An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses


I see you are confused about what constitutes cultural appropriation.  I would like to provide you with resources and information on the subject so that you can better understand what our concerns are. I would also like to provide you with this stellar guide from Simon Fraser University called “Think Before You Appropriate“.

However, I also want you to have a brief summary of some of the more salient points so that you do not assume you are merely being called a racist, and so that I do not become frustrated with your defensive refusal to discuss the topic on those grounds.

If at all possible, I’d like you to read the statements on this BINGO card.  If any of those have started whirling through your head, please lock them in a box while you read this article.  They tend to interfere with the ability to have a respectful conversation.


  • Some items are restricted items in specific cultures.  Examples from Canada and the United States would be: military medals, Bachelor degrees (the actual parchment), and certain awards representing achievement in literary, musical or other fields.
  • These items cannot be legitimately possessed or imitated by just anyone, as they represent achievements earned according to a specific criteria.
  • Yes, some people will mock these symbols.  However in order to do this, they have to understand what the symbols represent, and then purposefully desecrate or alter them in order to make a statement. They cannot then claim to be honouring the symbol.
  • Some people will pretend to have earned these symbols, but there can be serious sanctions within a culture for doing this. For example, someone claiming to have earned a medical degree (using a fake parchment) can face criminal charges, because that ‘symbol’ gives them access to a specialised and restricted profession.


  • Other items are non-restricted.  Flags, most clothing, food etc.  Accessing these things does not signal that you have reached some special achievement, and you are generally free to use these.
  • If you do not use these items to mock, denigrate or perpetuate stereotypes about other people, then you can legitimately claim to be honouring those items.


For the most part, headdresses are restricted items.  In particular, the headdress worn by most non-natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations.  These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them.  It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.

So unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.

Even if you have ‘native friends’ or are part native yourself, individual choices to “not be offended” do not trump our collective rights as peoples to define our symbols.


It is okay to find our stuff beautiful, because it is.  It is okay to admire our cultures.  However I think it is reasonable to ask that if you admire a culture, you learn more about it.  Particularly when the details are so much more fascinating than say, out-dated stereotypes of Pan-Indian culture.

You do not have to be an expert on our cultures to access aspects of them.  If you aren’t sure about whether something is restricted or not, please ask someone who is from that culture. If people from within that culture tell you that what you are doing is disrespectful, dismissing their concerns because you just don’t agree, is not indicative of admiration.

If you really, really want to wear beaded moccasins or mukluks or buy beautiful native art, then please do! There are legitimate and unrestricted items crafted and sold by aboriginal peoples that we would be more than happy to see you with.  Then all the nasty disrespectful stereotyping and denigration of restricted symbols can be avoided, while still allowing you to be decked out in beautiful native-created fashion.

If you are an artist who just loves working with aboriginal images, then please try to ensure your work is authentic and does not incorporate restricted symbols (or perpetuate stereotypes).  For example, painting a non-native woman in a Plains culture warbonnet is just as disrespectful as wearing one of these headdresses in real life.  Painting a picture from an archival or modern photo of a real native person in a warbonnet, or in regalia, or in ‘street’ clothes is pretty much fine.  Acknowledging from which specific nation the images you are using come from is even better.  “Native American” or “Indian” is such a vague label.


It’s okay to make mistakes.  Maybe you had no idea about any of this stuff.  The classiest thing you can do is admit you didn’t know, and maybe even apologise if you find you were doing something disrespectful. A simple acknowledgement of the situation is pure gold, in my opinion. It diffuses tension and makes people feel that they have been heard, respected, and understood.

If you make this kind of acknowledgement conditional on people informing you of these things ‘nicely’ however, that is problematic.  The fact is, this issue does get people very upset.  It’s okay to get heated about it too on your end and maybe bad words fly back and forth.  My hope is that once you cool down, you will accept that you are not being asked to do something unreasonable.

Remember that BINGO card above?  It demonstrates how not to go about the issue.  You and I both know this issue is not the end of the world.  But it is an obstacle on the path to mutual respect and understanding.

Thanks for listening.


This article is adapted from a longer article I wrote previously, but I like the changes here enough that I wanted to ensure this version was also available.
Share this: Google+ Reddit Print

633 Responses to An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks, useful article. It can be inobvious even for natives. As a native male from a Plains nation, my father left me his headdress which he earned and told me I could wear it when he passed. Well he did and I wore it on one special occasion but have kept it put away because I grew up off reservation and wasn’t familiar with all the customs, but I instinctively knew it was something of a sacred object, or restricted as you term it. Eventually during a visit to the reservation I asked about it (among many other things) and of course it turns out the rule in our nation is the headdress is only to be worn by warriors, which generally means veteran status, or other notable service. Now as it happens I am among a very small number of modern persons who participated in a war party as a youth with my father and others when we were attacked by an enemy tribe, so according to traditional rules I am entitled to wear it, but I think it would be considered a grey area by some, so I don’t.

    • tara says:

      my name is tara and I come from an indian back ground as well my grand father was born a Seminole indian and so was his mom I did not grow up on the reservation but I do know indian customs and traditions very well I did get offended when I saw people wearing the head dress that were non indian to me I thought that was just plain disrerspectuf to the indian. the article I read explaining to that woman from Oklahoma I hope she got the message.

      • Nikki says:

        While I understand the headdress is important to traditional ceremonies, I feel there is a certain hypocrisy about the situation. Allow me to explain… there are many statuses across the world from every culture that are considered an honor. And yet no one blinks an eye when people that aren’t really entitled to wear attire for those statuses, do. In example, King, Queen, Knight, Priest, Pope, Pharaoh, Doctor, Soldiers, Emperor/ess,, these are a few of countless examples. So if it offends you that people trespass on your culture, and you want people to feel the same way about it as you do, perhaps you should also be offended for other cultures who are trespassed against.

        • Marie-Sue says:

          I personally don’t believe there is any hypocrisy here. These people are native and they are defending their own culture and asking outsiders to avoid certain sacred articles of clothing etc. They cannot speak for all cultures except their own, and so they shouldn’t because an outsider’s voice should never be louder than those who possess the culture/ traditions in the first place. I’m sure that anyone who understands cultural appropriation would understand that, and I’m sure anyone who makes the claim to respect their culture would do the same and respect others.

        • Jeanne says:

          I guess it would greatly depend on who’s LAND these trespasses were happening…SURE of course if I was in England,I would respect the Queen and if I was in Vatican City,I would respect The Pope and same with in Egypt,I would show respect wherever it was needed and I WOULD NOT argue with them about why,I would just do it,because isn’t that what RESPECT is about??

          • Kat says:

            I sort of agree with Nikki above… And absolutely not meant to incite any heated feelings, but I think the best way to handle these situations is to use it as a positive. Rather than get upset, you can use these situations to teach others the meaning of your culture – take pride that most of these people are simply emulating a part of your culture that they find fascinating, on the flip side, people could take no notice of your culture at all…. Most people take everyday activities for granted, but the truth is that most of these activities have taken root from much more prominent cultural activities. Easter eggs for example, they come from the Ukrainian decoration of pysanka. I’m half Ukrainian, but I take joy in the fact that every year children and adults alike enjoy this activity. I’m also half Irish, but I’m not offended that you take part in my celebration of St. Patrick’s day- which actually stems from a real religious root in Ireland…. In my opinion, I would rather celebrate my culture with you, it makes me happy you have taken an interest in it – even if you have down graded it to a day you drink your face off on- I’d be the happiest red head Irish girl next to you cheersing you on. Drunk …. Maybe,….. Though that sounds like a bad Irish joke even to myself – yep- but I can roll with it.

            Also, Neon feathers could rightfully represent any headress, not just native American either. There are numerous examples throughout history of feathers being used in decorative clothing because they are beautiful and reverred- roman helmets, Egyptian wear, paganism, Mexican artifacts, even Vegas dancers, so I think it’s safe to ask what’s condidered “traditional” and “exclusive” to ONLY Native American cultural items….? I saw a post yesterday ripping on Rhianna for wearing “Aztec” pattern tights as being Native Culture misappropriation …. As culturally concerned natives, how do plan on tackling that issue…?

            The difference is how you choose to handle it. You have a monumental choice to make as a culture. Like many cultures before you.

            Know in your heart that the headdress you’re ancestors made could never be eclipsed by some cheap store knock off- know that when you wear it with pride it holds and represents all the important cultural lessons of your people. the one the flouzy in the photo is wearing isn’t same and never will be. Just like crayons and dime store egg dye…

          • Robbin Ferguson says:

            Thank you for this post ❤️

          • KK O says:

            Show respect always.

        • Terina Puriri Bailey says:

          I think the author of this document is trying to make that very point in its general entirety. We need to be culturally sensitive to all cultures in order to maintain dignity, respect and appreciation. We have the same issues in my culture, I am Maori, Native to New Zealand, and whilst living in the USA we also had to educate our own people as well as others that misused the Haka (best known as a war dance/ e.g. before the All Blacks play Rugby) or knowing the appropriate time to do certain cultural rituals. Referring to an incident that happened a few years ago in Utah where a group of supporters attended a football game, their team lost and as the opposition exited the Football field, the supporters thought it a great time to perform the Maori Haka, (noting that this was not their native culture) not understanding that this was not the time nor blocking the entrance to the opposing teams lockers was the place to do it, coupled with the fact that the opposing teams was unfamiliar with this cultural ritual, lead the opposing team to think that this was an angry attack on their team and it did not end well. Police were involved with pepper spray and an outbreak occurred, This perhaps could’ve been avoided if the party who had performed this haka knew more about what they were doing, when it is appropriate and how and where it is done. This maybe a little far off from the original topic however I think it still comes to the same conclusion, knowledge, respect, appropriation and obtaining the right or permission is definitely a point that is being made, no matter what culture and what upbringing or background we have had or come from.

        • Cass says:

          I don’t really prefer to get offended by things myself, because trying to control what other people do is pointless, however the Native American people IMO deserve more respect than all those others you mentioned. They were much more spiritually and emotionally intelligent. Kings, queens, popes, soldiers..etc… While Some of them may deserve respect for certain reasons, ultimately they have all contributed to greed and helped to establish a system that is completely illogical, but we have all been forced to participate. We do not live in harmony with the environment we depend on for our own survival. It is as if we believe evolution leads up to humans, and now it’s our job to perfect the universe, so we go around eliminating all of our competition, because the universe will be perfected once it revolves around human life. We withhold technologies and wisdom that could allow us to live in harmony because we are obsessed with power. So to mock these people who believe they deserve respect is almost necessary, while to demand respect for the natives and other with similar culture and beliefs, is also crucial.

          • Aoi says:

            You think Native Americans are different from the rest of humanity? you think they never did anything based on greed?

          • Wow, amazing point. Cuts to the heart of colonialism like a hot knife through butter. If only I had access to your scalpel-like logic before I ever wasted my time writing this.

        • Cori says:

          Just try understand what is being said..have the respect to know nd listen with open ears…take in the information whole heartedly…we know who is who in this world..we don’t run around claiming who we aren’t….don’t go bashing other people’s culture..just made straight forward points. How can we stand up for others culture if we know nothing about…can only voice our own!

        • SJackson says:

          She probably is. She is defending her own and other like cultures. Simple as that. It is up to the Empresses of the world to defend their own cultures. Not that I have a CLUE what you mean.

          Are you suggesting that if I dress up as a Medieval Nun for Halloween when my people come from Europe that it is OK, but that an aboriginal person can’t even though they were oppressed and brutalized by the same culture? I respectfully ask you to rethink.

        • ohshinnah kayle says:

          Kings, Queens, Knights, Priests, Popes, etc… have not been colonized, oppressed, and had everything ripped away from them over and over by the people making a mockery of their tradition and culture either. Big difference

          • Exactly! there is a cultural context of oppression that Nikki is missing. You cant oppress a pope or a king by wearing their regalia, however if a group of people have been systematically oppressed and marked for death by another, is it okay for the oppressor to then wear the regalia of the oppressed? Its never done in context, respect or with any knowledge.

          • Mark Olsen says:

            Actually Kings Queens etc. have been colonized. This was very common practice in Europe, actually everywhere in the world. Kingdoms would send their peasants to conquered lands to replace the native (not our first nations) inhabitants. This was very common practice. Further, there was a handful of kings and queens, your implications are that the “peasants” were all the same. If you are frustrated that you are losing your culture, know that you are not ‘special’ all cultures evolve, die, or change much like human genetics. Isolation is the surest way to cultural death.

          • I really don’t give a shit about your history (which, despite your claims, is not universally applicable, or useful), or your ideas about how we need to be more like you to avoid what is not cultural death, but deliberate erasure on the part of settler colonialism. We are not to blame for the violence your people are enacting.

        • Amoreena says:

          Maybe we would not be so mad if you know the near genocide of natives did not happen. It would be like if someone killed you in your home and then wore your clothes as a costume, I am sure your remaining family would find that disrespectful.

          • Ragnar says:

            I think historical context matters. I have no problem with Japanese people dressing up as Vikings or knights, and don’t think a Canadian kid playing samurai is an issue.

            Given genocide and ongoing suppression of indigenous peoples, I can appreciate that an American or Canadian kid dressing up as an “Indian” is a different matter.

        • KK O says:

          Nikki, do you run into a court with a fake law degree and bask in the judicial system while having only finished your third month at burger king? No. Recognize.

        • Olympia Gonzalez says:

          It is not NDN’s or indiginious people to stand up or to speak of other people traditions, again That too would be wrong & distectful! And this is Not some thing that just ” our Ancestors” wore as u mentioned, it is still a real thing a real tradition and a real chief or leader that wears this know the honor he has & values that! By these people doing this not only u disrespect the whole navive nation, but the elder that wears it!!
          Sure they learned about respecting there Elders?
          There are even taboos about people wearing camo’s some people find that if u haven’t fraught in a war or were in the military u shouldn’t wear that, as it is part of a uniform! But these are different arguments. And Some Undian nation are very modest, even @ events, gathering pow-wows we cover our shoulders , legs we Woman for most part wear skirts even if we are not performing, like in cerimonies or dancing!
          Just like when people leave the Rez & come out to the world there are certain respects they do to honor themselves, I hold doors open for elders because I respect & honor them, I say please & thank- you too it’s not old fashion it’s respect!!’
          By saying this headress ancestors wore, again it is still done, we are not the NDN’s I see in old western shows, & those are wrong images of Indians too, we actually live in houses, drive cars & order Chinese food, the difference is respect or @ least try to once we learn to respect All people & rhere customes, rhe Fact tha when this was posted to their webpage or Facebook, they now know, they choose to block that person with the very polite way of sharing this important information about our people, what do we think about them blocking, I guess we will all find out? I’m sure they will not change a thing I mean all the $$ put into producing, design ect, I’m sure it will continue & we will continue to fight these racist injustice not that we want to fight!! But after all we are Warriors, Sad take 1srwp forward & 1 back, look @ how the World Woke up to the oil drilling & water issues in Indian land, how people everywhere came to help & support! Wrong is wrong no matter what, once u have learn right from wrong, u cannot scream Ignorance, People continue to do this is simply saying we don’t care, screw your religion, well that’s what it is & that really is why this could be concidered ” A Holy War”

        • Sherri says:

          Who says they aren’t?

    • Angie says:

      Hello everyone, I am looking for the opinion of any of you guys. I recently posted a picture wearing a headdress but it isn’t what you might picture as a Native American headdress. It has pink and purple feathers as well as beads (it’s not even mine). I was wondering what you thought about this commercialized version of the headdress, does it offend you? Do you mean that non-Indians should never wear anything resembling this? Additionally, I might add, I had no idea that it was a restricted item, and I am truly sorry if this offended you. I really need your opinion.

      • JAME BRACKETT says:

        The headdress you are pertaining to still resemble the Native American headdress. if someone wear it with pride its ok but when you put it on and then start doing the tomahawk and putting on war paint and jumping around. Yes that offend me. WE ARE NOT YOUR MASCOT WE ARE A PEOPLE LIKE YOU YOU BLEED SO DO WE. That being said most people do thing like that and don’t even take the time the meaning of what they are doing. Lack of education. Don’t mean to sound rude.

        • Andras Szabo says:

          ok lets get educated , how many are still practicing that tradition or religion ? i educated my self , 9000, as much as i dispice what happened to natives in north americas , what does it mater at this point that a few 1000 people from 7.5 billion people feelings are hurt , its over , the bad guys won , at this point practicing natives are the last ones of they kind , let people have fun

          • Go fuck yourself, genocidal apologist settler.

          • 9000..? Where are you getting your numbers from, bud? Also, it’s not just offensive to indigenous people. A whole bunch of us non-indigenous also see injustice in entitled behaviour, because it points back to a long, gross violent history.

          • Vera says:

            Wtf smart guy. A quick Google search reveals there are at least 6.5 million indigenous in the US and Canada. I’ll take bets on who’ll outlast who, and my money isn’t on whitey.

          • siiix Siiix says:

            9000 its wikipedia , and its not natives or first nations but those who still follow that religion or tradition , i know many noth american natives (US and Canada), many of them im close friends, and it seems to me correct, most natives dont give a shit about tradition they either christian or atheist by now, none of my friends care like at all, of course every one cares about colonization , that is horrible, im just saying the amount of natives caring about this specific issue is rather small , burn down the white house i support that , i found if horrible what happened in standing rock , but feathers REALLY o.O

          • “It’s wikipedia hur hur”, yeah no, you don’t get to pretend you know what you’re talking about, sorry.

