group came with showed up and wanted it back and called police over. At that point I was like YOU CAN ARREST ME IF YOU THINK I’M GOING TO HAND THIS FAKE ASS CRAFT STORE DISRESPECTFUL HEADDRESS BACK TO SOME DRUNKEN WHITE GUY AND SAD TOKEN. So me and my friend get ushered back to the food stands and are getting kicked out. 2 cops ripped the headdress out of my hands and refuse to tell us if/why we are being arrested and why we are being asked to leave. then one tough guy cop goes “if you’re not going willingly we’ll make you” and 2 cops grab me by my arms and twist them and pull them up behind my back so far I think they are going to pop out of socket. we walk about 40 feet and I’m squirming and yelling the whole way that they’re hurting me and then one of them grabs me by my hair and throws me on the ground. as I’m getting cuffed i see my friend, Kimball Bighorse, (who was recording all this) laid out on the ground with 4 cops on him. they take us out of the game and let us go an hour later because they had ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO ARREST US. I am beyond disgusted at the guys at the game, the people (including native around us who said nothing), the giants security for allowed that “headdress” inside to begin with, the police, and the San Francisco Giants organization as a whole for trying to host a heritage night without some type of cultural sensitive training. I would appreciate any help spreading the word about this and holding the team accountable and hopefully providing evidence for the native mascot issue that is under heavy media attention and fire right now. Thanks! April
——video——-> and

Getting in touch with the San Francisco Giants:  Call community relations at (415) 972-2000 ext.5 for other, and then ext.3 for community relations.  Also tweet: Text the word FAIR (for a comment / compliment) followed by your message to 69050. A discreet and effective response will be forthcoming.  

Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian R. Sabean, Security Manager Charles Allen, Senior Director, Security Tinie Roberson.

San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 972-2000

Email Message to Giants:

Specter of racism still haunts US sports (mascot)

The furor surrounding comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has again cast an unfavorable light on racism in American sport.

Sixty-seven years after Jackie Robinson famously broke baseball's "color line" when he went to bat for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the specter of racism still looms large over US professional sport -- from outspoken billionaire franchise owners to foul-mouthed players and bigoted fans who spew xenophobic nonsense behind the anonymity of Twitter avatars.

"Racism remains a problem throughout our society as a whole, and sports merely reflects that," said Ray Halbritter, who has been leading a campaign for the Washington Redskins to drop their racially charged name.

"The good news in the Sterling situation is that everybody acknowledges that his statements are unacceptable," Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Native American nation in upstate New York, told AFP.

Sterling, 80, has yet to apologize for a recording in which he reputedly asks a twenty-something female friend to stop bringing African-American friends to Clipper games and stop posting their photos on her Instagram feed.

"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" says a male voice on the recording, which Sterling's estranged wife has confirmed as his.

"You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it... and not to bring them to my games."

President Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected US president and also a well-known basketball fan, swiftly denounced the comments as "incredibly offensive racist statements," while basketball legend Magic Johnson questioned whether Sterling was fit to own a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise.

- Redskins controversy -

Sterling, a real estate mogul estimated by Forbes business magazine to be worth $1.9 billion, is by no means the first US sports franchise proprietor to come under fire for racism.

In the 1990s, Marge Schott of baseball's Cincinnati Reds offended just about everyone with her casual use of racist language, her mocking Japanese accent, her admiration for Hitler and her belief that men with earrings were "fruity."

She sold her majority stake in the Reds in 1999, three years after she was banned by Major League Baseball from her close involvement in the team's day-to-day operations.

More recently, in the US capital, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has stubbornly resisted pressure from Native Americans and their allies to rebrand his National Football League (NFL) team.

"While Sterling has tried to retroactively disassociate himself with the abhorrent comments in question, Dan Snyder proudly defends his own continued promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur," Halbritter said.

In November, in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins suspended Richie Incognito over the racially tinged harassment of a black team-mate, while in 2013 the Philadelphia Eagles suspended Riley Cooper after a video emerged of him using racially abusing a bouncer at a Kenny Chesney country music concert.

- 'Pervasive problem' -

Social media has meanwhile enabled some fans to anonymously churn out bigoted sentiments, such as in July 2013 when chart-topping Latino singer Marc Anthony sang "God Bless America" at baseball's All-Star classic.

"Welcome to america where god bless america is sung at our national pastime by a mexican," sneered one of many Twitter mentions that overlooked the fact that Anthony was born in New York to Puerto Rican, and thus American, parents.

