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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Ask PowWows.com Native American Imagery on vintage advertising, objects etc. Native American Imagery on vintage advertising, objects etc.

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Old 06-27-2018, 10:57 AM   #1
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Native American Imagery on vintage advertising, objects etc.

Hey guys!
I know this is a sensitive subject but I would really love to hear some honest opinions.

I am not a Native American. I have Native American friends and I grew up in a very Native American influenced area.

I collect a lot of vintage pieces and in that collecting I have owned and have seen quite a few pieces that depict Native American imagery. Most often, the face or profile of a Native American Chief.

From such things as coins (the buffalo nickel, etc) to paintings, vintage labels, old logos, clothing, etc.

Is owning/collecting/selling/displaying these types of items offensive?
I have the utmost respect for the Native American culture and its history. My interest in these items stems 100% from that.

I have heard mixed opinions from Native American friends and acquaintances. Was curious what the community here thought about this.

I apologize if this is offensive in any way. I'm really just trying to educate myself as much as possible.

Last edited by hurley; 06-28-2018 at 11:29 AM..
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:26 AM   #2
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:39 AM   #3
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Would you be asking this question if the imagery in question was Uncle Tom or Mamme?

Ask yourself, does crossing the cultural divide alter the power and meaning on collecting and displaying these images? For example, would the character of the collection of racist imagery of blacks described in the article below be different if the collector was white rather than black?

https://www.theatlantic.com/national...jemima/256185/
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Old 06-27-2018, 11:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
Would you be asking this question if the imagery in question was Uncle Tom or Mamme?

Ask yourself, does crossing the cultural divide alter the power and meaning on collecting and displaying these images? For example, would the character of the collection of racist imagery of blacks described in the article below be different if the collector was white rather than black?

https://www.theatlantic.com/national...jemima/256185/
Thanks for the reply. I guess that's the core of my question. Is any vintage depiction of a Native American in white American culture always racist? If not all depictions, what is that line? I'm not speaking about caricatures or blatantly disrespectful depictions or representations (some of the Uncle Tom etc imagry goes well over that line)

For example, the buffalo nickel. It has Chief Iron Tail on the obverse. Designed with a respect towards Native American and western culture (as far as I know). More recently, the Sacajawea dollar. I honestly don't know if these types of things have controversy around them. From my point of view, they are honoring native Americans, and that is how I view most of this imagery. I only have respect, which makes it hard for me to view any of it in a racist light (which is why I'm asking for some insight here).

Thanks again.

Last edited by hurley; 06-27-2018 at 12:06 PM..
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Old 06-28-2018, 10:06 AM   #5
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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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Old 06-28-2018, 10:19 AM   #6
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Now, let's discuss honoring.

In most Native cultures, we honor our veterans -- Native and non. We respect these men and women who have put their lives on the line defending this land that the Creator gave us. At powwows we will ask them to stand, to come and dance with us. There are roles in ceremony and powwows only a veteran can do. Sometimes they'll be called to join the elders to eat first at a feast. Sometimes in a giveaway, the family will make bags with snacks and drinks to be given to all veterans at the dance. These tokens express the value we place on their service and our gratitude.

Indeed, the giveaway in my culture is a method of honoring someone. Their family gathers blankets, star quilts, beadwork, food, yard goods, bath linens, etc. These are given away on behalf of the honoree.

Contrast this to honoring a group of people with this images. Please explain how "I is for Indian" honors me, rather than reduces me.
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Old 06-28-2018, 10:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
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.
Thank you for the response! I completely understand what you're saying. But I think there is a little bit of a disconnect. And I still have some questions. I'll try to clarify where I'm coming from. I'm sorry if I'm being ignorant in any way. I want to be completely respectful and this has always been a question of mine. I have spoken with Native American friends about this and some have no issue with it. So that is where my confusion stems from.

First of all, the objects or vintage objects I'm talking about, or that I would own, are nothing like the image you posted above or the souvenir dolls you mentioned. As mentioned in my previous comment, I definitely understand the racism involved in a caricature like that. It's a disgrace that those representations even exist and I'm really sorry about that.
I'm mostly talking about objects that show a (seemingly) respectful representation of Native American profile. Yes, a lot of times that is a Chief, but they seem respectful.

I'll admit that I do not know everything about Native American culture, but I'm still trying to learn why a historical representation of a Native American Chief (in all settings) is racist. I'm not saying it isn't, I just want to understand why it is, if it is. I understand that is focusing on the Native American past in some regard, but there is a lot of respectful imagery that represents a lot of different cultures' pasts.