    • I am non-First Nations and see both sides of the coin here. Without using overt bias I will be so called devils advocate. Bright Side: though still politically incorrect this does ignite the flame to learn the history of First People of North America…. Flip Side: quite frankly political correctness is out of hand, it has created victims out of everyone. Wrap-up: These opportunities are being looked over as teaching tools as to what a headdress truly is and what it represents. As well as stop being so offended over everything (everyone)… these moments of being able to learn and grow get thrown away or marred by demands; it does nothing but fuel racial tensions that should not exist cause we all from same creator and same planet… we are all humans from earth, we are all brothers and sisters…. time to start acting like it. The only thing we can control is our reaction and that’s it. I personally would not wear a headdress without finding its proper context, but just because I am willing to doesn’t mean every one else has to as well, and how many non-first people traditions are used now by first people. Though not all traditions were willing, but that was a different generation of idiot not me… not everyone here now either. but attitudes toward that generation apply to us somehow, but we must be silent. Equality for humanity not if races, sexes, preferences… EVERYONE. Too many people that were not directly involved in injustices are trying to make others feel that injustice. That’s why we have a problem still. Don’t wipe history clean but start equality today instead of injustice for equality. I love ALL my Earth family…. but y’all a little short-sighted sometimes… bigger picture people!

      • *insert huge eye roll*

        “Playing the devil’s advocate” is usually, as you have demonstrated here, really just about reinforcing the overculture’s sense of entitlement. You are doing nothing brave, nothing new. Your response here is literally just a repetition of the same old tired arguments you can already find in this comment section…but you felt compelled to speak anyway. Interesting.

        • Josh says:

          I have been discussing the cultural appropriation argument issue elsewhere on the web with some pretty irrational people, but I thought I could come read some other sources for better context and education. I took the time to read your well thought out and effectively written argument. It is a shame that you cant find the patience and desire to educate in your responses. We get it. You’re pissed and happy to tell anyone that disagrees to go fuck themselves.

          • Lol, “go fuck yourself”.

            I spent a lot of time putting together an explanation and an argument. Then, over quite a few years, I have had a bunch of people come and “disagree” in the laziest sense of the word…almost none of the people commenting bothered to engage the material I provided. It has been kneejerk “omg free speech” here and whiny “omg *argument I already dealt with* there”. In total between the two articles, we’re talking more than a thousand comments, 99% of which were by people basically whining about me being mean. You want me to be patient with that? For years? The same, tired, repetitious, intellectually dishonest arguments? Over and over? Get a grip. I highly doubt you would hold yourself to such a pointless and ridiculous standard.

            So if you want to dismiss the pieces I wrote on this because you don’t like my tone, then yes. Please do fuck off in the most imaginative way you can think of, because you were never here to engage in the first place. You want an education? Pay me.

  2. Andrea Rosenberger says:

    As the title says “An Open Letter to Non-Native’s in Headdresses”, I would like to expand on the above post…I’ve seen trendy photoshoots of NATIVE women in short dresses or tube tops wearing them and I shake my head at the lack of respect and understanding, just the same as when I see a non-native person wearing one. I often hear “but I’m native…!!” when approaching the topic of appropriation. I wish some of my peers would understand you don’t have to be non-native to appropriate. Lack of respect for sacred items within the native circle is a sad reminder that there has been some success in the assimilation efforts of colonialists, the church, the government, and society.

  3. Pingback: Why appropriating the burqa-clad woman is not cool « A Sober Second Look

  4. Pingback: ihanko oikeesti, jenni?

  5. Pingback: Jack Elmy share… « lapisinthedesert

  6. Torsten says:

    Thank you for this informative and well explained article. Since I am from Europe it is understandably nearly impossible to achieve this kind of cultural awareness unless you intend to inform yourself. It is for example absolutely traditional for children here to imitate the looks of foreign cultures such as american natives on certain occasions like carnival.

    Although I’m certain that no German would be offended if you wore a “Bundesverdienstkreuz”, which is kind of the highest national decoration for remarkable achievements or actions or any other military stuff, because it would be known that you probably had no idea of it’s meaning anyway, I am aware that it is again emotionally different when the act of imitation is related to somebody who is directly involved in your cultural issues.

    Or in other words, it is harder to smile over the ignoramus when they nearly extinct your culture.

    I encourage you to keep up your work on grooming your culture. I hope it will grow strong and healthy again, because cultural diversity is unutterably important for our planet, as the modern civilization is far away from being progressive and collected many design defects on the way.

  7. Pingback: Unsurprisingly, Victoria’s Secret is still racist | Life as Improvisation

  8. Beverly says:

    Thank you for this post. I whole-heartedly agree.

    It bothers me to see cultural appropriation that happens without any regard for the original purpose or culture. What comes to mind is a Tim Horton’s coffee shop in Nipigon Ontario that has a totem pole in its parking lot. As far as I know this location is not owned by a First Nations person from the Pacific Northwest. And while I am aware that a totem pole is not a spiritual object, it does have cultural significance that should not be taken out of context.

    I feel likewise about inuksuit … part of Inuit and Dene heritage that have turned into airport giftshop earrings or tourist rock-piles at the side of the road. Dreamcatchers are similarily produced for retail sales by a wide range of tourist sites that assume it echoes a sense of native “Canadiana”.

    I respect the craftwork of First Nations peoples, as I do that of any culture. I do not support trinket-buying or misappropriation of cultural identity, instead opting to enjoy other cultures as shared with me by those who have the right to do so.

    • Rudolph says:

      Go to Mexico, the Aztec headress is for sale.
      The local government had some factory produce them under contract for the dancers.
      Flashback 30 years in the US, same thing.
      Look at toys from the 50’s, to play the “good guy” was to be a cowboy, indians were the bad guy.
      In Mexico, it was the government that pushed the headress and other things.
      I have all sorts of Mexican government provided articles.
      I Breath fire.
      This is something that kids in Mexico learn.
      It has nothing to do with race or tribe.
      Kids just learn it.
      And not just a skin color, kids.
      That is what kids do.

      • Pretty sure you’ve left a similarly ridiculous comment before. The Mexican government is a colonial institution, and is heavily involved in oppressing Indigenous communities…but you want to hold up this as an example of what exactly?

        “This is what kids do”…you forgot “when colonial governments exploit Indigenous communities and are founded on violence against them.”

  9. PHguy says:

    Concerns of these symbols remind me of indigenizing trends in pop culture particularly churned out of Hollywood (e.g. Ke$ha). Other than that are slowly-growing Amerindian cultural-fashion memes (e.g. patterns, feathers and beads, “Indian chief in headdress” Warholesque designs) among new generations of non-Aboriginal/mixed girls.

  10. Barbara Jane says:

    “Don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” Thomas King

  11. Rex says:

    I am going to try to build my own feathered head bonnet. I really like the concept and it is one I have always wanted to bring to life without relying on anybody but myself. It is often said that great artists borrow from one another – the bonnets are inspiring, but I cannot borrow the spiritual and cultural meaning that they bring to and develop, and highlight within the native communities.

    If I build my own, using materials sourced from planet Earth without harming planet earth, I will wear it and it will be joyful and meaningful to me.

    But if someone says to me “Hey, that’s cultural appropriation” I will say “No, I built this myself, it has my own personal meaning”. It’s ok that they made a mistake, and I’m glad that they are aware of cultural appropriation. They didn’t know that I crafted it myself – and sure – it will look similar to other bonnets they have seen from TV, documentaries, or real life experiences, but I will have purposely used my inspiration to make it suitably different by using dark green colour palette.

    This is all hypothetical by the way – but, as you are very intelligent and knowledgeable about these matters, I think I would benefit greatly from your insight here – and I’d really appreciate it 😀

    All the best,

    Rex from Australia.

    • Apparently anything I’ve said or would say to you would be met with “No, I built this myself, it has my own personal meaning.”

      So enjoy your privilege, and enjoy the fact that you get to speak over and ignore indigenous peoples. You certainly won’t be getting a pat on the back for it from us.

      • I am interested in this aspect of the conversation because it appeals to me as an artist, and what it means to draw inspiration from something without abusing your sources, if that makes sense. I draw, sculpt and work in film and in textiles. I am currently working on a series of artworks that mix images from movies and “fashions” that are deemed commemorative, or designed to honour something, as a commentary on how we misdirect our concepts of what is “honourable”, and we commemorate relatively meaningless things. My intentions are not actually that important as far as this conversation goes, but I wonder (and forgive me if this gets a little long winded): I remember reading about the auction of Hopi artifacts in France last year (and again, more recently), and being so disappointed that it turned out that despite the involvement of the Hopi, and the Smithsonian, and a lot of voices internationally that the value of these objects as commodities was considered by the buyers/sellers/auction houses to be greater than their value as both current and historical cultural objects to living people from whom they were taken unjustly. The objects were beautiful and the story was powerful. I did some drawings from the photos, and aspects of some of these images have found their way into many different aspects of my work, because they were so resonant. I have been influenced by lots of other things though, and so one detail from a piece of woven fabric from Northern Canada might smash up against some beaded headgear from Nigeria, or a pair of ski boots in the same image/drawing/textile piece (all of which i make myself – I don’t use “cultural objects” in my work unless I am collaborating with someone from that culture who makes them), and I wonder if what I am doing is disrespectful? I have always sort of assumed (and please, correct me if I am approaching this from an ignorant place) that to see something, and to be inspired by it, and to allow it to echo in your work was ok. If I were to take/buy/steal an actual object of value to someone, and cut it up or wear it, or make it into something else, or even just keep it, I could see that that would be devastatingly insensitive at best, and at worst kind of violent. I can understand based on what you said in your (very clear and insightful – thank you so much for that) article that a headdress is a merit of high achievement, and to see someone wearing it is disrespectful to the value of the achievement of the legitimate wearer – but if it is clearly a counterfeit, does it carry the same weight? If I draw a facsimile of a Harvard degree, it doesn’t come with the honour or the recognition the real one does, and anyone looking at it would see that (I have used fake and real travel papers in my work as well – which is not quite the same thing, but similar I think). Again, please excuse my ignorance, this is an honest question – where does it stop being an affront, and begin to be acceptable to be wearing/working with things that echo the aesthetics of the sacred object (in this case the headdress)? Like, if I were to wear a hat that had a ring of feathers around the band, or if I were to make something that resembled a headdress using torn denim and metal as a part of my work, is that still treading on sensitive ground in an insensitive way? It would never be confused with the real thing (like your suggestion about the medical degree), but is obviously inspired by it on some level. I’m sorry about the long winded reply, and I hope you’re still checking in here, I would love to hear your thoughts. Emily

      • Cisgender White Male (Shitlord Level 9000) says:

        You’re very welcome to be upset, but we don’t have to care. 🙂

        • Very true, Cisgender White Male, Shitlord Level 9000 😀

          • Kat says:

            I think what needs to be made clear here is what exactly is specifically traditional to ONLY Native American head dresses. The problem that artist Rex above is citing is that feathers are an abundant resource, they are a naturally occurring item on earth – and the native Americans are not the only culture to use them in decoration OR in head wear. So if this argument MUST be made that no one else can copy feathers in a head band, then you MUST explicitly lay out what separates a Native American head dress from everyone else’s so that everyone else knows… This is important and should be addressed.

            Is it colours? The style in which they are braided and assembled? The designs and symbols that go with them? What is specific th JUST your culture?

          • Let’s not be disingenuous here. There are plenty of visual examples provided in the Hall of Shame, and it has been made abundantly clear that Plains style warbonnets are the subject. If you are making or using a bonnet that looks like one of these restricted items, then don’t. I do not need to explain to you the minutiae. Frankly, it’s none of your business. You are not entitled to full details (including how the headdresses are made and the significance of every part) so that you can sit down with that information and decide whether you are going to choose to respect the restrictions that have been explained…or whether you are going to choose to exercise your privilege and not give a single shit in order to access something you want, regardless of how the originating culture feels about it.

          • linda says:

            So are you saying kids should only dress up as themselves? Or they are being disrespectful if they do not. Ban Halloween and every other holiday because it is offensive to someone.

          • Yes, that is exactly what I said, verbatim. Thank you for spending the time to figure that out, you are literally a genius.

    • tara says:

      hello rex.did any thing you read on the internet about the indian head dress register in your head. my grand father was a Seminole indian and so was his mom how could you be so dam stupid

    • Robert Columbia says:

      That is very interesting. Considering headdresses simply as a restricted item like academic degrees as mentioned in the letter does not account for the possibility of parody.

      For example, if a person of any race were to make an obviously fake “Hahvahd Colejj of Remediall Litaracy” diploma and put it on their wall, obviously very few white people, even those with intimate connections with Harvard, would see that as anything other than funny. Certainly the number of people who would be fooled into thinking the diploma was genuine is very small. Why would, then, an obviously parody headdress (e.g. with neon green feathers) be wrong even when it is so obviously “fake” that no Plains native (or, for that matter, non-native) would be deceived into thinking it was a real bonnet that was awarded for real war deeds? In other words, a neon-green headdress isn’t fooling anyone – everyone knows it’s fake.

      Is the answer in the nature of parody? Is parody not a concept recognized in Plains cultures?

      • “Parodying” another culture, particularly one that has suffered genocide and all kinds of systemic cultural suppression and oppression is.. not classy at all. It’s just another way to flex a privilege muscle. If you wanted to learn enough about whichever culture whose objects you want to “use” or “parody” that you could use satire in any kind of meaningful way, why would you choose to direct the satire at, or make it operate through, an object where the people from that culture have said “just, don’t. We don’t use these things that way”? What makes your parody worth that exactly?

  12. Riley says:

    Hello there, I had some questions for you related to this… do you think that recreating a piece of art for educational purposes would be cultural appropriation, if it isn’t feasible to get an aboriginal piece? Or do you think it would be better to just avoid recreation altogether if you can’t have one made by a native craftsman/craftswoman?

    Also, I am going to be going on a mission trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to help with some of the people there. If you were in my position, where would you start on learning about the culture of the Oglala Lakota people(this is coming from a person who has little knowledge of the culture) ?

    • Kristin says:

      This is really helpful, I’m wondering if the same thing applies for feather earrings ? A friend from Somalia gave me feather earrings as a gift from her home so at least I know they have not been mass manufactured from Forever 21 or something but I don’t want to wear something that might even be perceived as cultural appropriation. What do you think?

  13. Courtney says:

    In your hall of shame, you have a lot of traditional tattoo art. It all depicts women in headdresses, but if it’s labeled “traditional”, it doesn’t mean that the culture being reflected in the art is traditional. “Traditional” or “neotraditional” is a style of tattoo art. I also find that wearing things that are sacred and creating art that only depicts sacred things are two separate issues. Art is expression, anyone is entitled to make it. A lot of things offends a lot of people; it’s impossible to make everyone happy. It’s very narrow minded to call art “ugly as christian sin”, as I’m sure you’re finding my comment very narrow-minded. But you’re entitled to your opinion. Don’t try to reinforce your opinion as fact because I do know a lot of people who don’t get offended by art depicting sacred cultural objects who personally DO reserve the right to be offended.

    • Blah blah blah.

      I didn’t bother reading past the first few sentences, since you clearly haven’t put any effort into reading what I wrote about the issue.

      • Sigurd Sigurden says:

        Interesting assumption on your part. You seem to assume that someone who disagrees with you didn’t bother to read what you said. Perhaps that should go on your bingo card.
        I have trouble with the assumption of cultural appropriation – Many different cultures have had similar ‘icons’; stacking rocks have been done by lots of different peoples at different times. Different peoples have made ‘totem’ poles.
        Question – Which on this list do you object to – kids dressing up at Halloween as soldiers with medals, doctors, priests, cowboys, indians, native Americans/Canadians/Mexican/other indigenous people, national costumes from other countries?

        • Here’s why I assume certain people haven’t actually read what they respond to… They completely ignore the substantive points I’ve made and ramble on about freedom and ‘others do it too’, etc.

          That’s very nice that you ‘have trouble’ with something, but I’m not wasting time engaging your ‘points’ when you don’t bother to engage mine. Read the article. Identify which argument you don’t agree with. Lay out where you think it goes wrong and why. Then we’ll talk.

          This is honestly Discussion 101 and if you can’t operate at even that level, I’m not interested in what you have to say. Period.

          • KO says:

            IT’s not simply a matter of disagreeing with what you’ve said. They’ve read this article and the original commentor had also read your wall of shame, and rather than disagreeing with what you’d said, they were simply confused as to how it applied in some other cases.

            If you’re seeking the end of ignorance, it might help to actually answer the questions of those trying to inform themselves, instead of insulting them and perpetuating the problem.

          • Have you seen how many comments there are on this?

            I have addressed the same comments, over and over again. At some point, the onus is on you folks to think for yourselves, and not expect to have your hand held while you are gently led through the information yet again.

            Honestly, stop whining about my tone. The article is pretty comprehensive, and a link is there to an even MORE comprehensive and detailed examination of the issue. That was me being clear and nice, with a lovely helpful tone. Crying in my comments because some folks are too lazy and intellectually dishonest to address the points I raised, gets you nowhere.

            If your ‘support’ is predicated on me talking to you like a kindergarten teacher, judging every possible scenario for you so you don’t have to think, kindly fuck off.

          • Eleonora says:

            Edit: this post was originally a bunch of racist invective. How sad that the person posting from the IP address of in Los Angeles, California, doesn’t get a platform to be a disgusting, racist, piece of crap.

  14. Anii says:

    Thank you for this article! I found it fascinating – not only because this subject is current, but also because it offered me some new facts, interesting “inside information” ( well, sort of, here in nordic countries we really don’t hear or know anything about native americans ) and some thoughts from a person who actually knows these things.
    I’ve always found your culture very intriguing – so again, thank you!

  15. Eleonora says:

    This is an old post but I had to wrote something. I found this text when I was looking for some headresses for the custom- party, because i find them beautiful. Immediatly after reading I stop looking and decided to wear something else. I want to apologize because i did not know this but now I do so obviesly I will not wear anything like that, ever. I from Finland ( Europe) so these things are not familiar to me but now they are and I will find out even more, because I want to know. My granma is from Karelia and I would not be happy if someone would wear their national dresses. i am really, really sorry.

  16. Irene Witty says:

    I listened to an interview on CBC’s ‘Q’ with ‘A Tribe Called Red’ discussing how they feel when they see headresses showing up at their shows. It was an informative segment for me. Now I read your blog and I understand even more. Thanks!

