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The Ethics of Beading

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  • The Ethics of Beading

    I was recently approached by someone who is native to bead an entire set of regalia for their teenager. The design they approached me with was not specific to their tribe and I was even provided several photographs of someone else’s beadwork that they expected me to copy almost exactly. Why is it acceptable for natives to steal each others designs? Why then do we get so upset when white people mimic us culturally? What they want is northern regalia and they are clearly from the southwest - all traditional acting, too.

    I would like to know if any other beaders on this forum get as ticked off as I do when you know someone is not only wearing a set or piece of beadwork that has a design on it that has absolutely no significance to them, their family or their tribe. They are just merely wearing it because they decided they wanted to dance a certian style, found a design they liked and stole it outright by copying it or paid someone else to bead it for them.

    I refused to bead for them but I know that they will find someone else who will.

    Would you bead a design knowing that it is out right copying and or not tribally appropriate?
    Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art." - Leonardo Da Vinci

    "I found I could say things with my beads that I couldn't say any other way....things I had no words for" - Eva McAdams Eastern Shoshone

  • #2
    If I knew they were copying a design colors and all..... I would tell em naw hell! No way. Sure they may get someone else..... but at least my conscience would be clear.

    As for the tribally appropriate.......that's a more personal decision. Not really sure what I would think. Would depend on the circumstance at the time I guess. While I may think it is weird.....and may not agree with them, it's not hurting another.
    "We see it as a desecration not only of a mountain but of our way of life. This is a genocidal issue to us. If they kill this mountain, they kill our way of life." ~Debra White Plume

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    • #3
      stealing designs

      Originally posted by Cutbead Queen
      I was recently approached by someone who is native to bead an entire set of regalia for their teenager. The design they approached me with was not specific to their tribe and I was even provided several photographs of someone else’s beadwork that they expected me to copy almost exactly. Why is it acceptable for natives to steal each others designs? Why then do we get so upset when white people mimic us culturally? What they want is northern regalia and they are clearly from the southwest - all traditional acting, too.

      I would like to know if any other beaders on this forum get as ticked off as I do when you know someone is not only wearing a set or piece of beadwork that has a design on it that has absolutely no significance to them, their family or their tribe. They are just merely wearing it because they decided they wanted to dance a certian style, found a design they liked and stole it outright by copying it or paid someone else to bead it for them.

      I refused to bead for them but I know that they will find someone else who will.

      Would you bead a design knowing that it is out right copying and or not tribally appropriate?
      i had always thought that a person's outfit was sacred. that a design is meant only for that person. so i agree that u shouldnt do it. i was just discussing the tribally appropriate thing with my sister the other day. i think that you should only dance a style of another tribe if you married onto it, or your best friend forever is from there, like you were raised in that culture. i don't like the idea of us canadians dancing women's southern buckskin for example because we might unintentionally disrespect that tribe because of ignorance. on the other hand none of us could dance jingle cause we ain't all objibway.
      it's been a long time, shouldn't have left u.

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      • #4
        i feel the same way....i cant believe anyone would be that open about copying somebody's outfiit...providing pictures...sheeesh!

        this is why i get so nervous when i post pics on the web...i dont want anybody copying my stuff...but you gotta post pics if you wanna get orders for work. guess that's a risk we artists have to take these days...modern technology and all!
        sigpic


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Cutbead Queen
          I would like to know if any other beaders on this forum get as ticked off as I do when you know someone is not only wearing a set or piece of beadwork that has a design on it that has absolutely no significance to them, their family or their tribe. They are just merely wearing it because they decided they wanted to dance a certian style, found a design they liked and stole it outright by copying it or paid someone else to bead it for them.
          I would like to add the perspective of a fledgling beader who is not Native American . . .

          Let me start out by saying that I would not copy anyone else's designs without their specific permission no matter what the reason. No exceptions.

          That said, however, those of us who are not Native, but who are drawn to the drum and want to dance at PowWows (not talking contests here) must make a concious decision about what dance to dance (other than Intertribals) and how to best honor that dance in how we dress.

