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Old 06-28-2018, 11:06 AM   #5
OLChemist
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I is for Indian...



Let's examine those images used for advertising, as logos, etc. Feathers sprout from these Indian's heads. The war paint was on their checks as they emerged from the birth canal. They own an entire closet full of fringed buckskin. Rather than clutching a pen or book they hold a weapon. They grow up to be Pocahotties, with their buckskins slit to the hip, or "Chiefs", wearing their warbonnet and scowling at their gridiron adversary.

Now, let's unpack the baggage in those images. They are the Indian as other. The Indian that is stuck in the past, never in the present. The Indian reduced to a homogenized mass of tribal dress and stereotypical, exaggerated phenotypical characteristics. They are noble savages. They are the ultimate environmentalist, singing to trees and raccoons, praying to "Mother Earth" and "Father Sky". They have a pet wolf, a bow and arrows, and mystical powers.

They are nothing like me, my family or my friends. Although there are grains of truth in all these images, they are nothing like any real Native person.

The dominant culture is steeped in these images -- positive and negative -- until they consider them a tribute to who they think we are. And I don't really care what you choose to fill your house with, if you choose to drown in pseudo-Indian kitsch, it's no skin off my nose. However, It skins my nose when the dominant culture force feeds these images to my nieces and nephews.

When I was a child, I collected dolls. In the nucleus of my collection were two dolls. One was a set of 1910's paper dolls that belonged to a paternal great-aunt. They were lovely, a girl in her petticoat with several dresses. The other was a homemade doll, sewn from a flour sack, wearing a blue wool dress with brass sequins attached to look like a penny dress. She had a little awl case and knife sheath. Each of these dolls carried messages about the role of women in their cultures and times.

Girl wearing a penny dress

People would give me dolls they bought in various countries for my collection. When I was ten, an distant non-Indian relative, gave me a "Indian" doll she had bought on a trip to the Grand Canyon. It was dark brown plastic, with fat checks and bug eyes. Its braids were held on with a suede headband. It wore a fake buckskin dress with a dozen, varicolored beads sewn in a star burst on the breast. That night before bed, I remember looking in my mother and wondering if that was how that relative saw her. I was embarrassed for being Indian. I stuck that doll in a different drawer than the one in which I kept my doll collection. Until I was cleaning out my room at my parent's house after my father's passing, I never even took her out.
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