Again, a derogatory caricature should never exist in any space and I would never endorse anything like that, but I guess I'm still confused why a historical representation of Native American history (again, the buffalo nickel or Sacajawea dollar as examples) is racist.

I'll appreciate you humoring my ignorant questions!
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Old 06-28-2018, 10:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
Now, let's discuss honoring.

In most Native cultures, we honor our veterans -- Native and non. We respect these men and women who have put their lives on the line defending this land that the Creator gave us. At powwows we will ask them to stand, to come and dance with us. There are roles in ceremony and powwows only a veteran can do. Sometimes they'll be called to join the elders to eat first at a feast. Sometimes in a giveaway, the family will make bags with snacks and drinks to be given to all veterans at the dance. These tokens express the value we place on their service and our gratitude.

Indeed, the giveaway in my culture is a method of honoring someone. Their family gathers blankets, star quilts, beadwork, food, yard goods, bath linens, etc. These are given away on behalf of the honoree.

Contrast this to honoring a group of people with this images. Please explain how "I is for Indian" honors me, rather than reduces me.
I think that type of imagery that you posted is completely disrespectful and I agree 100% that it should not exist or be any kind of representation of Native Americans or your history and culture. I would never own anything like that.

Please see my post above this in response to your other thoughts.
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Old 06-28-2018, 11:12 AM   #9
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There is a continuum to any image -- art to advertising icon. I don't have a problem with E.S. Curtis type photographs or Remington and his ilk paintings or bronzes -- art pieces. (Black velvet Indian maidens are exceptions, LOL.) Coins fall toward the art side of the spectrum. But, when the image is used as a brand -- the labels and logos you mentioned -- there are additional dimensions.

You claim to have a different opinion about modern branding versus vintage branding. What makes these images:

Collection of Santa Fe RR Super Chief ads

different from these?

Collection of Modern and Vintage, Official and Unofficial Chief Illiniwek logos


Oh, in the Super Chief Images there is a poser with a smiling black waiter saying "I love to see people having a good time..." Would you be comfortable entertaining your black friends with this poster hanging on the wall? Do you see any stereotyping there?
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Last edited by OLChemist; 06-28-2018 at 11:15 AM..
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Old 06-28-2018, 11:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
There is a continuum to any image -- art to advertising icon. I don't have a problem with E.S. Curtis type photographs or Remington and his ilk paintings or bronzes -- art pieces. (Black velvet Indian maidens are exceptions, LOL.) Coins fall toward the art side of the spectrum. But, when the image is used as a brand -- the labels and logos you mentioned -- there are additional dimensions.

You claim to have a different opinion about modern branding versus vintage branding. What makes these images:

Collection of Santa Fe RR Super Chief ads

different from these?

Collection of Modern and Vintage, Official and Unofficial Chief Illiniwek logos


Oh, in the Super Chief Images there is a poser with a smiling black waiter saying "I love to see people having a good time..." Would you be comfortable entertaining your black friends with this poster hanging on the wall? Do you see any stereotyping there?
That definitely makes sense! Thanks so much.

I guess I should have been more clear about the kinds of things I was talking about. Branding specifically can definitely go down the wrong path very quickly. I know I mentioned branding in my original post, but the pieces I have and more often come across are more in the "art" realm. Paintings, printing blocks, coins, etc.

I personally think that really great and beautiful imagery and art can come from these representations which is why I originally asked the question. Hoping that I don't have to completely cut it out of what I enjoy viewing as art or history.
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Old 06-29-2018, 01:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post



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.


That doll must have been quite common-I had one, too. She gave me the creeps. I couldn't figure out why my skin wasn't as dark as hers, or my hair as dark. I knew about my Cheyenne heritage, but this doll threw me for a loop trying to figure her out.
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Old 07-29-2018, 06:05 PM   #12
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It annoys me when I see people reproducing vintage photos of Native American and Inuit people and putting them on posters, mugs, tshirts etc.

These people have not consented to have their image used for advertising, entertainment products etc.

Where is the dignity in that?

Iíve stumbled upon people selling these things on eBay and Iím disgusted and I always report them and send them a message to stop doing it.

Would you feel uncomfortable if you saw someone walking around with pictures of your great grandparents on a tshirt?

Itís very weird right? Exactly.

They also take a girl with dark or blonde hair (not Native) and put a War Bonnet on her and get her to pose like she is a Chief and call it a poster of a ďNative AmericanĒ girl.

No actual Native American girl is going to disrespect her Ancestors or Elders by wearing one.

I go to a new age shop here for home decor from around the world. I stated I didnít like the War Bonnet being sold as people wear them to festivals etc.

She said I guess itís wrong. I said people canít walk around dressed like the pope or a priest can they? They havenít earned the right to do so.
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