  17. Cassie says:

    As a very white, uncultured canadian female (even in my own Danish culture I find I’m in the dark), i greatly appreciate this bit of information. I am very inferested and have great appreciation for other cultures. I have always been particularly captivated by the Native culture and have a great respect for your people. Given the chance i would have loved to try on a headdress but now that i know i will simply respectfuly admire it. However i do wear my handmade mukluks with love and pride.
    I thank your people for your beautiful culture.

  18. Hailey says:

    I read your blog and I respect your opinion but it seems to me you’re the one who’s not open-minded. Referring to your comment to Courtney.

    • Being open minded does not require me to suffer fools.

      • KO says:

        Perhaps they wouldn’t need to be “fools” if you’d actually answer nicely. Respect is a two-way street.

      • cassidyrex says:

        Your article was so well-written and filled with great points. I had much respect for you after reading. However, in the comments you act like a whiny and arrogant child who has no sense of how to have healthy discourse. I suppose it is easy to hide an ugly personality with a well put together article and fancy words.

        • If you only listen to the opinions of marginalised peoples when they speak sweetly to you, don’t pretend you will ever be an ally worth working with.

          You need to understand our anger, and where it comes from. You also need to understand how many of the comments I am responding to ‘rudely’ literally perpetuate colonialism and violence against Indigenous people.

          You are missing a big piece of the puzzle, and if all you do is label it “rudeness” then you haven’t learned a thing.

          • Jane says:

            I don’t think that’s what cassidyrex meant at all. Like I, cassidyrex seems to have thought your article was full of great points, but your attitude *to others* in the comments is awfully rude. It’s a judgement based on what you’ve said to these other people, even if their points are as reasonable as yours. There is a difference between understanding, accepting and acknowledging your anger as a people and then there’s accepting being spoken to by a rude individual. If you wouldn’t put up with it, why should anyone else?

          • I honestly don’t give a shit about you, or anyone else, comparing flat out refusal to actually address the issues *politely* laid out in the actual article, to my complete (and apparently rude) refusal to coddle folks. I’m not your spirit guide, I’m not your pacifist squaw, I’m not your sweet little soft-spoken Tiger Lily. Address the points in the article, or to be extremely clear: FUCK. OFF.

          • Poppy Dots says:

            I found your blog in a quest to find out more about the metis nation. Initially I found it interesting and stimulating. However,your responses to individuals with opinions differing from yours have destroyed your credibility and worse yet, revealed your self-centred intolerance and lack of humanity.

          • Aselia says:

            Jesus!!! Apigtawikosisan! Reading the article and the comments, I understand your frustration, even as someone from central Asia who has no idea about the indigenous American culture and for me to see someone outside of my culture wear traditional attributes sparks nothing more than pride, but I also see your point and yes, you do have a full right to be rude here in the comments. Even I felt your frustration.

        • I, Like the others, believed that your article was well written, until I read the nasty things you have said since. Why would anyone choose to seriously consider your points when you treat them like shit for asking questions or having a different opinion. As the writer of the article, you have committed to giving people information on something you believe in, and in your article you very respectfully did so. This is something that you should be carrying to the comment section. even if you have to “answer the same questions repeatedly”. If you want us to understand your anger, then maybe you should address us in a way that won’t make us think you are a bitter scumbag that can only speak through anger. The points in the article were addressed, but all respect was lost for you and your points once you started angrily pounding away at your keyboard because because anyone dared open a discussion with you in the comments. So heres what I have to say to you: you can kindly FUCK OFF, your article is has become worthess since you can’t seem to provide any support in the comments. You don’t like that I wear a headdress? FUCK OFF, because I won’t listen to a damn thing someone as rude as you has to say about it. Maybe someone else will come along and can explain to me why wearing a headdress is wrong. until then, YOU are an unreliable source. haha, so funny you put so much energy into something you are passionate about and then destroy the chance you have to make people understand your anger and hurt by treating them like shit.

          • Cry some more please.

          • Aselia says:

            You Americans are sooooo INTOLERABLE TO EVERYTHING! Unless something is sugar-coated and put in your mouth, you won’t take it. How are you going to survive? Poor, poor you. This must be a really tough work for you.

          • Aselia says:

            I meant to say “world”, not “work”. You are just an ugly troll who didn’t even bother reading the article. About you comment: “maybe you should address us in a way that won’t make us think you are a bitter scumbag”. The author doesn’t HAVE TO address you in any way and frankly, doesn’t give a shit about what you think about her. This is NOT your Starbucks customer service. But hey, it seems your consumer brain doesn’t realize that. You want your ass licked thoroughly, go somewhere else. Seems these days over-sensitive fools like yourselves here can’t even distinguish “rudeness” from frustration. Frustration that ALL OF YOU CAUSED by monotonously repeating same stupid questions. Here. Well, guess what! A person can take only as much. The author is NOT a robot. If you’re looking for a kindergarten teacher to “guide” you through every ridiculous question, you’ve come to the wrong place. Grow the … Up.

          • Masika says:

            It’s wrong because you haven’t earned it. People work their whole lives to get a headdress and it’s not a show piece. I’ve done extensive research,even though I don’t live in USA, and I understand why it’s important to them.

            Now while I do believe that protecting their land and people is more important then crying Cultural Appropriation every time someone wears a headdress, we have to understand that because it holds significance to them,we can’t wear it.

          • Thank god for allies like you, who understand that we simply do not have our priorities straight, but that we must be forgiven for this for some reason.


      • Krystal says:

        Don’t make a article trying to be the “voice” if you flip shit that easily. Calling people names and telling them to fuck off…Lol disrespectful! Yet your article is practically all about respecting your people… Good luck with that…Lol

  19. Krisy says:

    “These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.”

    So if a woman does what a man would do to earn a headdress, how is she honored? Is there a female equivalent that men aren’t usually allowed to wear or are women just held to a higher standard?

  20. Salome says:

    I am so grateful to have stumbled on your blog. This is so enlightening. But more so, I can comprehend the tone and emotions in your writings. I have great respect for indigeneous people all over. I am from India (from a local indigenous community called ‘East Indians’ in India) and our local people are fading away in the huge mass of diverse religions and cultures among the Indian ethnic peoples there – You may have never heard of the ‘East Indians’ of the nation of India. We have very little national presence, let alone global presence. I have also lived for 10 years in NewZealand and admired their indingenous people called the ‘Maori’ and their customs and their ongoing struggle for equal recognition and not just reservations. Sending you my warm heartfelt greetings to you all.

  21. Jacob K says:

    This letter completely disregards the fact that most people wear things simply because they like how certain articles/items look. It usually has nothing do to with honor or respect. The headdress itself may be a symbol of an achievement, but it is itself not the achievement. Frankly, it only holds as much value and authority as one decidedly places on it, just as words have only as much value and meaning as you place on them. One person can hold a rock and feel it is the most important thing in the world to them, while another will look at it as just a rock. It’s a matter of perspective. To chastise someone for their own perspective isn’t a trait of open-mindedness, but rather one of intolerance. To call a contradicting perspective “disrespectful” is itself disrespectful. That kind of thinking is something that creates boundaries, not something that promotes unity or individual freedom.

    The Golden Rule is “treat others as you would like to be treated” – that goes both ways. If I wear something that you like, I feel you should be allowed to wear it, too, regardless of what it is. Likewise, I feel I should be able to wear something that you do if I like how it looks. If you feel I follow traditions that are silly and you want to mock me, I encourage you to do so. That is your right as a free, living being. It’s 100% my choice if I want to be offended by your actions or not. Nobody controls my emotions but myself, and if I disagree with what you think, say, or do, why should I become upset? It would be selfish of me to expect you to think like I do. Instead, I choose to respect you and your views, no matter how much I disagree with them. You are fully capable of doing the same.

    And by the way, I have Native American heritage.

    • You have hit enough points on the cultural appropriation BINGO card to win a prize, no doubt.

      You claim some vague “Native American heritage” (we don’t actually identify that way, btw) in order to excuse yourself and others. You call upon an extreme form of cultural relativism wherein nothing has any meaning but what the individual engaging in the behaviour gives it. Of course, this extreme form of cultural relativism completely ignores the reality of social structures and norms, and the way in which societies give things importance because we do not exist as individual units.

      Ugh, no. Your entire post reeks of idiocy, to be frank. This is not an issue of individual perspective. Someone, give this person what he won for playing Cultural Appropriation BINGO.

      • Manitopyes says:

        Wow. I have to say a lot of your points are valid but they are lost in your bad attitude. You cannot speak for possibly every tribe so please don’t act like you do. You’re marginalizing other native peoples while at the same time dismissing the issue of cultural misappropriation of other cultures. You act like a child anytime anyone disagrees.

        • You made absolutely no attempt to engage any of the points in the piece, you simply invoked some vague notion of complete and total individual freedom. You do not have complete and total individual freedom in the real world, and despite your adherence to the notion of individual cultural relativity, we do indeed restrict certain things in human societies. You may not like this fact, but your argument against it is not at all compelling, as you essentially attempt to ‘think restrictions away’ without ever engaging with why they exist in the first place.

          And with your last petulant rant, you have indeed achieved BINGO!

          • Britney says:

            I’m getting a headdress tattoo because I think they are beautiful. I read your original artical as well as researched the meaning behind them so I know what they are about… and I couldn’t care less who it offends! So put that in your pipe and smoke it! Ha! 😛

          • Hey, at least you’re embracing your racism instead of dressing it up in faux-honour! I prefer an honest racist to one who hides it.

          • Rafal says:

            I like how not adhering to your cultural norms is “racist”. It may be insensitive, you may not like it, and you are free to be offended, but how is not following Your social structures and norms racist? Structures and norms that in many aspects are exclusionary in nature, of which good example would be rewarding women soldiers with “male regalia”. I have been thought to treat everyone the same, no matter gender, age, race, social background. But respect has to be earned and the attitude you have displayed in comments here does not make me feel any regarding your person.
            In my humble opinion it would be more reasonable to simply point out that people who wear such imitation headdresses have nothing to do with Native Americans. Using terms such as racist to describe everything you don’t agree with simply devaluate the term, a term that should not be taken lightly.

          • The racism comes from a long history of outlawing Indigenous cultural practices such as the potlatch and sun dance. The racism comes from the Prairie pass system which made it illegal for natives to leave the reserve without permission and was deliberately set up to prevent social gatherings and political organization. The racism is in the attitude that our culture is yours to commodity, take from or deny us via colonial structures of power. Engaging in the appropriation and tokenization of our cultures is a proud colonial legacy, and only the wilfully ignorant can ignore that. In an earlier comment I addressed your ridiculous claim about ‘sexism’ re: the headdress, and you also obviously missed the part where it was explained that female warriors also earn the headdress.

            Fuck off with you denial of colonial history and present and fuck off with your tone policing as though refusing to engage ignorant ass racist pricks is somehow equivalent to structural racism itself rather than merely the appropriate response.

            Most of all, fuck off for not actually engaging the argument.

          • Belligerent says:

            The only racist I see on this page is the you. Did you ever have to get a prairie pass, or deal with 99% of the things that NAs did in the past? No, you didn’t. You’re just an angry, entitled twit who’d be pissed about something else if you didn’t have this. The only thing you’re accomplishing, is being enough of an obnoxious ass as to make people acquire a headdress just to piss you off. Pretty counterproductive. You’re not going to foster respect for a culture by being a jackass.

          • I’m not about to share any of my experiences of the experiences of my family with you. Thanks for coming, see yourself out!

      • Winnetou from the yellow liver tribe says:

        Edit: This person likes to spew racist, homophobic bile. What a shame they don’t get to share their opinions freely with this blog as a platform! Posting from in Australia? Huh. Interesting.

    • Livia says:

      Jacob, the Golden Rule “treat others as you would like to be treated” can also be interpreted in a less individualistic way that responsibly considers the impact that one’s acts have on another person. The argument that ‘nobody controls my emotions by myself’ propagates the destructive dualisms in our society, usually promoted in neoliberal societies in order to continue unjust power imbalances and a Darwinian-like view toward ‘the other’. How about considering a more humane outlook that is based on our interdependence? How much harm would it truly do to us to not wear a headdress? Not much, I believe. Especially in comparison with the harm it may cause to another person, considering the perpetual colonial relations, cultural genocides and oppression Indigenous peoples have faced for centuries. It’s about balance, harmony and reason, rather than merely stating one’s rights to unlimited freedom of expression for everything.I have no religion, though I do believe in one God-Goddess (i.e. The Creator) and ‘the Golden Rule’. In this case, the Golden rule would be that I wouldn’t want wear something that may hurt another person, especially considering the above circumstances. The other’s well-being also means our well-being, because we’re all ONE.

    • Aselia says:

      Jacob. What you wrote sounds like a BIG, BIG excuse to further misappropriating and misusing sacred things. I do see your point. And some things in the article are a bit exaggerated. And I feel that some things, like a white person wearing a t-shirt with cartoon Indians is offensive, while an Indian person wearing a t-shirt with cartoon cowboys isn’t. I understand that. But why would you and others in the comments here keep pushing and pushing the agenda? If the Natives don’t like you wearing the headdress, why would you argue? You may not believe in god and deities, but to them Nature is god and the headdress is something sacred. It’s not a matter of pride and stubbornness from THEIR side, it’s just the headdress has sacred values to THEM. And when you put it in for Halloween without even knowing the meaning of it, you disintegrate its sacredness, without even knowing its meaning and purpose. These days people don’t even know how Halloween originated and they still celebrate it. Without being aware that it is the same as celebrating Holocaust. But that I a different topic. So have some respect. This is a sensitive topic you wont understand.

    • Nohtawiy says:

      Jacob, I agree with your opinion. A model wearing a headdress is not implying that she fought in battle (or similarly earned her headgear). It can just be a fashion statement.

      I would like to make beaded headbands for my Cree children as part of our study of aboriginal culture. We will not be including a birds worth of ceremonial feathers, but I will add one feather of a colour I deem appropriate to their spirit and nature.

      At what point is ‘cultural appropriateness’ crossed? When someone one gets offended?

      • An individual cannot give permission to access something that is communal. The ôkimaw-astotin is a communal symbol; it belongs to the individual Nations that use it. As for your final question, this article and the longer article linked to at the beginning both explore the boundaries in great detail. At no point is “when someone gets offended” offered as the criterion.

        • nohtawiy says:

          But you got offended in your replies to several people with differing opinions.
          I agree that “an individual cannot give permision to access something that is communal”. Then an individual cannot get offended either,

          • One does not lead to the other.

            People can have differing opinions. This does not make all opinions equally valid. The opinion of someone outside the culture to which a restricted symbol belongs, for example, is of no consequence when it comes to determining whether or not accessing said restricted symbol is offensive or not. Nor can the individual opinion of a person from within the culture to which a restricted symbol belongs render a communal symbol unrestricted.

          • nohtawiy says:

            How can a ‘culture’ , not even a specific band, have the right to restrict a symbol. Someone is speaking for the Indigenou people of the Ameticas in saying that only certain ‘authorized’ people get to wear that symbol.

          • There are a handful of First Nations who use the ôkimaw-astotin, the war-bonnet. Literally a handful. THESE are the specific people saying “this is our restricted symbol and you don’t get to use it in any way that is not offensive, without our permission.” This restriction includes other First Nations who do not have the right to wear the war-bonnet without permission.

  22. Paul says:

    I recall when imitation used to be the biggest form of flattery, when did that change? Are we truly suggesting that we can only have heroes from our own race? If so, then I believe we have become the racist we wished didnt exist. Lets celebrate and embrace our culture as well as that of others. As soon as our culture becomes ours alone then we have nothing.

    • This is not imitation, it is ignorance. Please do not claim to be paying homage to cultural symbols you are too lazy to understand, or pay any actual respect to. If you just want to rip something off, and you don’t care if it bothers people, own that. Do not hide behind false claims to be ‘celebrating’ what we are telling you is not yours to do anything you wish with. You can’t pretend to be respecting us, while you actively disrespect us.

      • Sarah says:

        does it make you feel better to sit on your computer and bitch about things because you have no life ?
        People are allowed to do what they want and if someone wants a head dress tattoo they can get one and shouldn’t have to explain the meaning behind it to everyone , your pretty much saying anything anyone non native does that has anything to do with native culture is racist , it’s 2014 so get with it your not in charge anymore nor will your culture ever will be again so take what we do as a compliment , and if a non native person has a native friend they obviously respect them and don’t use them as excuses for the things they do , your delusion 🙂

        • Thank you for sharing your unapologetically racist, colonialist opinion. Though it is a breath of stale air, never let it be said I don’t let some of you folks rant and rave away…always good for a laugh at least!

          • Summer says:

            As enlightened as I am after reading your article, and with the risk of being called racist and winning Bingo, your attitude is atrocious. Your article was very well written, and was more fact and less opinion, which is definitely debate 101. however each reply you make to each comment only makes me, as well as others, lose respect for you and your opinions. If you want respect, you should learn how to give it.

          • Poor you, how horribly you’ve been treated.

          • Belligerent says:

            Please, you have no more right to be here than I do. Colonial. How is that not racist?

    • Azymic says:

      Hello, Paul. I have no links to this culture, and I really have no business replying to this. I am no expert on the subject. But I would like to point out several statements in the above article that answer these questions already. You seem like someone who wants to create an intelligent discussion, so I’ll try to give you one.

      Imitation is flattery when you are respecting the one you are imitating – for example, looking up to a role model, or taking on the fashion style of your friend. But the imitation mentioned in this article comes with disrespect, and is actively promoting harmful stereotypes. Many of the photographs found online of others wearing headdresses are of people being drunk, smoking, nude, etc.