          At the moment I dance only Intertribals, in respectful street clothes with my shawl, but I want that to change. For now I am watching and asking questions when I may and trying to learn. Sometime in the next year I will make a choice and begin to make regalia.

          I cannot deny that I want to make something I can bead! However, I trust that while I have no tribe, my design choices will be influenced by my respect for Native ways and values and reflect also something of who I am. I think if I bead from my heart my respect will show and I will not look like a white woman 'playing Indian.'

          Forgive me if this is rude to say in public, but I think the people who asked you to copycat the design for them are too lazy to look inside themselves for their own design. I applaude you, Cutbead Queen, for your stand and refusal to do the work requested.

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          • #6
            Did they know what they were asking??? What were those people thinking? That's crazy to copy someone's work like that. Originality is best.
            Bead All You Can Bead

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mezzobean
              I would like to add the perspective of a fledgling beader who is not Native American . . .

              Let me start out by saying that I would not copy anyone else's designs without their specific permission no matter what the reason. No exceptions.

              That said, however, those of us who are not Native, but who are drawn to the drum and want to dance at PowWows (not talking contests here) must make a concious decision about what dance to dance (other than Intertribals) and how to best honor that dance in how we dress.

              At the moment I dance only Intertribals, in respectful street clothes with my shawl, but I want that to change. For now I am watching and asking questions when I may and trying to learn. Sometime in the next year I will make a choice and begin to make regalia.

              I cannot deny that I want to make something I can bead! However, I trust that while I have no tribe, my design choices will be influenced by my respect for Native ways and values and reflect also something of who I am. I think if I bead from my heart my respect will show and I will not look like a white woman 'playing Indian.'

              Forgive me if this is rude to say in public, but I think the people who asked you to copycat the design for them are too lazy to look inside themselves for their own design. I applaude you, Cutbead Queen, for your stand and refusal to do the work requested.
              I definetly would not copy anyones work. And as for the north and south thing i also think that is a personal decision. I am not Ojibway but i am a jingle dancer.

              As for Mezzobean, it is great that you are accepting of the native ways. And no you were not rude. But i don't want to be rude either and i think you should dance if you are drawn to it, but make sure you have enough knowledge in that particular style. Also there will be people out there that will not want you in the circle because you are a non-native, just let then think that and get on with your life. There are quite a few "non-natives" that i know that respect the native culture more then some blood natives do. Power to ya!
              ~kelli
              If you lose the drum beat of the creator, you are lost in life - Aanishnabe

              You say I don't look indian? Well you don't look stupid, but looks can be deceiving!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by n8tivechick
                As for Mezzobean, it is great that you are accepting of the native ways. And no you were not rude. But i don't want to be rude either and i think you should dance if you are drawn to it, but make sure you have enough knowledge in that particular style. Also there will be people out there that will not want you in the circle because you are a non-native, just let then think that and get on with your life. There are quite a few "non-natives" that i know that respect the native culture more then some blood natives do. Power to ya!
                ~kelli
                Thanks for the encouragement, n8tivechick . . . I will definitely not dance in public any dance that I have not practiced and checked out with someone I trust to be honest with me about how I'm doing with it.

                As for not being welcome in the circle, that is something I understand and can even accept. As a non-Native I consider it a priviledge to dance to the drum, not a right. I have not met anyone yet with objections, but I have danced only Intertribals where the MC has welcomed all present to come into the circle.

                My Abenaki friend who started me unknowingly on this road when she invited me to her mother's memorial PowWow 2 years ago says the same thing you did about some non-Native people respecting Native ways even more than some Native people she knows. I'm going to do my best and hope for the best from others!

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                • #9
                  ...it is what it is...

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                  • #10
                    is that your final answer Wyorose? LOL
                    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

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                    • #11
                      I was taught that it is VERY inappropriate to copy someone else's pattern exactly. Almost any artist dislikes having their work copied.

                      However if there were some similarities to their work and distinct artistic differences, the piece would not be an exact copy.

