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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Ask PowWows.com Is it offensive to buy shot glasses shaped as a totem pole? Is it offensive to buy shot glasses shaped as a totem pole?

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Old 12-21-2015, 11:10 PM   #1
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Are shot glasses shaped as a totem pole offensive?

Hi,
I bought a few shot glasses today as a Christmas gift. Each glass is a totem and they can be stacked together to resemble a totem pole. When I showed them to one of my friends, she said that this is offensive to Native Americans. Her main reason is that something sacred, the totem pole, was being associated with drinking alcohol and being drunk.

I am having a hard time understanding her point of view, so I wanted to get the opinion of others. Personally, if I would see a shot glass with traditional symbols from my culture, I would not be offended. However, since the rules for depicting traditional symbols differ greatly between cultures, I would like to know if my purchase is actually offensive to Native Americans and if so, is it for the reason my friend brought up?

Cheers

Last edited by cheflo; 12-22-2015 at 10:32 AM..
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Old 12-22-2015, 03:28 AM   #2
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I'm not trying to be rude, but asking if it's offensive is rather like closing the barn door after the horse has been stolen. You have already purchased them for people who will probably like them, so, unless you are giving them to Native Americans, go ahead and give them.
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Old 12-22-2015, 10:30 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. While I have already bought the glasses, I am interested in understanding my friend's angle and if these glasses could come across as offensive to a Native American.

Since neither of us are Native American (and I don't know anyone who is), I asked the question on this forum to find out if I should be more careful in future purchases or if my friend's opinion does not reflect the actual situation accurately.
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Old 12-22-2015, 05:44 PM   #4
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If someone tried to explain it to you, you still wouldn't accept the answer and would still give the glasses to your friend.

Enjoy drinking out of them and amuse yourself by stacking them in different configurations.
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Old 12-22-2015, 05:46 PM   #5
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BTW what is your culture and could you pass a test if you were questioned on it?
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Old 12-23-2015, 05:11 AM   #6
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Hi cheflo,
Welcome to powwows.com online community.

To answer your question, I find what you have described to be disrespectful.

As a matter of linguistics and a life perspective, to me there is a difference between:
if someone else is offended (which is a causal reaction) versus
if someone’s actions are disrespectful (the initiating action).

I am not Christian. I was raised in the traditional Indian ways of life of my tribe. If I went into a store & saw stackable shot glasses that were configured to be Jesus on the cross, I wouldn’t buy them or give them as a Christmas gift. If I were to be offered an alcohol drink in stackable Jesus crucifixion shot glass, I would politely not accept it. I don’t have to be a Christian to know that this would be considered disrespectful (or at least I think it would be.)

Are you a Christian? Are you aware that in the Christian culture/ religion, the symbol of Jesus dying on the cross is sacred to them in their beliefs, that Christians pray to this image, that some people get spiritual strength from the icon of Jesus' crucifixion and that this means something to them? Can you see where this analogy of drinking shots out of a stackable Jesus on a cross could be disrespectful and in poor taste? I don’t know…maybe some Christians might or might not be offended by stackable shot glasses of Jesus being crucified.

So I'm curious if you would consider partying out of a crucifying Jesus set of shot glasses to be respectful and appropriate?

The point I am trying to convey is: what matters are the choices you make. You are free to buy whatever you want. Your friend offered you some sensitive insightful counsel to you about making better a choice. It’s up to you.
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Old 12-26-2015, 03:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflo View Post
Hi,
I bought a few shot glasses today as a Christmas gift. Each glass is a totem and they can be stacked together to resemble a totem pole. When I showed them to one of my friends, she said that this is offensive to Native Americans. Her main reason is that something sacred, the totem pole, was being associated with drinking alcohol and being drunk.

I am having a hard time understanding her point of view, so I wanted to get the opinion of others. Personally, if I would see a shot glass with traditional symbols from my culture, I would not be offended. However, since the rules for depicting traditional symbols differ greatly between cultures, I would like to know if my purchase is actually offensive to Native Americans and if so, is it for the reason my friend brought up?

Cheers
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflo View Post
Hi,
I bought a few shot glasses today as a Christmas gift. Each glass is a totem and they can be stacked together to resemble a totem pole. When I showed them to one of my friends, she said that this is offensive to Native Americans. Her main reason is that something sacred, the totem pole, was being associated with drinking alcohol and being drunk.

I am having a hard time understanding her point of view, so I wanted to get the opinion of others. Personally, if I would see a shot glass with traditional symbols from my culture, I would not be offended. However, since the rules for depicting traditional symbols differ greatly between cultures, I would like to know if my purchase is actually offensive to Native Americans and if so, is it for the reason my friend brought up?

Cheers
I would have to agree with her. First of all this totem is suppose to be sacred with clans names which is part of family names in the long houses in the Northwest Coast. Also I agree that we don't want to associate with drinking alcohol and laugh about Native people who are or were drunk. Drinking alcohol out of the totem glass is kind of offensive to Native people who do not know that alcohol is poison to the bodies (both mind and body). Show respect to the totem pole if stacking up the totem glasses. If you want to drink water, then that is precious and sacred to do that. I wish you could put picture of the stacks of totem to make totem poles. We will get the idea what the picture of them look like.
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