      Sharing culture is great! But only when you know the significance of what you are inspired by. And there are things that are off limits. As the author mentions, it is like the difference between wearing a hoodie and producing a fake war medal. Pretty much, compare and contrast picking up a few traditional recipes from my mum and this video:

      Yeah. I’m Chinese-Canadian, and I love sharing my culture with my friends – cooking I’ve picked up from my parents, the many old legends I’ve read, trying to figure out calligraphy together – but there are things that are off limits. Sometimes, with our melting pot/tossed salad sentimentality, our thoughts of being multicultural, we cross the line from celebrating and sharing to mocking and appropriating.

      The only thing I can come up with to compare this to is wearing the pope’s clothing and going binge drinking with your buddies. All the while taking selfies and with the captions “So ironic lol” and defacing a church. You may not be Christian, but I hope you understand the sentiment.

      It’s even worse when you do this with minority cultures, because it’s drastically less likely for someone to call you out on it.

      I’ll admit that the tone of the author’s reply is harsh – but she’s been dealing with this for a long while, putting up with bullshit responses that only mean to further degrade her culture. Yours is just another in the list (the few comments I’ve read throughout this website often have similar sentiments to yours). There is a long history of this crap in Canada, and even today, the government is refusing to do anything. I don’t have any links on hand (although you could just go through this blog), but even our history textbooks (forced down to a PG version) record this.

      The difference between celebrating culture and destroying is a hard line to walk, and yes, it’s very possible to offend others. It’s a byproduct of our society. Apologize if you do. Strive to be better.

      TL;DR – Being ignorant isn’t the same thing as sharing culture.

      • silona says:

        I would equate it more with Catholic Communion and using the Eucharist as crackers… and the blood of god to get your drunk on. Oh I’m agnostic btw but went to Catholic school.

        Or wearing a purple heart that isn’t from a family member to a 4th of July celebration or memorial day celebration. Or just claiming you are a veteran when you are not even ex-military.

      • Peak says:

        Thanks Azymic. I think your comments add a lot to the discussion and will be very helpful to those looking for help understanding. Peace.

  23. Paul says:

    Note the significant difference in our approach. I ask questions with the hopes of engaging an opportunity to learn from each other. You reply with accusations and attempt to denounce who I am as a person! You wish respect by being disrespectful? I believe you have a lot of anger and unfortunately that can blind a person to truth and understanding. Perhaps it would have been prudent of you to ask of me if I am an Iriquois Chief or European Pauper first? Have you tripped over you anger and made assumptions of who I am?

    • Yes yes yes, you are special, and your arguments and tone policing are special no matter how many thousands of times they have been rehashed by others. You deserve time and consideration and engagement despite the fact that you did not address a single point made in the article. You merit celebration of your radical ideas of harmony, while you blithely wave aside the specific reasons given as to why certain things are disrespectful. I deeply apologise for not getting a sample of your DNA or giving due reverence to your individuality before I lumped you in with every other shithead who says the tired crap over and over again without a shred of intellectual integrity or consideration of the material presented.

      We aren’t a “race” we are individual nations, and having someone claiming to be native going, “I personally don’t mind, go ahead!” isn’t all that compelling. You don’t get a pass on ignoring the specifics here, or creating straw-arguments (omg we’re not going to let anyone access our cultures ever!) any more than some hipster does.

      • Britney says:

        Edit: I celebrate my racism, and add smiley faces to show how little I care about the ignorant, vile, racist things I say, aren’t I cute?

  24. Shawn says:

    Thank you I believe that I understand and I am grateful. I need to research and study, understand more then copy and duplicate. My culture is vastly different from yours and I will try to learn more

  25. nigel says:

    my friend is going to a fancy dress party as the lone ranger and asked me to go as tonto or kimosabe. Am I ok as long as I don’t wear the headdress ?

    • Scoopy says:

      No. Not it’s not.

    • I think the problem here has nothing to do with the headdress, and more to do with the reality or idea that the show itself was pretty racist and disrespectful to the native people themselves in how the characters were depicted and not as much the culture of the people. Maybe try to convince your friend not to go at all as the Lone Ranger. If he insists maybe he should go it alone.

  26. Ron says:

    to Nigel…. Don’t do it….. go as Silver instead…..

  27. kindra says:

    so if it is culturally rude to wear a headdress, what are some alternatives if any? I really enjoy the beauty of the headdress, and my original plan was to wear one for senior crowns ( most/all wear crowns from burger king) but I wanted to do something different- a headdress ( before I knew the symbolism and meaning). I still want to do something different, and its very hard trying to let go of the headdress, is there a way to meet in the middle without offending anybody. would it be ok if I wore it once or no?

    • moldybrehd says:

      If you want to find something different to wear, consider looking into you own cultural heritage, rather than borrowing from someone else’s. If you have a european heritage, there’s literally hundreds of years of styles and ideas that are well-documented and unrestricted. No one has to steal stuff to look good.

      • Ortvin Sarapuu says:

        No no no. The last thing America needs is more celebration of European heritage. That’s part of the problem.

        • I think the point of that comment was that people of European descent don’t need to be using other people’s cultural styles and symbols. A lot of people claim they are just trying to fill a cultural void, when really, they could be looking to their own cultural backgrounds for inspiration. It’s not more celebration of European heritage, it is an alternative to constant cultural appropriation.

          • moldybrehd says:

            My apologies for not putting it this clearly.

          • Krystal Hwang says:

            Normally I would ignore this but it’s not fair. Who are you tell me that I should only wear clothes or take inspiration from my own culture?Why, pray tell me, can’t I take inspiration or wear clothes from another culture? And I’m not talking about just Native American culture.And no I don’t want to wear a feathered headdress, there’s no reason to.

          • I just told you who I am, and centered my discussion in my own culture.

            I didn’t think that I was being confusing, though you have apparently misunderstood my argument. Perhaps reading it again would help?

  28. Dave says:

    I have a few questions and I am not trying to antagonize I am simply curious. You said that “for the most part headdresses are restricted items” could you provide some examples of situations where that is not the case? Also you stated that there are on occasion people awarded with a headdress in a matter similar to an honorary degree, is this honor exclusive to First Nations? If it can be awarded to non First Nations peoples how would that individual go about wearing it without being offensive? Or to be more clear, without people making the assumption that they are being offensive when they have the special permission you discussed above. You also stated that it would be appropriate to depict a “real native person in a war bonnet” but you said in the previous sentence it would be offensive to “depict a non native woman” so I’m asking if it is in fact ok to depict a native woman in such fashion? Lastly you stated that it would be offensive for a native person who has not been awarded a headdress to wear one. But it is okay to depict a native person who has not been awarded a headdress as someone who has? So if I am a native male model who a artist has made a painting of wearing a headdress, would that not be offensive to my fellow natives to see a painting of me wearing one when they know I have not been awarded one? Thank you for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity and Thank you for your informative letter. I apologize if my questions offend in any way, I am simply trying to understand this issue as much as possible.

    • WanderingCuriosity says:

      I have a follow-up to this that I am curious about as well. Going through the hall of shame, it seems as if all headdresses are off-limits where some don’t even look “native” (what is the correct word) at all. They are just feathers in a band done up in some way. But the original labels are missing so it is hard to tell if the image itself is offensive or if calling it Native is what makes it offensive.

  29. Medros says:

    Edit: “Waa waa waaa I have special opinions, please pay attention to me.”

  30. Lauren says:

    Thank you for writing this. I see these idiots at North Country Fair every year but I don’t have the energy to explain to them how stupid they are. If its alright with you, I want to print a few of these off and hand them out when I see them, and hopefully make them think twice.

  31. Ailsa Ross says:

    Thank you for writing this post! I’ve just moved to Canada from Scotland, and want to learn as much as possible about cultural respect in relation to First Nations while I’m here. Step number in not being a doosh: don’t appropriate First Nations headdress. Got it. I’ve subscribed to your site for more insights!

  32. Ben says:

    I appreciate that there is legitimate feelings of offence here, but your argument is completely flawed. This idea of “restricted symbols” only applies to people trying to pass themselves off as something they are not. True, you cannot wear military decoration and claim you are a hero, and well beyond that, it’s not acceptable to pass yourself as something you aren’t in general. You can’t put on a collar, lie and say you’re a priest. But no one who wears a headdress at a tailgate party is claiming they are a respected Native chief. It’s a costume. And when it comes to fun and costumes, there is are absolutely no symbols in Western culture that are so sacred they can’t be worn. You are free to have fun with all of our sacred icons… you can dress as a rabbi, a priest, a military hero, the president, Mother Theresa, a free mason… go nuts. The only one that might get you into hot water is dressing as a Hells Angel, in full colours. Like you, they also don’t like people having fun with their sacred adornments.

    • We aren’t talking about Western culture, where everything is up for grabs and nothing is so sacred it can’t be worn and made light of. We’re talking about why Indigenous people say it is unacceptable for non-native people to appropriate these symbols. The analogies to important symbols in Western cultures are just that…analogies, to give people a sense of what these symbols mean in our cultures. They are not mere adornments or fashion statements to us. They have deeper meaning. If people wish to make light of that deeper meaning and engage in disrespectful behaviour while participating in colonial stereotypes, no one is preventing them from doing so. What we are doing, however, is making it clear that we feel disrespected, and that this is not okay by our standards. Feel free to ignore this, but don’t bother trying to convince us you mean no harm now that you know this is how we feel.

      • Huginn says:

        Not sure that I agree with you when you say that for Western culture ‘ . . .everything is up for grabs and nothing is so sacred it can’t be worn and made light of”. Not while we continue to struggle with a load of symbols and regalia left over from the Second World War that are still highly toxic (and therefore very sacred) at any rate.

        Agree with the general direction of your argument, though.
        A lot of it comes down to building trust between communities which means showing some respect for things that others deem significant, even if you don’t.

        • Julie says:

          I don’t entirely agree with that argument either. Having grown up in a military family, I am well versed in what insignia is appropriate for a non-military member to wear and it is extremely limited. It would never be appropriate for a family member of a Purple Heart recipient to wear the award.

          What I suppose I don’t understand is the artistic interpretation of war bonnets… in our culture, you could make up any kind of certification parchment or honorary medal and flaunt it proudly. By drawing a direct comparison, I would think it would not be an issue to create and wear a fantastical version of a feathered headdress that only mildly resembles the original. But perhaps my mistake would be in attempting to draw a parallel between two very different cultures any symbols. Thoughts?

    • mik says:

      I think this seems to get to the heart of the issue…for Native people feathers are not a “costume” for dress up play time. Rather they are an important symbol earned by military veterans and even college graduates. They demonstrate commitment to the community, hard work and personal sacrifice. They are used in religious ceremonies and have been imbued with a powerful feeling or respect and appreciation. In recognition of this special relationship, eagle and other migratory bird feathers may not be owned or possessed by non-natives here in the US by federal law.
      This is quite different from a perspective that sees feathers as party toys…and you are right that many in the west generally don’t regard symbols are something particularly important (although the US flag, Constitution, places of worship and many monuments are respected). Its a cultural difference….but the reality is that Native Americans do regard feathers as special and note that feathers are worn by people who have earned the right to wear them.

  33. Mal says:

    I really wanted to learn from reading this.. but after reading through the comments and replies I just can’t respect anything you say because you are so negative and rude.It is truly terrible.
    It is clear that lot of people feel the same way and are truly let down after seeing your attitude outside of the informative article that you took the time to write.
    Please borrow from another culture and do some meditation or crystal healing.. I promise nobody will be offended.

    • “I really wanted to learn and grow but I couldn’t because you were meaaaaaan!”

      Tone police elsewhere. It is not even remotely true that if we only spoke in the sweetest of tones we would convince people like yourself to change your ways. This is just another excuse to continue doing whatever you want.

  34. Hasting says:

    I have a question. My father is a hunter he got a Turkey. I cleaned the bird. While doing so I de-boned the wings and are in the process of drying the skin. I planned on making a headdress of sorts. Not resembling a Native American headdress, but a large feather head piece. Is that inappropriate?

  35. I enjoyed both the article and the tone of your replies.

  36. Pingback: Flaming Lips singer responds to accusations of racism

  37. Adam says:

    Interesting discussion. We’ve just had one of these things flare up here:
    As for appropriation of Maori culture, there was a bit of a line drawn under that 30 or so years ago. Racism never goes away, but always needs to be challenged.

  38. vikingmetalgirl says:

    I have a hard time with this argument, as I see both sides. You make some valid points. I understand we live in a society where cultural and religious symbols are revered and respected and many times expected to be kept sacred. I, however, think that religion is a sham and that telling people they can’t use a symbol simply because 1. it isn’t theirs or 2. they didn’t “earn” it is egotistical and ridiculous. I am in no was racist. I genuinely love ALL people and skin color, culture, stereotypes and generalizations mean NOTHING to me.
    I also think that restricting the use of something in one’s culture to ONLY those in the culture (or those deemed “honorable”) only creates more boundaries and extends the polarization of human society.
    Yes, if someone is using a cultural/religious symbol to make fun of said culture/religion or perpetuate stereotypes, it makes them an asshole. For sure.
    On the other hand, being offended is a CHOICE. Just like being an asshole. And if I’m going to put time/money into creating a beautiful piece that was inspired by a beautiful culture because I like it, and someone is going to tell me that is wrong and offensive, I am going to say I disagree that it is wrong and am sorry you are offended. Symbols really DO only have as much meaning as we give them, and if you/your culture decided a certain symbol is especially sacred/restricted, that’s all good for you. However, I refuse to give any symbol more value than it intrinsically has. That is my choice as an intelligent, considerate and independent human being. And I can honestly say that I hope one day our human race evolves to the point that it does not give stuff and symbols more value than they actually have and will stop making them restricted and stop taking offense to people using them how they want.

    • Feel free to choose to be, as you say, an asshole.

      People will call you out for it, and it is becoming much more probable that your career will suffer as a result.

      To call yourself an intelligent and considerate human being while stating flat out that you do not care what value we put on OUR symbols, symbols you feel you have the right to devalue any way you see fit, is laughable. But it is your right to make such claims.

      Have fun with that attitude. Just don’t expect anyone to take what you are saying at face value, instead of judging your actions on their own merits.

      • Ortvin Sarapuu says:

        Sadly, being a racist asshole usually doesn’t cause one’s career to suffer.

        • It is starting to.

          The less being a racist asshole is considered socially acceptable, the more serious consequences people will face for engaging in such behaviour (i.e. losing their job, being denied entry to their preferred post-secondary institution etc), and the less likely they will be to do it openly.

      • – Why would someone purporting to be intelligent, CONSIDERATE, etc.and human feel it is their right and their privilege to set the tone – to determine the standards and intrinsic meaning for other people’s cultures and cultural representations? We hold sacred items (as determined by us) in respect. We define the origin, content and boundaries of that respect. WE have that right…not you…

    • Elle says:

      I honestly agree with you. I don’t see why one culture can say that the symbol is “theirs,” no if’s or but’s and if anyone wears it they are racist and ignorant. I am a Christian and I choose to not be offended by people who wear an upside-down cross as a fashion trend lately because it really just isn’t my problem. That cross represents everything I believe in spiritually, but it really is not my issue if that is what they want to do because it is the United States and people can do whatever they please. I don’t take it personally at all. If someone wants to go to the bars dressed up as the Pope, okay, then do it. It doesn’t change my beliefs and I don’t think they are ignorant. I don’t judge them as being disrespectful. My relatives are from Poland and if people want to make fun of what they wore, okay. If they respected the idea and wore it, I would be happy. If you want to wear American military medals, go ahead. I don’t know, I just don’t really care what other people do. Plus, the mixing of cultures isn’t exactly a new idea. Every culture is a mixture of other cultures.

      • There is no “Christian Act” which specifically sets out the minute details of how Christians can live. Your dead are not paved over or disintered to be ‘studied’. There is no centuries long history of oppression of Christians peoples in North America. You have not had your lands stolen, only to be moved onto tiny pieces of arid land. You do not continue to have your land whittled through expropriation, and your children were not taken from you in order to erase your language from their tongues.

        It is not important what you personally ‘choose’ not to be offended by, because you cannot compare your situation to that of Indigenous peoples. Not with a single ounce of intellectual honesty or historical accuracy.

        • Luritza says:

          Wow. You can’t relate to anybody at all, can you? How do you expect others to embody your views? She said her family is from Poland. Everything you mentioned has happened to Polish people. But it’s ok for you to be ignorant.. Their land WAS claimed by others for centuries and they were wiped off the map, denied an education or their language, etc. etc… etc.. considered inferior humans, etc.. Then during WWII If you were a Polish Jew you had a death sentence, and if you were non-jew, you better lick the boots of that Nazi next door who killed your neighbors and moved in, or you’re dead too. Your teenage daughter may be snatched off the street to do slave labor in Germany, if they didn’t deem you fit for the job. In perspective, maybe YOU are the priveleged one, compared to your ancestors, and other peoples in nations in this world currently at war. “Someone wore a cheap imitation of my grandfather’s headdress and I’m a victim, so I’m entitled to call anyone who engages in discourse a racist idiot or an asshole”. although your article was intelligent, you really held back. turns out you are a whiney close-minded brat. You demonstrate privilege and entitlement in full force.

          • Lol. “My family was oppressed somewhere else that means I can speak authoritatively on what your people should be okay with.”

            Nope, sorry. My favourite part of your ridiculous spiel was telling me that Indigenous peoples of the Americas are privileged, demonstrating the stunning depth of your ignorance.

          • Millajai says:

            You must think the polish are put on reservations to this day, told that they need to assimilate and forget their culture, heritage and tradition and “get over it” on a daily basis. We still are experiencing this. There are things that we as indigenous people hold sacred. I am not from a plains tribe, hence I would never think of disrespecting them by taking what they hold sacred and using it. But I am proud to be Dine\ Washeshu.

      • about 100% agreement. Its funny how a person can claim something to be “ours” in one post then claim “we” are not a “race” in the next post but anyone that uses “our” crafts in ways that “we” say is incorrect is appropriating about that person that is Irish but has gotten a tartan from their elders but does not live anything like the way they did? How is that not also appropriation? Then yet they might claim they are the only ones given the right to wear or use the cultural tradition solely because they are ethnic or racially connected to the symbolism how is that NOT racist in and of itself? My points: The argument that its wrong to impersonate an false identity via authentic tribal regalia:valid, Argument that its wrong to wear generic 1st American culturally INFLUENCED regalia simply because of being of other ethnic identities:invalid/racist. Argument that it will piss off some people either way and one is racist/colonialist if they don’t concede to their wishes in any case?: inane.