Debra Nixon, a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida who specializes in diversity issues, said racism in American sports, and indeed throughout American society, remains "a pervasive problem."

"And it's going to keep happening until we really begin to do something constructive (about discussing race in America)," she told AFP, "as opposed to just having someone apologize until somebody else messes up."

(h/t to @GregGehr)

Cowboys-and-Indians (mascot/cultural appropriation/racism)

The University of Regina is responding after a photo depicting some members of the school's cheerleading team posing in stereotypical "cowboys and Indians" costumes sparked outrage over the web.

Some of the women in the Instagram picture are wearing plaid shirts and cowboy hats, while others have feathers, headbands and braids in their hair and dresses that are made to look like they're made from animal skin.

University of Regina President Vianne Timmons issued a written release Sunday acknowledging that the team was part of a social event Friday evening that included "culturally inappropriate themes and costumes."

Her statement went on to say that the team's coach has apologized. 

"Further steps will require that the team's coaches and team members discuss this matter as a group with the university's Executive Lead on Indigenization and take cultural sensitivity training," Timmons's statement said. "Once these discussions have taken place, the university will determine whether further disciplinary actions are required."

Kinesiology Dean Harold Riemer also expressed his apologies on behalf of the university Sunday afternoon. 

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Not Your Tonto (cultural appropriation)

#NotYourTonto goes VIRAL during Oscars

A ‘Twitter Storm’, targeting the Academy Award nomination for Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” went viral on Sunday during the Oscars. The film was controversially nominated by the Academy for “Achievement in Make up & Hair Styling”.

Critics of the film took to social media and put the Academy on blast, saying nominating “The Lone Ranger” for best make up was not only racist and inappropriate, but considered ‘Redface’ and highly offensive to the indigenous community.

‘Ranger’ received harsh criticism after casting non-native celebrity “Johnny Depp” to play the role of ‘Tonto’. Depp is seen throughout the film with full white face paint and wearing a black crow on the top of his head. Make up used on Depp in this production was offensive to many indigenous people of the United States as it does not represent a true indigenous nation, yet makes the claim that ‘Tonto’ is an indigenous person with special powers.

Disney in particular was under heavy target during the social media frenzy. In early 2013 Disney re-released the animated version of “Peter Pan” in a digitally remastered 60th anniversary edition on Blu Ray and DVD; just a few months prior to the premiere of “The Lone Ranger”. Peter Pan is well known for racist depictions of Native Americans including use of the word “squ*w” to describe the lone female character, Tiger Lily.

Arguably, some say releasing the animated classic before “The Lone Ranger” was a tactical move by Disney to remind audiences of how far they have come in representing indigenous people in film. However, it backfired, and “The Lone Ranger” was an epic flop, reportedly losing $190 million at the box office.

In 1995 Disney also famously produced an animated version of the story of Pocahontas which was littered with gross historical inaccuracies; including a romance between an adult Pocahontas and John Smith. The Pocahontas franchise includes two animated films both containing half truths.

According to use of the hashtag #NotYourTonto went viral in Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and various other major areas in the United States and Canada.

One of the organizers for the social media campaign, Jacqueline Keeler, Navajo and Yankton Dakota of the Kinyaa’aanii/Kiyaa’aanii The Towering House Clan spoke with the Two Row Times. “Nominating The Lone Ranger for an award for what is basically Redface in this day and age just demonstrates how native people are still marginalized and stereotyped.” said Keeler. “I think Johnny Depp is actually a very well meaning person but he is just caught up in the thrall of romantic Native American stereotypes.”

Keeler says there is a larger part of the story contributing to why Native American representation in the media is consistently presented to North American audiences littered with inaccuracies. “There are many reasons why Canadians and Americans, because of the whole settler-colonial story, don’t understand us. They have these ridiculous ideas and they play out in the media in the way they celebrate.” said Keeler. “I think that we look at people who are our peers and we assume they are able to understand and able to represent us in a way that seems reasonable. But when they actually do things you find out there are working under a completely different kind of social programming, then you find out that there is this huge gulf. What I would like to do is cross that gulf.”

Keeler is part of a large and widespread social movement to eradicate native mascotry from the face of modern media. Using the hashtag #notyourmascot they have launched a few social media campaigns and plans are underway to protest the stadiums who will be hosting the Washington Redsk*ns in the upcoming season.

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