                      I would not copy something that is in someones regalia... not for myself and not for someone else. I would, however, make something to match an existing piece if the person requesting the new item also owned and wore the original item in their own personal regalia.
                      "Liberty is the one thing you can't have unless you give it to others."
                      ~ Wm A White


                      "We could learn a lot from a box of crayons:
                      some sharp, some pretty, some dull,
                      some have weird names, & all different colors,
                      but they have to learn to live in the same box." ~ Anon

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SingingDeer
                        I would not copy something that is in someones regalia... not for myself and not for someone else. I would, however, make something to match an existing piece if the person requesting the new item also owned and wore the original item in their own personal regalia.
                        That makes good sense - I'm sure there are many people who can't afford what they'd like to wear all at once, and if they are just adding to something they already wear and the design is their own, it seems ok . . .

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by biggurlbrain
                          i had always thought that a person's outfit was sacred. that a design is meant only for that person. so i agree that u shouldnt do it. i was just discussing the tribally appropriate thing with my sister the other day. i think that you should only dance a style of another tribe if you married onto it, or your best friend forever is from there, like you were raised in that culture. i don't like the idea of us canadians dancing women's southern buckskin for example because we might unintentionally disrespect that tribe because of ignorance. on the other hand none of us could dance jingle cause we ain't all objibway.
                          Thanks for your input, I too, believe the designs on ones regalia are a part of them. My designs have stong family and tribal significance, that can be traced back to pre-reservation times. Certian patterns we only bead on certian regalia (mens, womans) I was taught that along time ago not only could another tribe tell which tribe you were from by your beadwork, but within your tribe you could tell what family you were from. I'm proud to wear my regalia, it states strongly my tribe and my family.

                          Like many of you I was absolutely shocked by this woman!!!When I told her about my designs and where they came from, she didn't seem detoured or even bothered by her request of me to bead someone else's design. I must also add that, she really was not changing much (less then 10%) and keeping the orginal colors just changing the background.

                          I must admit, I have seen some people try to bead my families designs and it really did upset me. But, an elder family member said to me "They can't and never ever will be able to truly bead our patterns the way we do." I have to admit, the copies do look pretty sad next to ours.

                          Thanks for all of your input, I thought I was in the twilight zone for awhile with this woman thinking, did I miss something in Indian country, is it okay to copy designs now?
                          Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art." - Leonardo Da Vinci

                          "I found I could say things with my beads that I couldn't say any other way....things I had no words for" - Eva McAdams Eastern Shoshone

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A couple of quick questions though..

                            1) did you find out if maybe the person in the picture was a family member?
                            2) did you ask them if they had permission to use this pattern?

                            I totally agree with not copying someone else's work, but the thought occured to me ,what if this was like a cousin or relative, or even the father in the pic. How do we know without asking. But then, how do we know they won't lie either?
                            Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

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                            • #15
                              Well I am about education here. And maybe the most appropriate way was to 'advise' them what they were doing was wrong. Then suggesting you could either help them with a new design more appropriate for them or help them come up with their own designs or 'family logo's'. If they don't know what they are doing is wrong, then they'll keep doing it. Honestly, I see alot of southwestern families doing this with northern regalia.

                              I am dine' and my son is a grassdancer. However, my adopted dad is lakota (singer/drum keeper) and he's the one I learned everything from. Obviously, grassdancing is not a part of Dine' culture or traditions. However, I try to respect both ways, using my designs to represent our culture, using colors that are Dine' nation colors, and yet respecting the northern traditions at the same time. Yes, it can be difficult but it can be done.

                              I think its sooo wrong to steal someone's design. I guess if you see your own design being used by someone else try to take in grace that they thought your design was beautiful enough to copy but then again tell them how you feel too.

                              I display my work at flea markets and powwow's. But I tell everyone, this is my SON'S own design, I can help you create your own look or you can use a symbol or design that belongs to your family. However, I will not copy my son's design for someone else.

                              Yes, us artists know that our designs may be copied, etc. That is just how it is especially when we dance or 'show' our stuff in public.

                              I don't know, do you know how to get a trademark for your work? Does anyone have information on this? I would like to know. :D
                              You have crossed my path, You will never be forgotten......


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