        • I have no idea what you mean when you say 1st American etc. Plains headdresses are not American, they are nêhiyaw, or Nakota/Dakota/Lakota or Niitsítapi etc. Only about a dozen nations in the Plains use the particular headdress being aped by so many. There is nothing ‘influenced’ about it, they are straight up rip offs.

          We have every right to determine how our symbols are used within our culture. People have every right to go and steal those symbols…and we have every right to point out how disrespectful, and often racist that is. Basically no amount of attempts on your part to logic yourself out of that is going to be effective. Do as you wish, but we will not stop telling people “that is not yours to use, and what you are doing disgusts us.”

          • fair enough and your voices deserve to be heard.

          • WanderingCuriosity says:

            I honestly think the wrong word is being used here though. Someone wearing a headdress might be ignorant and misuse of the piece but that does not automatically make them a racist. Unfortunately they have succumbed to encouraging stereotypes which is denigrating as well but again not racist. Racist is a very strong word with a very specific definition denoting superiority of one’s race or culture over another. An ignorant misuse of headdresses, additional clothing and other aspects of the culture may be disrespectful but again not racist.

          • Racism = prejudice + institutional power. These stereotypes are a part of systemic racism.

    • Its really funny because My first thouights about the Pharell incident was about viking helms and here I see on two totally separate discussions more than one reference to Vikings. I agree with you Vikingmetalgirl..In fact I think a vangaurd of human consciousness has already evolved beyond alot of petty virtues and dogmatic symbolism and rituals, but that does not mean that the ritual motions and language forms are not potent and in many ways necessary to further our ways of life..the important thing now is to re-understand the meanings and reasons why we do what we do or did and not to abandon them altogether and throw ourselves and our childrens destinies out to the canyons. You should try to find the hidden layer of truth in religious and spiritual ideas and start again to consider their value to the future growth of human/planetary conditions. Consider this in silent darkness of “outer space” we’ll need “God” more than ever before..but we probably need god in a way that we have never used it before..something far less co-dependent and more quantifiable…but we have moved away from the topic at hand a bit. Just wanted to support your perspective because it insipres me to see people with a like minded sense of sober optimism.

    • Peak says:

      When you give a face to a culture or belief system isn’t your own that is being offensive in the extreme. Mainstream society has the ability to completely take out of the hands of the people who these items/practices have meaning and make it something else usually as commodity.
      If I were to appropriate your identity and went around as you collecting your pay, pissing everyone off at you and tried to seduce your significant other I imagine it offend you, rightfully so. It belongs to you and is sacred to you. Transfer that feeling to other peoples sacred.

    • Krystal Hwang says:

      Actually how offended you choose to be is entirely up to you. It’s purely subjective. Not that I’m telling you how to feel, it’s just that as a former psychology student I know. And an object only has as much as importance as you choose to give it. And when I was a child, I used to collect all sorts of feathers, which included an eagle feather. And I’m pretty sure that tribes in my country India, also use feathers as part of their dresses and perhaps their sacred practices. Am I supposed to go and tell them that you’re culturally appropriating and that you can’t use a specific object simply because some of you use it? I’m not trying to be disrespectful , I’m simply pointing out a fact.

      • I would say the disrespect you are showing here, is towards the argument I have laid out. You haven’t even bothered to engage it.

        Unless you do, I am uninterested in what you have to say.


  39. This is the best analysis of why wearing warbonnets is offensive that I’ve read so far. If I understand correctly, your position is that wearing “non-restricted” head decorations or native clothing is OK so long as it isn’t done in mockery or in a way that promotes stereotypes. However the final condition is ambiguous; do you mean “negative stereotypes”, or stereotypes in general? For example, a fashion photo shoot with the models wearing native clothing (but without war bonnets) would seem to be OK according to your analysis since it involves non-restricted items and isn’t mocking or denigrating (assuming the models aren’t half naked). But does it promote (negative?) stereotypes? I’m asking since there seems to be a continuum of opinion that ranges from your measured analysis to a blanket “any cultural appropriation is wrong/racist” and it isn’t clear where the line should be drawn.

    • If the clothing is ‘native style’, here are some lines in the sand: it should not be named after random First Nations (Navajo t-shirts, Apache headbands etc). If those nations have nothing to do with the clothing, don’t affiliate yourself with them without their consent. People should not wear these ‘native style’ clothes with war paint, feathers in their hair, etc and the photoshoots should not in any way be named after Pocahontas, or given insulting psuedo “Indian” names. In fact, it would be nice if people promoting ‘native style’ fashion simply admitted that the aesthetic itself comes from Settler fantasies of Indigenous people, rather than promoting the idea that it is of us. 90% of the times the styles in question are not even remotely authentically Indigenous, so why pretend they are at all? I’m not sure what the purpose of that is, to be honest.

  40. Niky Clegg says:

    Kia ora

    I really like the way you have addressed the disrespect to culture that is so prevalent in many societies.

    I am from (Aotearoa) New Zealand and recently we had an American TV disrespect our cultural ways and costumes. Seriously, it was almost to be expected from others outside of our country. What surprised me the most, was the disrespect from those whom I had called friends. I was told to lighten up because it was a joke. Actually, they might was well have been telling me to whiten up. Joke or not, it was disrespectful and I felt it was right that the TV presenter was asked to apologise.

    I feel, that until cultures that are not predominantly European are treated as Taonga (treasures) by the majority, there will never be quality.

  41. Sally Ridge says:

    You may find it interesting that in Australia, it is ILLEGAL to create and sell ‘aboriginal art’ if you are not aboriginal. Pretty great way to ensure that the profits go to the indiginous people and not souvanir companies.

  42. I am white, from a rural Alaskan, alcohol driven, abject poverty culture, don’t know what else to call it except perhaps living on the fringe of the reservation…

    I liked the bingo card idea, I also unfortunately honestly appreciate the fact that my art appropriates the native culture that I grew up with. (WHICH I CONSIDER TO BE A PART OF ME.) While my whiteness is a burden, the native american in me moves me toward the center.

    I made objects which are sacred to me using modern materials & ancient native methods. They symbolize their sacredness to others using unrestricted totemic shape u forms.

    By your criteria I am behaving badly. (Its a family tradition) I drew the the story of the Most Great Name….years and years ago……..mankind needs to recognize this object…….

    The iron in your back bone is unavoidable, I am wrong. I still love my pieces of art and relate to their message with each atom of my being.

    Respect for the culture I choose to imitate should have been enough to stop me when I painted them…I did not feel disrespectful, I made every effort to maintain tradition…….and was empowered by my effort………

    Devaluing my art because of my race seems racist,… unity is more important than what ever I think I might feel.

    So now I must destroy the paintings that convey the message human survival depends upon,as an act of purposeful racism to promote the unity that the paintings speak of…..? Damn, another circle.
    I think that I will allow them to quietly melt back into the forest…like tradition requires.

    Find another way….making “a statement” with a headdress (indigenous cultural art form) may make a statement,… but you can be using the words incorrectly and are not saying what you think you are saying. The spirit of what you communicate can and will be affected by the spirit and power of the idea that you emulate.

    Communication is the most difficult human endeavor, keep it simple, choose carefully.

    Better I think to figure out who you really are, and speak with that voice……when we are young we speak with many voices until we find our own….

    Humanity is learning how to live on this planet.

    • Have you ever considered asking the people whose symbols you are appropriating as to whether they think your art is disrespectful?

      That would be a lot more straightforward than whirling around the edges of the question to little purpose.

      • What appears to you as “whirling around the edge” might actually be a warrior fighting a battle for others before he bleeds out.

        I did ask, most people agreed that there was no harm done, some thought that it was good to have ANYONE using this art form. That was 30 years ago, opinions have undoubtedly changed. My behavior has changed. I was comfortable with it before, now I am not.
        A different kind of respect for the cultural heritage of the people is necessary today,

        I also believe that culture is learned human behavior, at some point it becomes a choice.

        Many native cultures have been destroyed by the cultural clashes of the past, in some sense the revival of that “lost” culture appears to some degree to me, to be an appropriation.

        No matter, appropriation or not; It is theirs,

        I am just a dilution, an impurity, a part of the whole, not a part of the part.

        I refuse to make an effort that can have the appearance of removal to them, truly out of respect for their “culture” and also because I detest the dis-respectfulness of the past.

        while a necessary part, I do not see that as the battle, UNITY is our challenge,

        • Well it seems that you’re approaching it in the right way though, asking all those years ago and in the present recognizing that past acceptance might not mean acceptance for all time. It’s a relationship, and relationships are ongoing, not static.

        • preposterous. You should ply your trade. By your logic you should not even be preparing food while using traditional recipes. If you were not among the first men to utilize the techniques to survive or convey a message to their children’s, children’s children, then your saying you shouldn’t be using their techniques at all..bullshit. Ask yourself: is that the message your ancestors sent to you through your art form? I think the message the ancestors are sending is survive long enough to breed and remember us and the source..thats mostly it..any of them that are making the effort to crossover to whisper to you: “hey don’t use my weaving or hunting technique to make money and better our family situation!” should be ignored and is probably not having a great spiritual life anyway.

          • okay last post I meant to add that Obviously there is a balance to be struck between expressing your heritage,plying your skill for practical means and whoring out your products and services to be abused and mocked. Individuals and communities must strike these balances..the ancestors can only do so much to deal with new and living situations..respect them seek their guidance but respect your authority and responsibility as their heirs in the living earthly life and you might have a chance of not pissing them,your own descendents and yourself off.

  43. Be happy with who you are and what you have become through learning our culture.

  44. KailaRain says:

    I find this an interesting discussion. As someone with a very mixed racial background, including Yaqui, Mayo and German,I have long battled with the idea of what is okay and what isn’t. My white mother was truly enamored of all things native, and would quite often create clothing and other items with a definite native “flare” to show off her jewelry. At first, my father was concerned it would be seen as appropriation. After several years, they came to the conclusion that as she was simply working with clothes that would be considered “street clothes” by the rest of our relatives it was probably okay.
    I think if people took that approach with things it would be better. The traditional velvet skirts the Navajo’s wear are something that I think anyone can wear without offending or appropriating anything. However, wearing something that is sacred or ritual is different. I like how you attempt to find a way to relate this to something western people would more likely grasp. I think it’s very hard to find something that relates well to them as they don’t tend to delineate sacred wear and the profane as clearly as native peoples do.
    Of course many are going to throw out comments about how they are free to do whatever they want which is true in the United States. Freedom doesn’t mean that it isn’t offensive or wrong. I have the right to say that all people in Dallas, Texas are short, ugly and full of horse manure for brains. It doesn’t make it true and it doesn’t make it okay and some people might get very offended by that and hate me for it. Those people would have the freedom to say they didn’t like it and that I shouldn’t say things like that. It’s easy to forget that freedom is a two way street and sometimes different sides will disagree.
    I don’t think this article or a hundred others will stop some people from continuing to do whatever they want but hopefully it will make others more aware of why this is an issue for native peoples.

  45. bob says:

    If you moderated your reply’s you wouldn’t come across as quite so angry and would be taken more seriously. It’s hard to take someone who appears so petty seriously. Well thought out piece. I don’t agree with it but well written. cheers

  46. Pingback: Pharrell wears Red Indian headgear & causes controversy | Niger Reporters

  47. Josh says:

    While I’m moved by your distaste for the appropriation of headdresses, there is a flaw in your logic. By wearing a military medal that you did not earn, printing a bachelor’s degree you did not earn, or declaring yourself a winner of an award you did not earn, you are misrepresenting an achievement or skill which, if conferred, grants you a special and codified status and/or opportunity in society. For instance, you cite an example of someone affecting the knowledge of a medical doctor (through posting a medical degree/license). Misrepresentation here breaks a fundamental trust in society, perhaps even imperiling human life, as membership in that group requires a certain level of knowledge and skill that that person does not have.

    Cultural symbols, used quite clearly as aesthetic devices, do not signal to society that same sort of achievement. This is the key distinction. Very few look at Pharrell Williams on the cover of Elle and conclude, “He must have earned a special status to be able to wear that headdress…and we should treat him differently as a result of this achievement”. If Pharrell (or anyone else who didn’t deserve to wear one) wore a headdress when they, say, testified before Congress, then I would agree that is misrepresenting an achievement/skill that reasonable people would believe that he or she attained. There is surely no art in that.

    Again, I’m wholly sympathetic to your belief here that wearing a headdress as Pharrell did is more than gauche, and should be avoided, but isn’t there a better reasoning behind it? Instruct others that the use of appropriated and important cultural symbols by non-community members ultimately dilute their meaning to the people who those symbols matter to most. Through great educational sites like this, I wager that people will respond.

    • Here is the flaw in your logic.

      The okimâwastotin (headdress) absolutely signals to Indigenous societies of the Plains some sort of achievement. I thought I made that clear actually. Just because non-Natives do not understand what achievements are signaled by the wearing of the headdress in the cultures from whence the headdress originated, does not mean those signals are lacking.

      Taking other people’s cultural symbols and stripping them of meaning to use them completely out of context does not actually render the symbol meaningless for all time. It continues to have meaning in our cultures, and that is what we are trying to explain to the people using them.

      • Good point but it loses what small significance it carries in situations concerning those who have no direct dealings with people who could be affected by this scenario and thus brings you back to square one..probably the reason why this icon was appropriated in the first place without the proper etiquette: the persons most likely to be offended are not getting the signal because they are not in the communities where it is happening most often. Anyway I think you are tossing the racist card around all too easily. You maybe confuse respect or more likely admiration for aspects of your cultural affiliation with respect for you/your people and YOUR individual ideas (or collective if you indeed speak for a segment or the ENTIRETY? of your population). I’m sure you know all too well that “the west” makes that distinction and justifiably so. YOU are NOT the Headdress even if the headdress is a part of you! Concession point: because of how pompous so many people really are..getting outsider’s to respect your culture can be a big part of getting them to respect you..but its not the main reason they should respect you..they should respect you for your humanity first. If we limit our measure of respect to cultural identity then those people who are separated intellectually from any culture we expect from them, then a whole lot of people would be considered worth less than animals..and thats just not acceptable.

        • The fact that Pharrel Williams tok off his Mountie hat and wore a headdress instead is consistent with your example and probably could be better served to raise awareness of the actual meaning of headdress as a brave symbol in 1st American plains cultures, but since he’s a nice guy he chose to apologize once he realized it was not having a friendly impact on the community I might not have done so because I’m argumentative,stubborn,fairly BRAVE and self righteous about liberty. Once you realize that feather headdresses are pretty similar(though meanings vary) the world over you’ll see it more as a human thing than a plains thing. I think across the board people realize the more feathers in the dress the more respect the person commanded, Its pretty obvious. Thats because its a human thing…actually its kind’ve an “as seen throughout nature” thing. Even Peacocks use this formula. If I were Pharrell I’d have been like “send me a REAL one from your tribe and I WON’T wear it bro. otherwise..lvl up like me!”

          • Ugh.

            The Plains style okimâwastotin is very distinctive, and looks significantly different than other headdresses. Your comment on that would be akin to claiming a beret looks pretty much the same as a tiara. Nope.

      • hvmatt says:

        Thankyou for this.I never knew that wearing the war bonnet carried such significance and the degree of ritual around when and to who it could be awarded to.

      • Same thing with NZ Maori moko and tribal tattoo.

  48. Pingback: Pharrell Williams wears a headdress on the cover of ELLE UK.

  49. Derek Aasland says:

    Allow me to add this single wonderful thread to the tapestry of thought here: In Winnipeg, the 7 Oaks School Division holds a Graduation Pow Wow honouring every child who graduates that year…Aboriginal, Métis, and non-Aboriginal alike. It is heartwarming to see kids of all cultures participating in a Pow Wow like this. For many of us here in Winnipeg, the incorporation of ceremonies at the institutional level has been long, long overdue. In fact, we have past the point where there is anything curious about Aboriginal culture…it is simply the way it is here now, and it’s fabulous…16.5% of Manitoba’s population is Aboriginal or Métis, and the Aboriginal and Métis population grew 20% between 2006 and 2011 compared with 5.2% for the non-Aboriginal populations. The driving force behind Manitoba becoming a province was Louis Riel, the great Métis leader…..his was a dream of a province that embraces all cultures, and by and large that is still shared by Manitobans today. I wish Ontario and Quebec would take a page from Louis Riel’s book.
    Here’s a neat article from the Winnipeg Free Press about that:

  50. orlin sellers says:

    It’s true, sacred cows do make the best hamburgers.

  51. Sarah says:

    Your analogy comparing wearing an unearned medal of honor to casually wearing a headdress is excellent! It’s the best way I’ve ever seen to illustrate why it’s inappropriate and offensive for a non-native to wear one. While I haven’t come across a lot of non-native people wearing them (save for an unfortunate Halloween costume), I’ll be sure to use that analogy the next time I see it. Thank you for writing an informative article!

  52. Hmm says:

    I can’t help but notice that your avatar is itself a cultural appropriation. It is clearly mocking Rosie the Riveter. How could you be so insensitive?

    • I’m sorry, is this image a restricted one that only some people can use? No, it isn’t.

      The okimâwastotin (headdress) is, however.

      Enjoy that false equivalency, it’s calorie free!

      • apparently its not as restricted as you’d like. Not so much outside of your jurisdiction. The general design is certainly not patentable or copyrightable. Perhaps if you contact Washington you can get some laws drafted making it a criminal offense for impersonating an officer of your war party. You might even be able to get a rival tribe criminalized if their rituals are different than yours and don’t fit with the wording of the new laws..more criminals and authorizing a federal fashion police force in the process. Good luck with that…not so much.

  53. Pingback: Intolerance or Ignorance? What the Offensive Acts of Justin Bieber, Jonah Hill, and Pharrell Williams Are About » Kicker

  54. Indigospade says:

    I absolutely love this article, and I think your comparison of restricted symbols to military medals was a brilliant example and spot on. My grandfather was both half-cherokee and a purple heart awarded veteran, and spent his whole life answering questions and getting annoyed with people who disrespected him for his race and for his accomplishments. So many people just want to toss any symbol on themselves in an effort to impress, without observing the significance and context. If they really wanted to “appreciate and respect” as some of the ignorant commenters have tried to use to excuse themselves, then they’d respect the wishes of the cultures those items are representing.

    It always bugs me when people throw out the “Well my great great great grandmother was native” as a trump card to excuse misrepresenting during their arguments. Part of this is because I know I did it too growing up, throwing around my grandfather’s race as a means of making myself seem more “cultured” and “exotic” when really I was just being desperate and flashing a part of my family history to seem interesting without accepting any of the cultural and social stigma indigenous people face in a white-centric society. It was maturing up and realizing that I was raised whiter than miracle whip that I opened my eyes and started noticing all the problematic stuff I did (and still have to catch myself on as I see it).

    And I think that’s what a lot of other white people also need to realize. Even if we have a tiny dilution of blood ties to an indigenous culture, unless we’ve been raised and devoted ourselves to the community/culture we’re related to, we probably shouldn’t wear those sorts of regalia because we’re still a symbol ourselves of colonialism and the fact that we’d get a free pass from white society while non-white passing indigenous people could not wear the clothes of their culture without being heckled and gawked at by passerby.

    Again, great article and writing. I’ll definitely refer this to my peers as I think a lot of people could also use reading it. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the matter! It was well worth the read.

  55. katertoterson says:

    I’m in general agreement with this article, but I have a question. What if you create a fantasy version of a headdress that is wildly colored, oversized, shaped very differently, etc? Is this racist? If it very obviously is very different from traditional headdresses to the point of simply becoming a wacky feathered headpiece is this offensive to wear? If it couldn’t possible be mistaken for a sacred object and it is just vaguely based off of the idea of feathered head wear is that offensive? I’m just trying to see where the line is drawn more clearly. Should we never wear feathers in our hair or on our heads in any configuration?

    • katertoterson says:

      P.S. I know you’re not required to educate me, but I sense that you desire to educate people in general. So, I guess there is no harm in asking questions.

    • I see little problem with creating a style that is not appropriating an actual restricted symbol like the okimâwastotin. Just please do not call it “Native American” or “Native American inspired”, or tag it as such. Don’t pass it off as being from any of our cultures, and it’s probably not going to be a problem. Unfortunately, many of the people who do create fantasy pieces (don’t do versions, do something original) end up claiming it is linked somehow to Indigenous cultures. There is no need for that.

      • katertoterson says:

        Makes sense. I ask because I attend art festivals where everyone makes surreal costumes. Thanks

      • I have to agree with you completely here.

      • WanderingCuriosity says:

        Where is the offense in saying it is inspired? First Nations are mostly the ones who use these styles. Art can be inspired and noted as such without specifically labeling it as being from a particular nation when it is not.

      • Storm in Jupiter says:

        It would seem odd to me, to create a fantasy piece that is clearly inspired by a native headdress and then not say that it was inspired by that.

        People speak of their inspirations out of a desire to be honest and communicate what is it they are moved by and are passionate about. I think it’s great for artists to do that as opposed to saying the idea materialized out of thin air, because it obviously did not.

  56. Your not going to stop people from wearing their own or inherited headdress.Its just not gonna happen.Its better for you to realize that most people are not doing it out of disrespect (Of course we each define disrespect in our own terms). Also you don’t own the culture.If it belongs to anyone at all, it belongs to humanity and posterity. You appropriate the cultural ideas from your ancestors the values they passed on to you are upheld by whoever they entrusted with the knowledge. The material used to make the emblem is almost nothing. The feathers(as such) where more useful to the bird that grew them than to any person wearing them as such. The ideas the feathers represent are the culture. Such legacies are passed down from generation to generation and each previous one decides who is the guardian from the next generation of cultural symbolism..It is “sanctioned” appropriation, but still appropriation. In your own words you state that different tribal groups honored members with feathers for different reasons. Obviously they are their own authority on who gets to wear them and to what significance. I’m not sure I’d like to see what happens when a person of another tribal tradition wears their headdress in your neighborhood(its probably an act of war). Just because someone doesn’t react to yours or someone you know’s outrage doesn’t mean they are disrespectful to the culture or what they understand of it. African and Latin Americans culture is appropriated everyday be each other and by members of “white” ethnic/class groups and sure some people take issue with this but usually more so when the appropriation is done in an obviously offensive way meant to disrespect the people who adhere to the traditions. Eventually they simply move on and create something new that has not yet been appropriated by the “posers”/outsiders..meanwhile much of what they themselves have going on in their everyday life is also “appropriated” from the “popular” culture. Generally nobody complains about this and even fewer know the original origins of such things.My point there is that if we humans didn’t share cultural habits with each other life would not be possible, and we’d keep having to re-invent the wheel. In the case of plains native headdress at least most people have some vague idea of where it comes from if not who first started doing it.. Its up to people themselves to do what they can(including rage) to educate about the significance and origins and limit the appropriation(that’s why I’m not saying you should shut up about it or anything.) I just think it’d be better to celebrate and share maybe even somewhat “brand” finer points and the popularity of your particular culture. It belongs to humanity, its heirs(you) or else it belongs to no one at all. In the populous American culture if you can’t copyright,patent, or show proof of direct ownership, its probably not yours. SO if someone owns their own headdress that looks kind of native for intellectual purposes you might get the picture that what that person does with it determines if it is being abused or appropriated on a social or -more urgently- on a criminal level.(since you made a comparison to diplomas and uniform badges decals.) eg if your reservation law determines that someone in headdresses that are not theirs by rites is attempting to deceive others to obtain public office or get married under fraudulent circumstances or do a crime eg. embezzling funds, claiming an inheritance or impersonate an official..then by all means prosecute (within the proper jurisdictions.) but this does not describe a kid who is wearing it because it brings out their eyes. Nor does it compare to a person wearing a fake badge or even a real one that they own to a festival or costume party (they would have to be actively doing something to indicate impersonating an officer to get brought up on charges). If your council is actively using them to denote affiliation and rank then the wisest thing to do is make something unique and difficult to imitate on the dress, so that no imposter could make their way through to your inner circles without being arrested. Just know that in the outside world it is increasingly difficult to make laws that rely too heavily on deciding who belongs to what ethnic heritage. I’m glad for this..probably you should be too.

  57. I think this article is fantastic, and I think your tone in the comments is entirely justified. Thank you.

  58. giftculture says:

    Thank you for a very informative article.

    It is sad to me that people are so hung up on the “free-speech” issue here – to me, the compassionate thing to do is to realize that this behavior is causing a lot of suffering and pain for people and to stop wearing their sacred regalia. There is a whole universe of art and creativity out there to be inspired by without having to appropriate sacred objects from a culture that has already suffered quite enough, thank you very much.

    From your perspective, is adornment with feathers generally frowned upon, or is it specifically replicas very similar in form to, say, Plains Indian headdresses (or any other headdresses of Native people)?

    Say, for instance:


    I would hope that versions like these that are unique creations and not borrowed from sacred configurations of symbols would be ok – certainly, it would be great to be able to point people towards adornments that were beautiful and could inspire them to do something unique that would bring some beauty and art into the world without misappropriating something sacred.

    • Those are amazing! They do not look anything like the Plains headdress, or any other Indigenous headdress I’ve seen and what’s better is they aren’t passing them off as “Native American”.

      • April Hope says:

        Thank you for clarifying this. I make head pieces that are similar to these shown in the links, and I was really concerned when I first read this article. I really appreciate that, although it is not your job to educate us, you took the time to write not only the article, but to respond to almost every one of the comments. this has been one of the most interesting and informative debates I’ve ever read.I really appreciate the specific answers, details and clarity you’ve given. even if I did need to read a few F/U’s to finally have it sink in lol 🙂

  59. Noone on the internet is really explaining why the plains headdress is “sacred”. There is alot of explaining why it is “restricted” in plains society, and how its wearers are in high esteem and how the Headdress is created as an act of honor among peers. The blogger here explained how it is a denotation of prestige and even rank in that society. I’ve read how it has spiri8tual connotations imbuing the wearer with the energy of the materials or animals it is made from, but none of that generally translates to “sacred” in the western minded since of the word. The descriptions make it seem more personal,martial, and officious(none of which normally gives rise to an individual’s sacred items in the euro-american cultures on a protectorate scale), than religious or “sacred.” Is this a case wherein because everything is from the “protected” culture is “sacred”? Or is their a deeper more specific significance of the headdress in the religious systems of the plains culture. If you have an idea of how this term is used in the spiritual or religious sense of the word among the euro-american society can you or someone explain and/or compare in more in detail the significance of the headdress in those terms? eg in the Euro-American/Christian-culture a personal bible might become a relic of sacred value to their family or community members minds but it does not bestow such sacrament to all bibles everywhere beyond the original sacred value of it being a holy book..but the tone of the information I’m getting from various web sources about the headdress is as if the headdress itself of any kind made anywhere in the fashion of the plains cultures makes it sacred or a bastardization of such sacred(or a bastardization of such) and thus it becomes an object belonging to that culture’s heritage no matter what it is made of or who made it. Its not unheard of that a process itself becomes nearly if not more sacred than the produced vintage similar to the tea ceremony in asian societies..Could that be what is happening here? A misunderstanding about the sacrament that is being appropriated? That might be the difference for alot of people in understanding why you are so upset. Its the difference between a jealous craftsperson angry that someone is duping their work or creating poor works of the same trade versus a spiritual/magic practitioner concerned that someone is creating a bad mojo unaware because they don’t know what they are doing but completing all the necessary steps to make something terrible manifest. Is it both?

    • Who cares if it is understood within a western context? It does not come from a western context. If you insist that everything must fit into western paradigms, which is precisely what colonial governments have done by the way, then you are perpetuating colonialism. “The Indians did not have European property laws, thus they had no property laws” is the ‘logical’ extension of such arguments.

      It is truly none of your business as to exactly what precise meaning the okimâwastotin has in our nations. When we tell you that it is a restricted item within our nations, so that only very few of us can even wear it, and we emphasize that it upsets us deeply when non-Indigenous peoples wear this item, that should be enough. Unless you completely lack respect. It isn’t enough to try to restrict the conversation to the headdress, I would have to break down complex cultural, social and historical issues for you…for free, so that you can then decide whether or not you want to bother respecting this restriction? No thanks.

      If you want to actually learn more, within the culture then you will have to try harder than trawling a few internet sites, and you cannot do it by insisting everything be on your terms.

  60. Hannah says:

    Apologies for another privilege-filled, still-not-quite-getting-it response, but I found your article very helpful in trying to understand the boundaries of cultural appropriation. I was originally looking it up, as I love the aesthetic of the typical feathered headdresses, but obviously don’t want to cause offence or damage to anyone or any culture by wearing one for entertainment. Trying to find something similar that isn’t problematic, is this sort of thing ( still close enough to be considered appropriative? Or is it alright because it’s not designed around a stereotype? Sorry for the ignorance, but I’d rather understand as much as possible…

    • That entire site is on the “I’d call this misappropriation” side of things. From the boots to the various headdresses, particularly as they are using descriptors like ‘tribal’. Some of the floral stuff isn’t bad, but I wouldn’t support an artisan who is so blatantly trying to rip of Indigenous symbols.

      • Hannah says:

        Thanks, that helps a lot.

      • WanderingCuriosity says:

        Ok here I have to disagree. Above you were ok with someone saying a headdress is ok as long as it is not saying it is Native American or such but now tribal is a bad word as well?

        In the very link Hannah posted, there are feathers, a golden rose and a leather band. Neither the individual elements or the piece as a whole says indian, native american, First Nation, whichever label you care to use. Are you just calling it out because of the feathers and tribal are used together?

        • In the US, there are specific laws which prohibit passing items off as “Native American”. A number of weasel words are used instead to get around this, including “Native American inspired”, “tribal”, and so on. This isn’t about ‘bad words’, it’s about bad practices.

          • WanderingCuriosity says:

            As there should be, no dispute there. But tribal could mean any number of people, clans or cultures from anywhere around the world. Also it is being used as an adjective and any sane person would see it is not a real Native American headdress. I am disputing only that specific link. I would probably agree that some of the other pieces in that store cross a very gray line.

          • It’s a judgement call. Given my experience with the context I’ve outlined, I don’t think that store is grey-lined at all. ymmv.

  61. Thank you for this article! I can’t for the life of me understand how people want to ignore your explanation about wearing the headdress. The bottom line is…..the Indian culture has do’s and don’ts. If you find a don’t just don’t!!!! My God, it’s not that hard! It’s THEIR culture whether you like it or not. Bottom line is It’s called R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

  62. This whole thing is great, I am learning alot about my opinion

  63. Pingback: OPINION: La coiffe à plumes sur la tête de ce hipster n'est pas un chapeau - Ma mère était hipster | Ma mère était hipster

  64. Jackie Rose says:

    I just noticed signing into Playstation Home Sodium is selling rave wear that appropriates Indian headdresses. I was close to yelling at the screen, “SODIUM, WTH ARE YOU DOING?!”

  65. Frances Schilder says:

    Recently I have been looking into tattoos and ideas for tattoos, I have seen a lot of photos of people with headdress’ as tattoos on their own or on a woman, they are incredible beautiful so here I am researching the meaning and symbolism and the culture behind them and I am glad that I stumbled upon your blog/article. Being a native to New Zealand I fully understand your customs and your culture, it is similar to my own and I’ve always wanted to learn more about your culture.I will not be getting anything that would offend your culture tattooed onto myself especially something that is so sacred. I understand that it is a tradition that should not be changed or moulded to fit into a ever changing world where people recreate cultural things and try and change their meaning to fit their own agendas. Thank you!! Hope my ramble makes sense!

  66. Ricky Mills says:

    I read your blog with great interest. I did not read all the comments, so you may have answered this. The Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America honors the Indian Heritage. In some of their ceremonies Indian dress is used. Only Vigil members are allowed to wear a double trailer. I am interested to read your opinion about the IS.

    • Outright disgust. There is no such thing as ‘Indian Heritage’. There are 500+ individual nations with distinct languages and culture.

      • Therese Mendez says:

        Thank you for the opportunity to read your well written explanation of these offensive behaviors. It can be difficult to see through the blinding light of privilege but it is possible. Keep up the good work.

      • Jacqueline says:

        I am writing an article on appropriation to art educators. I want to get information out there on how to be respectful when using appropriation properly as a teaching method. I feel it is important because we work directly with influential youth, so what we do as educators is important. May I use you as a reference? If so, how would I cite you? Would I use the name of your page or your name?

        • Jacqueline says:

          I should correct myself – I’m looking into writing an article on it. The topic may change. But in the meantime, I am looking for some authentic points of view in case this topic is approved.

        • Generally when you cite your sources, you refer to the url, the name of the blog, and the author yes.

      • TheTrulyMadOne says:

        A possibly stupid question but… No such thing as Indian Heritage – I’m on board in that in parts but… in a question of ignorance, how many of the different nations used these headdresses? Are they considered the same way by all the nations?

        (Not that I’d want to wear a head-dress. I do have a feather in two of my hats but that’s from an ancient German tradition and they look totally different)

        • There are a very limited number of nations that use a Plains style headdress, and yes there are variations in styles. All of them within the Plains nations are restricted symbols that must be earned.

  67. Anna says:

    Wow, I commend you for your patience even though most people won’t see you as being patient (with their so-called inoffensive and well-intended inquiries). I am African, have lived in different European countries and Canada for more than 2 decades and one thing is sure: I don’t have time to educate people who seem to be unable to see things from a non-Western perspective. I don’t waste my breath on Eurocentric self-centered fools who are deeply convinced they shouldn’t be forbidden from doing anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s sacred, offensive to you, to your culture: if it isn’t to them, they have the right to do it. Someone evoked the Golden rule, well I applied it to people who have no respect for other people’s cultures. You say something culturally offensive to me? I’ll resort to analogy and give you a taste of your medicine. I don’t care if you had mens rea or no :-), this is the 21st century and it is unacceptable that people, especially young people, should still be educated about CERTAIN things. Really, what do you learn in your history classes?

  68. Pingback: Twirlers in War Bonnets | Throwback Thursday - Generation X

  69. You’re a dick. You make me want to go out and wear a headdress and it’s NEVER even crossed my mind. I never should have read the comments

    • Hahahahaha, that’s one of my favourite BINGO comments! “I was so totally not going to be a racist piece of shit, but omg you’re so mean and now I’m going to make it my mission in life!”

      Yeah. I’m sure you were a fine fellow before you read my comments.

  70. Lightfoot says:

    Being a 1/4 Cherokee and a member of the tribe, I grew up knowing Indian culture and studying it. Many of my “full blood” friends have married non-Indian people and their offspring has become more “white” or non-Indian. It happened to me. Other half of my family is British. When I see the minority of Indians (and I use the name Indians because that’s what we used to call ourselves, until it became PC to call us something else) become so thin-skinned and overly sensitive, I realize that maybe we should be diluted in blood and “phased out”. We probably won’t be civilized to each other until we’re all mixed. My great-grandfather was full blood and he loved the fact the Indians were portrayed so often in mainstream media and with sporting team names. Thank GOD that he isn’t around to see a once proud race become so overly sensitive and thin skinned. He was a HUGE Washington Redskin fan, because he considered himself and called himself red-skinned.
    I think headdresses are beautiful. If you want to wear one, wear it. If you want to learn about our tribe and be a part of it, please do. But yes please be respectful. These were once “earned”, they are not anymore in a large sense. And please disregard these overly sensitive “rules”.

    As for BINGO comments, unfortunately they are deserved. I used to work for Cherokee Nation. I can’t think of one tribe who hasn’t had their hand out for casino money or is in some other way corrupt. It’s sad to see a once proud race in a downward spiral. Indian tribes tend to turn the other way once they get a paycheck. Seminoles got a payout. Suddenly it’s OK for FL State to use the name.
    But hey, let’s concentrate on changing every sports team name and the fact that someone has a tribal tattoo and once wore a headdress, or someone does a tomahawk chop at a baseball game or people go WOO BOO BOO BOO at football games with their hands over their mouth and LET’S completely ignore suicides and non-existent education systems in reservations and many, many Indian communities (oops sorry. I mean Native American) communities. That will solve all of our problems! Let’s turn the other way at the corruption within Indian governments. Where’s all of that casino money now when their communities so desperately need it? Indian bureaucracies are more corrupt than boxing and the World Cup put together.
    You want to talk about discrimination? Indian tribes are by far the worse I’ve ever seen with discrimination.

    How often has this happened? A tribe builds housing because liberals are screaming for assistance to communities. Tribe gets a huge kickback from the Indian-owned contractor when they over-inflate the estimate they give the United States government for the grant. Rinse, repeat.
    Then “normal” people aren’t qualified for the housing, because it’s “owned” by high up members/ bureaucrats of the tribe for tax breaks from the IRS.
    Or how about all the people (including veterans) denied membership to tribes who need the assistance?
    A tribal member is a sharecropper with a local “white” farmer. Both benefit greatly. Tribe finds out and revokes tribal license because farmer refused to give tribe a cut.
    I could go on. Quit pointing fingers. You should rethink your “list”. Because there’s so many more important problems and issues than a white person wearing a goddamn headdress.

    I see you are confused about what constitutes cultural appropriation. And you what? It’s OK.

    • As a Cherokee, you have zero right to be giving permission to anyone to wear a headdress that does not come from your culture.

      You have fallen into the delicious fallacy of believing that if someone speaks about cultural appropriation, they can only forever more focus on that one issue to the exclusion of all others.

      Thanks so much for the time and effort you invested in this response.

  71. Lightfoot says:

    I promise if the instance comes up when someone asks me if they can wear a headdress, that I won’t get completely PC and explain to them of my zero rights to advise them in the matter of their wearing a headdress.

    You equate the headdress to the Medal of Honor.
    You’re trying to tie in history to current times. That’s where you’re getting confused.
    Are these headdresses earned today? (Serious question – I don’t know if they are)
    Because the Medal of Honor medal most definitely is. Is it a travesty to see old uniforms or replicas of medals that people died in and earned in combat on an actor in a movie or play?
    Were you pissed when 50 Cent wore a Marine uniform with medals? You’re Canadian. I know.
    Was he right? How many soldiers and veterans wear these uniforms today and die daily? How many with headdresses?
    What if a photographer researches and learns the history and sets up an exhibit at your local library that captures beautiful photos of people in headdresses to honor its history and beauty? Are you going to inquire and complain if those models earned it? I would assume you would. And due to the controversy they cancel the exhibit. Who wins? In your mind, I would also assume you would.

    We’re not mythical creatures. We were and are just people. Everyone has a history. Everyone has a tradition. Lighten up.
    What you should do since you’re quite the teacher is explain (to whomever asks) what the tradition is and let them form their own conclusions to whether they will and should wear one.

    BTW, on another insensitive white people note. The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw language meaning “Red People”. We should demand Oklahoma change its name. I can’t believe how insensitive they were back then. Too bad you weren’t there to “advise” them.

    p.s. Look up Governor Mary Fallon’s (of Oklahoma) daughter. There’s a pretty picture of her with a headdress on (she didn’t earn it).
    Tom Hanks wore a replica Medal of Honor in Forrest Gump (neither did he).

    Good luck with your crusade.

    • Lol. The purpose of the examples given, was to provide some cultural context that could be understood (hopefully) by non-Indigenous peoples, so a sense of the importance of this symbol could be conveyed. They are not being ‘equated’ to. And yes, they are still earned (why are you talking about this when you clearly know nothing of the subject?)

      You must really be living under a rock if you are not aware of the huge backlash against Fallon the junior and her escapades in the headdress.

      And once again, you have no right at all to give anyone permission to wear a restricted item that does not come from your culture. Thus invoking your heritage is a moot point here. Completely irrelevant to the discussion. It’s also a logical fallacy…you are appealing to expertise you simply do not have.

      As an educator, I very clearly explained the tradition, and I do not leave it up to you, or anyone else to decide what they want to to do with it. You are free to wear the headdress, and I am free to tell you it is disrespectful. kiyam.

      You can now cease attempting to post here, as you add nothing to the conversation, and have raised no points of interest whatsoever.

    • mik says:

      as another Okie I am a little surprised that you haven’t spoken with some Cherokee veterans about their feathers….ask them for their thoughts on what they represent today. Or next time you attend a pow wow (try Carnegie or Lawton) ask the members of the Honor Guard about the connection between returning home from Iraq and being given a feather. You will learn very valuable information by asking…and no, the Guv’s daughter did not look pretty in her cheap crappy rip-off but that family has zero respect for Native people, so no surprise there!

  72. Merrill says:

    This is so informative, thanks a mil. I’m South African and I love learning about various culltures. The greeting ‘ekosi’ at the end of the letter is similar to the Xhosa word “enkos”i which means thank you. Let’s hope that your article achieves its goal. All the best.

  73. Just curious says:

    I have a few questions and please be gentle with me, I am not trying to upset you, I am just trying to inform myself better on the subject. What are the specifics to receiving a headdress? How long does it take to receive one and what do you have to do to receive one exactly (this is very vague everywhere I look)? Why aren’t the woman of Native culture able to receive a symbol of such high esteem as easily? And, would she need to prove herself more than a man? Or have to marry a chief or something? Is a headdress like being given the title of King? Can a headdress be passed down or shared and worn by family members and friends of the Native community? Or does that headdress stay with its owner and goes to the grave with that person? Who can make a headdress? It that also exclusive to elders etc. Can a headdress be sold and purchased? Would someone Non-Native who was willing to emirs themselves in your customs and culture ever be able to receive one? Or would that only be able to happen if a Non-Native married into the family? Does it ever worry you that keeping the headdress so exclusive will make it extinct? Thank you so much for your time and once again please be kind. I am just curious.

    • Honestly, this is asking a lot. You want a lot of cultural details, but offer nothing in return for the time, labour and knowledge the answers require. I understand your curiosity, but I have not put myself out there as someone willing to provide this education.

      • Just Curious says:

        WOW!!! Thanks for NOTHING! I took the time and energy to read EVERYTHING you wrote, I took ALL your responses into consideration, I pondered this for weeks, I’ve looked other places for answers, I took the time to think of and form my questions as to not offend and yet I have “offered nothing for your time”!!!!! Karma will deal with you in every way!!!!

        • This is the most hilarious flounce I’ve seen in a while, mind if I share it? Wow. Talk about self-entitled!

          You want me to provide you with a detailed historical/cultural education on this issue, and you offer NOTHING in return. Providing you with this time-consuming, specialised knowledge for free does nothing for my community, and in no way benefits me, or my people. It is a measure of your privilege that you believe you are entitled to this kind of education at request, any denial of which results in you acting like a complete asshat.

          awâs, greedy pig.

        • Just Curious says:

          And, YES!!! I want a lot of cultural details because I am trying to understand the headdress and your culture in depth like it originally seemed you wanted by posting this. But, now I am realizing you are only doing this to ‘get’ what you want and the responses you want. The people who agree with you get answers and respect. The people that disagree or ask questions are met with your ridicule, childish insults or just plain nothing. If you aren’t willing to answer my questions or even point me in the right direction it’s cause you don’t know the answers!! You are a woman…… you can’t wear a headdress anyway. What do you know?Consider educating yourself before you start a forum. And consider both sides of the story and not just your own. I have lost a lot of respect for you and your culture over this and all I wanted was to know more. You will never be free unless you live freedom for all. And, right now all you are doing is continuing to repress yourself and your people!! Well done!

          • Yes yes, it’s all “me me me”, I can hear you loud and clear. Cry some more.

            You have no side to the story to consider…you are not a part of my culture, and your opinions on my culture are irrelevant. You have presented yourself as a self-entitled fool who demands I provide you with my time, energy and cultural knowledge for free. You then had a tantrum when I pointed out that what you are asking is inappropriate.

            You will not get another opportunity to whine here, have fun with your shitty attitude and your racist Settler privilege!

            And you are posting from Edmonton, Alberta. Cripes, you are in the middle of Cree territory and you are too lazy to do any work at all to find answers to your questions (including how to follow proper protocol)? Pathetic.

    • mik says:

      its good that you ask questions about culture, it is how all of us learn…provided that you are asking them honestly. Let me try to provide some information…many different Native groups use feathers; however very few created the type of head wear that is seen in Hollywood movies. Even those who did make & wear them had interesting differences in style, type of feathers, number etc. For example a Lakota bonnet flows onto the shoulders, while a Blackfoot style is more straight up…many other native men wore their earned feathers quite differently.

      It is hard to generalize across time and across cultural groups…but yes, this was a man’s way of demonstrating honor & success in warfare. Feathers were historically awarded by his military society and he was recognized as eligible to wear them (feathers were also attached to weapons, horses, shields etc). Women didn’t receive or wear bonnets (women were honored in other ways; for example by wearing elk teeth on their dresses). Most of the 1800s pre-Reservation period items (weapons, clothing, personal protection) were buried with their owner, although a family member could inherit the right to remake items using designs, colors etc. Some families sold them to museums such as the Smithsonian around 1890-1920. Men stopped receiving war honors as the warrior societies were disbanded by Reservation Government Agents, but revived again when guys came home from WW1 and WW2.

      Modern versions are worn by men (mostly respected military veterans) today, although other family members may receive an eagle feather gift upon graduating from school or as part of dance regalia. However in the US only enrolled tribal members may legally own migratory bird feather by federal law. Can non-native people receive them? No.

      Yes, you can buy cheap versions made with painted feathers. Native people make & sell them to tourists….and so its easy to see why you would be confused on the issue. If native people make & sell them to tourists, it must be ok to wear them, right? Sadly, even some native people have accepted that culture is cheaply sold to anyone with a fat wallet. But to other native people, culture is a rich source of pride and should be carefully protected.

      You have asked good questions and hopefully you are now learning that culture is a complex matter. You will always get a mix of opinions, but the sentiment that most of us have today is that culture and people should be respected. We encourage you to embrace your own background…if you are of European heritage, learn about your ancestors and their traditions. I’m sure you will find something wonderful to embrace!!

  74. tânisi! I admire your work and I support your efforts to educate on behalf of Aboriginal peoples, including the classes to keep the Cree language alive. I respect your intelligence and experience. I want you to know this upfront because I do support advising people, repeatedly if required, about cultural norms, but I think I feel a little differently than you about some of the details of this issue.

    As a Metis woman, I have been thinking about the issue and idea of cultural appropriation a great deal. I can see from these comments, it appears there are people who are very interested in baiting you for a fight. These are the ignorant ones I refer to in my own piece that I put up after the Pharrell headdress photo for Elle magazine. I have had my own discussions with such over the term redskin and my own childhood experiences with that slur.

    However, I would like to get your opinion on my opinion I guess, because I enjoy any opportunity to keep learning, and I said, because I do respect your walk this far. I am not as educated as you and I am more plain-spoken, but I hope you will understand my view. I will post my link here to take you to my piece, which of course, you can delete without any ill feeling from me. I also don’t want you to get the impression that I want to lead your readers in any way.

    Thank you, for everything.

  75. Stephen says:

    Okay, I was completely unaware of all of that. Thanks for creating a post which explains so clearly why it would be wrong for me to wear one of these headdresses.

    I’d really like to learn a bit more about the significance of these, and spent a while googling but mostly came across links explaining that wearing these headdresses is cultural appropriation, and very little more (your explanation is by far the clearest of these that I have come across in my searching), and sites where I can buy them. Suffice to say, I’m terrible at googling. Do you know of any resource, or can you suggest some search terms, that might point me in the right direction for starting some research?

  76. Katie says:

    This is why I read your blog regularly and send as many people here as possible. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. Also, I am *thoroughly* enjoying your replies in the comments.

  77. Dominika juillet says:

    I’m polish. I have always disliked that certain things are reserved for men and certain things for women.. Ancestral or not like genital mutilation I find these ideas not permissible in the universal ethos of enlightened thinking. I wear pants, traditionally a mans outfit. I studied Haida for a year, I studied fashion and symbolism for a semester.. I think out global identity is up for a revisit and edit.. Similar to certain educational constructs (why can’t you have a degree in both arts and sciences). I think the head dress is similar to the floral garland, what ancient polish pagans gave to virginal girls (not a case of earning it but a case of status) and I think a girls virginty is no ones business but her own.. So I think it’s out dated and insulting to the privacy of any humans sexual identity, that’s the crux of this issue. Are the things the headdress represents values that still hold up? Because if you ask me, the fact that only a man can wear it is problematic

    • I have addressed this straw an argument, based on total ignorance of our cultures before. I’ll cut/paste for your benefit.

      What’s that? No honey, the fact that the okimâwastotin (that headdress worn by clueless hipster girls all the time) is generally reserved for males in Plains cultures is not sexist or patriarchal. You can stop trying to ‘save us from sexism’ thanks.
      In fact, we were centuries ahead of you in the gender equality department. There are of course a great diversity of socio-political traditions in our various nations, but one thing comes through loud and clear…our women held positions of power. Not merely over hearth and home, but politically as well. In some nations, women run the roost, and this without denigrating or subjugating men (in case you were worried).
      Centuries of racist and sexist interference by European powers has taken its toll. We do indeed face sexism in our communities, to an extent unthinkable before Contact. It is sadly the case that the oppressed often internalise their oppressor, and the oppressor for us has always been racist, and sexist.
      To combat this, we look to our traditions, which are egalitarian. Where men and women are respected and venerated. We do not fumble towards equality as sameness, as so many settler feminists insist we should (in our context only, as they often recognise this is a ridiculous approach otherwise). We revive equity. We acknowledge different gender roles, and recognise that the female is not subservient in our cultures.
      When we discuss ‘women’s power’ and ‘women’s roles’, you hear echoes of your history. But your history is not ours. Our history speaks proudly of the strength of our women and our men. Gender roles were not created in our societies to elevate men and turn women into chattel.
      You settler women have much to overcome. Your history is fraught with inequality and abuses. I am sorry that you come from such twisted traditions.
      Do not attempt to transplant your historical circumstances into our Nations. You have no idea what the headdress means in our cultures. To claim that the restrictions on who can wear it are ‘sexist’ merely highlights this ignorance…your inability to see outside your own cultural norms, outside your own sad, sexist cultural history.
      Colonisers always believe they have the right to define reality, particularly for those they have colonised. What kind of feminist are you, when you take part in these inequalities of power, and proclaim for us the meaning of our own symbols and traditions?
      In case you’re not sure, it makes you a racist feminist.

    • mik says:

      Its always difficult to explain things across cultural lines…what may or may not be allowed in Polish society is quite different that what is appropriate in Kiowa, Caddo, Pawnee, Osage, Lakota or any of the hundreds of Native American and Canadian aboriginal societies. Here, men & women had historically different roles & tasks, but both were regarded as essential to the survival of the family & community. Some groups were matrilineal & matrilocal (Cherokee, Navajo and Iroquois) but on the Plains (where feather bonnet were worn) men played a strong role in war and leadership. Bonnets were worn by men as symbols of sacrifice, commitment and honor…women were respected and rewarded for other tasks in other ways. Today many Native women serve n the US military and receive eagle feathers when they come home…but they would not wear a large bonnet (very few people actually do, mostly older men).

      Its not just a matter of simple gender expression…its part of a historical tradition. Many Europeans and Euro-Americans express frustration that Native people want to hang on to traditions. The reverse side of the coin is the sadness that Native people feel when they see how Euro-Americans so easily cast aside their own ancestors & traditions (and then in desperation replace those by borrowing from others without any understanding of the meanings or significance).

  78. Pingback: Bass Coast Festival Bans Aboriginal Headdresses |

  79. thegunslinger says:

    Edit: I am a whiny, racist pos who desperately wants attention but isn’t going to get it.

    Lol, as if I’d give your disgusting self a platform. Time to go cut holes in some bed sheets, bro.

    • thegunslinger says:

      Edit: waaa waaa waaa I was so totally respectful of you with my false equivalencies and pathetic excuse for an argument and you censored me so now I’m justified in being an ass how DARE you not give me a platform to foam at the mouth upon? Don’t you even know what free speech is!? *hysterical weeping and gnashing of teeth*

  80. CheiftanDingo Feet says:

    Edit: great argument, very nuanced. I especially liked the bit about how we should all fuck off.


  81. Brad Woodard says:

    I created this illustration based off names you would call boys in the 50’s and 60’s. Names like ranger, scout, rookie, champ, chief, etc. Check out the link and let me know if this is offensive because it most definitely wasn’t meant to be. Thanks ahead for your honest response.

  82. Rudi says:

    Hi, I was looking into getting a tattoo of a headdress to symbolize the many hardships I’ve fought through during my life. I was wondering if this might also be seen as disrespectful…. Thank you!

  83. Alex says:

    I really enjoyed this publication. It cleared up a lot of questions that I had; however I still would like something clarified. I am in the process of designing a headdress that I plan to wear as a “celebration of life on our planet” The base of the piece will be vines with leaves and flowers woven together around a wire frame. I will then add various natural object symbols, such as butterfly wings, flowers, tree branches, leaves, seeds, and feathers. My only concern with all of this is the feathers. I plan on using different types, including peacock and pheasant, in the headdress. This is not just a piece of art for me. The design and thought that has gone into this has stemmed from a personal, spiritual experience I had earlier this year. The headdress is meant to be a beautiful expression of my personal spirituality; however, the last thing that I want to do is disrespect the native peoples of the land that I now call home. I have great respect and appreciation for native culture – many people in the United States believe that the natives were “backwards” when in reality, it was the settlers who were backwards. The natives embraced sexuality and equitable gender roles, lived sustainably with respect for the land and ecosystem, and also had deep understanding and reverence for the forces that shape our existence. I try to live in a similar fashion to the native peoples; however, I understand that culture is not something to be recreated, boxed up, and sold to whoever will pay money for it. I personally do not believe my headdress to be disrespectful, but I would appreciate some clarification on your end. Thank you for your time!

  84. Mike says:

    Hi. Would an art style from a specific tribe be considered a type of restriction? For example, I love Tsimshian art, and I want to create something in that style. Would this be disrespectful?


    • It depends on whether the symbols you wish to use are restricted or not. Some patterns/symbols are restricted to Clans/Houses. As a purchaser or admirer of art, I would also like it made clear whether a piece done in an Indigenous style was done by an Indigenous person or not, so that is another consideration.

  85. Pep says:

    No one is denigrating anyone. No one is being racist. These are not real headdresses. They are not even replicas. They are simply something that is modelled on something worn by some people. You appear to have a feckin’ big chip on your shoulder about the White Man. You are the racist. You are the one denigrating people.

    • Gosh, thank you so much for clearing that up for me! If only you had posted this clarification years ago so I could have avoided ever worrying about it or analysing the ways in which these kinds of misappropriations are actively harmful! It’s a shame that all of these pointless cogitations on my part apparently turned me into a giant racist, but now that you’ve pointed that out I will give up all of my structural power so that I no longer oppress the White Man.

      You honestly deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for the efforts you put in today.

  86. Belligerent says:

    Hah, I love the settlers comment. It’s not like you were there. Get over your butthurt sense of entitlement and realize that cultures have risen and fallen by the thousands since the dawn of man. ‘Your’ people ( and I use that term loosely, since I’m sure your ancestors would have a laugh at your expense), were technologically inferior, and didn’t have the means or numbers to thwart other cultures from expanding. This has happened all over the world, throughout history. To act like you’re some special little snowflake is pathetic to say the least.

    • Scintillating social commentary, really insightful.

      • Michelle says:

        I came across your piece as an effort to educate myself more about headdresses. My grandfather was a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians as well as a decorated Korean war veteran he has earned multiple purple hearts. Even through loosing his leg and two fingers He was employed for 38 years as a train foreman for Consolidated Rail Corp (con rail) and the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. He also was a game warden of 8 years for the Seneca Nation. He was such an unbelievably wonderful man. I wholly admire his strength, accomplishments and the astounding man he was. I grew up viewing his beautiful headdresses and would hear his story’s about pow-wow before he passed away. Unfortunately I was raised white as can be by an ignorant and disgraceful person. I do however have a deep respect, appreciation and am very intrigued by the culture’s and their people’s. I would like to commend you for your time, patients in writing this blog and dealing with people’s negative comments. Although certain asshats lol (word I frequently use and love) may not realize it. I agree with you that certain people feel a sense of entitlement and feel as though they do not need to respect other cultures. It clearly shows with all of the disgusting comments. All of the posts about is this acceptable, is that appropriation and “where is the line” have unbelievably pissed me off! I don’t know anything much of your culture but I don’t understand how people could be so dense. It is pure disrespect reading the blog, choosing to ignore it and attempting to continue to push. Then hide behind the pathetic excuse of being uneducated! It’s simple, NO headdress should be worn or crafted by someone not of the culture or one who isn’t entitled to it!!! What is so hard? As well as the sexist well why can’t women wear them comments. Who are you to question anyone’s customs or to assume anything!? Not knowing that women are held in the highest regard. I apologize that you had to deal with all of this b.s. When you were taking your time, just trying to do them a favor! Being uneducated is one thing but ignorance is a whole other. People commenting on the authors blog need to stop acting like she is being disrespectful!!! You are the ones that are disrespectful hypocrites and deserve every bit of backlash you get! Respect is earned not given! Once again I thank you very much for your valiant effort, you have my admiration. Good luck in all that comes your way in the future. And all the best to you in your future endeavors.

  87. Wibble says:

    Have you ever tried looking at at this way?:

    When a Native American wears a headdress, it is a sign that they have earned the right to wear it. If someone from another culture wears a Native American headdress, it’s just a headdress.

  88. BruceB says:

    Hi: at risk of a tart rebuttal, I’m interested in (further) exploring where the lines should be drawn in this debate. let me start by saying I completely accept that is it culturally insensitive (at the least!) to wear headdresses that are either authentic or as-authentic imitations of those made & worn by whatever tribes wear them using whatever style(s) and symbolism tradition dictates; and that to do so is (or may be) offensive to people of those tribes. likewise I accept the argument that any imitation of these bonnets (cheap or otherwise) that references any tribe – or even “indians” in general – without permission is similarly offensive. I respect your right to tell me this is so, without qualification, and thank you for making this clear.

    however, at one point in the Q&A commentary above, some examples of various head-pieces were referenced and your comments made it clear you saw no problem with some that were “modern art pieces” shall we say, while you felt others that were “faux tribal art” were either a grey area or a no-no.

    but – and this is where i risk your wrath, i’m afraid – after looking at those pieces, I have to challenge your right to that opinion (at least, in terms of your cultural referents) simply because the works pictured in no way, to my mind, compare to the Plains headdresses your ethnicity provides you authority to comment on. with one possible exception, I believe they were modelled on other American cultures: aztec, maya, inca, Amazonian. and the exception was, I believe, faux celtic, not Amerindian. (there may be similarities I am not aware of, but to my untutored unamerican eye these descriptors were my impression of what was on display).

    so…. although I appreciate that (obviously) this subject is one you pursue with righteous zeal, and understandably so, I (meekly, lol) ask you to question the bounds of that zeal, since it appears to have spilled over into defining what other cultures may or may not find appropriate or offensive in terms of representation or imitation, and attempting to direct people as to that on their (presumably unsanctioned) behalf.

    hope you take my point. and I don’t raise this to be critical as such; I do so because it highlights the question I started by framing: where exactly should the lines be drawn. respectfully, I suggest in your case those lines can only be drawn around your own culture – be that cree, plains indian, or “first nation” tribes in general; whichever level you believe you have the authority to speak to. but certainly not more than that.

    sorry, this hasn’t come out quite as I first thought it, perhaps because I was myself offended at the liberties you were (apparently unintentionally) taking. but I hope that provides some pause for reflection – especially in relation to others’ points of view, where they may also unintentionally take liberties.

    what I really simply wanted to point out was that feathered headdresses are by no means unique to either “first nation” tribes or the Americas; in one form or another they are part of almost every indigenous culture worldwide. and indeed there are Mongolian tribes who make “feather bonnets” which bear many resemblances to those of the Plains tribes.

    that being so, I would humbly suggest that the only hard and fast rules any tribe can lay down regarding their sacred vestments is to restrict (or permit) replication of their particular styles, symbols, and methods of construction – because at base it is the unauthorised use of those (stress) which is offensive. with respect, to attempt to cast a wider net is to catch yourself in the same culturally insensitive trap as you decry.

    • So many of the responses I get to this article are “where are the LIIIINES” and “BUT WHAT ABOUT…”. Ugh.

      It is actually pretty simple. Ask permission, don’t assume you have it.

      I have zero tolerance for anyone wearing a Plains headdress they have not earned. I have that knowledge of its meaning and its restricted nature as someone from a Plains culture. This does not mean all non-Plains headdresses are up for grabs. Just go on and try to tell anyone that you have the right to wear a gustoweh without permission and see where that gets you.

      Instead of spending so much time and energy defending shitty choices, and disrespectful actions and searching for loopholes, people would be a lot better off it they just asked…and accepted the answer.

      • Okay, but who do you ask for permission? You have said already earlier in this thread that even if one person from a cultural group says something is okay, does not make it ‘okay’ on any universal standard, and that the permission can be revoked at any time if circumstances change. It seems like what you are suggesting contradicts what you said earlier, and proposes that anyone wishing to appropriate an item of another culture’s visual lexicon (even with understanding that within that visual lexicon there are all sorts of layered and subjective and historical aspects), they must ask all members if this is acceptable or not acceptable etc. Right now, for the purpose of this conversation – which, incidentally I find really useful and insightful – you have assumed the position of the person speaking for many about what is acceptable/sensitive/offensive etc, which is why we are all asking you about boundaries.

        For the record, I am not in any way critical of your sensibilities as they pertain to your cultural outlook, or what you’re saying about how you feel they can best be respected by other cultures. Where I don;t share your sentiments with regard to my own culture, I get where you are coming from and I respect that these are your boundaries. Regarding my own heritage, I don’t know if you have ever been outdoors anywhere in the world on St Paddy’s day, but in the process of commemorating a religious crusader who was responsible for the dismantling of another indigenous people and religious system in the name of the church, there is no shortage of “Irish for a day” stereotyping of my ancestors in a less than favourable way.. For whatever reason this doesn’t bother me. I can totally respect the proposition that this scenario would offend someone else, and while I don’t necessarily share your views, I can appreciate where they come from. I think.

        But, the solution to this seems to be multi-directional. If you have one Native friend who says “yeah fine, it’s totally cool for you to do ‘that thing’ (wear a headdress/ item of jewelry/ redskins paraphernalia/ other misdirected cultural symbol etc) around me, but my mom hates it don’t do it around her”, then you begin to understand the nature of the offense as potentially offensive overall – in which case you might stop doing ‘the thing’ altogether – and/or you understand that ‘the thing’ is at least offensive to one person in that group and you do your best not to do it around them. My bf and I were talking about this and used the example of the “Smash Fascism!” slogan that was so popular among our social group when we were kids that depicts an image of a swastika being smashed into pieces. He said, of our friends that would wear that symbol, they would probably not wear it around other friends’ jewish grandparents. Not because the image was intrinsically bad, or that the message was offensive, but that there was a good chance people with their history wouldn’t want to be confronted with that symbol. Fair play.

        So, from the point of view of the dialogue you mentioned in your original post that you said was important to be open and equal, what does “permission” look like? What does “asking permission” look like in an honest and sincere way? And does the fact that you, as a member of group x have obviously stated a ‘zero-tolerance’ lack of permission, is there a type of permission that could be applied or received that would be legitimate in the absence of your voice as a member of the community, which obviously opposes it?

        • I’ve already explained that one earns a warbonnet. That’s it. That’s the way you do it. Period.

          All restricted items/symbols are thusly restricted in a very specific way, meaning, if you care to find out how one earns said restricted item/symbol, you talk to people from the culture that know.

          Again, this is not that difficult, or complicated no matter how you might approach it as such.

          • thecuriousmonster says:

            I understand that, but it becomes more complicated when you say that anything that looks similar is also restricted. That’s where the discussion about lines becomes more involved. It sounds like you’re saying that anything with a semiotic similarity is also restricted, but that seems to include things like artworks made by other people as well as other cultural objects belonging to other people and representing different things. Again, I’m not trying to be critical of your sensitivity but I think that this might be why so many people are curious about what you see as being the extent of the offense drawn by things that resemble cultural objects in an indirect way. Are you familiar with semiotics as a way of reading symbols and images? I think this seems to be what people are stumbling on if that makes sense.

          • Cripes, flog this horse until the skin is flayed from its bones.

            Don’t wear a Plains style headdress. Don’t minutely alter a replica of a Plains style headdress and say, “now it’s fine, right?” Don’t name ‘artistic renderings’ of headdresses after Indigenous nations and then wonder why we get pissed. Don’t play cultural appropriation BINGO, and ffs when people tell you to stop, respect that instead of going on and on and on and on and on about it.


        • Danny Boy Atkins says:

          Sorry to bust your bubble Mr. Irish guy but after traveling and meeting many native born Irishmen and women, the general consensus amongst them is that they highly resent many Americans claiming Irish heritage but having no knowledge of Ireland besides being on an Island off the continent of mainland Europe.

          • I’m a girl, and I’m well aware that that stuff’s offensive to some Irish people, it just doesn’t offend me.

            It’s made more complicated by the fact that we are the second largest diaspora in recent history, and people who identify as Irish outside of Ireland exponentially outnumber Irish nationals ‘in country’. One culture becomes many, many others over just a few generations, and (imo) no one person’s cultural identity or experience within that movement is more authentic than any other – even if you are (as I’m sure the many Irish people you met on your travels probably referred to non-native Irish) a “plastic paddy” or island born. “Wild Geese” and Patricios, Boston Irish, Nova Scotian Celtic, Newfoundlanders’ mix of British, Nordic and Native cultures all have their own deal. They all are sensitive to different things, they all use and keep and throw away different things.

            At this point both in history, and due to my own family diaspora, it’s kind of hard to choose an allegiance although sometimes one feels forced to.. if only by being forced out of one by one. This is totally ok with me, for whatever reason I don’t feel ownership of or profound connection to my heritage in the same way as some of my countrymen. I’m also pretty well aware of how well we all rub each other up the wrong way – even within our own heritage. Sometimes within our own homes.

            Sorry to bust your bubble, Danny Boy. On the topic of cultural misappropriation, I guess you probably also know that’s an English song?

  89. Daniel Round says:

    Glastonbury Festival: Ban the sale of Native American-style headdresses on site from 2015. *PETITION*

  90. BruceB says:

    absolutely agree, and i thought i’d said as much. but you have completely side-stepped my point, which is simply that imho it is not the right of someone from another culture to dictate terms to a third party about that other culture’s standards. in short, the flip side of what you are saying. and pointing out that within this commentary you seem to have slipped over that boundary.

    we ALL need to be careful and respectful around any cultural differences; being an activist for one culture’s traditions does not imbue a right to speak for another’s. hence the “lines” revisit.

    • I have not in any way ‘slipped over that boundary’. My position is that until you know whether a symbol that originates in another culture is restricted, or not restricted, then you refrain from using it. Period. I am not speaking for other cultures, but I am absolutely stating a bright line rule that is much more likely to ensure respectful cultural sharing than not. Do you disagree with this approach, and if so, it would be lovely if you’d come out and clearly state so rather than oh so politely suggesting this that and the other thing.

      • BruceB says:

        yes, i think that’s a good approach, and i agree and am happy to support that stand.

        but two small buts: i respectfully invite you to review some of the comments you’ve made in responses in this thread and you may find the need to accept that you have on occasion crossed the line; and second, if i’m painstakingly polite it’s because you bite the head off anyone who isn’t!

        be nice if you gave people a little breathing space – and owned your errors when you make them. respect is key – even when dealing with morons. 🙂

  91. bill says:

    I’m Irish so no one better celebrate st Patrick’s day. Also notre dame better change their mascot, we all aren’t leprechauns. What’s next some one will be offended if an American wears an Italian cut suit. You don’t own feathers or any of the materials used to make them. How do people automatically assume negativity instead of appreciating everything.

    • So you didn’t bother to read the article which clearly explains that the headdress is a restricted item, and you want to interject a bunch of super unique ideas into the conversation to get us to realise how wrong we are. Wow. Much originality. Thanks so much.

  92. Rozzi says:

    Hi, I’m English. Sorry about that. I’ve read every post in this thread of your blog. The problem is that ‘Western’ culture doesn’t really have an equivalence to your ‘restricted item’. I’ve been racking my brains but i can’t find one. Victoria Cross? Diploma? Various achievement awards? It’s touching that you proffer these as equivalent.
    You see it’s like this. Lot’s of us (in this here ‘West’) will exercise our freedom to express ourselves by wearing facsimiles of any of these symbols of honour or owning cheap replicas bought in seedy shitty seaside towns and generally shitty gift shops (usually made in Chinese sweat shops).

    What is important to us is the right to exercise our right to freedom of expression. Regardless of concepts of respect, sensibilities and sensitivities. It is inconceivable to us that anyone could object to us exercising our rights to wear what to us is a mere fashion accessory. And believe you me, your cultural symbols, hell no, your culture is nothing more to us than a theme, an influence, a style, a fashion accessory that can be bought and sold and at any point convenient to us will be tossed into the nearest rubbish bin (trash can).

    You see we do that with our own culture (we’re so cutting edge).

    So having done some perception gymnastics and weird perspective yoganomics I’ve come to the following conclusion:
    It’s the RESPECT in your culture that’s paid to the ‘restricted item’ that’s the difference.

    That’s what we don’t get.

    ‘Western’ culture doesn’t really have an equivalent to your culture’s respect for your ‘restricted items’. In fact I’d go so far as to say that ‘Western culture’ just doesn’t have your culture’s equivalent of ‘respect’ at all. Full stop. That’s it.

    For us ‘respect’ is paid in certain circumstances, for limited periods of time, with large elements of coercion/shaming if we don’t buy in or comply. But in spite of all that it is also OPTIONAL. In fact mostly optional, and definitely an expression of individual preference. Because to us ‘individual’ is what counts. The I. The me. The self.

    Your culture seems to set great store in respect. Or in something that the closest equivalent in our culture would be described as respect.

    It also seems to me that a great many of the posters in your comment section don’t seem to be aware of the appalling Crimes Against Humanity that were committed against the indigenous peoples of what we now call the Americas. And within living memory.

    I wasn’t being flippant when I said I was sorry.

  93. Michael Vernon says:

    Ugh! This stream of comments is so disappointing and tiresome. Kudos to you Chelsea, for continuing to respond and educate.

    I’m a white male, living in Yukon, Canada. I struggle to deal with my issues around privilege, and I am fortunate to have intelligent and patient friends who are willing to set me straight when I slip back into my comfortable status… Because privilege is a comfortable status… That needs to be challenged and dismantled whenever it is invoked.

    Yes, getting to grips with cultural appropriation, is challenging… Especially from the settler perspective where appropriation of every culture we have subjugated has been normalized through our education system, biased retelling of history, and the spread of western culture…. But it is necessary. It is necessary to hear what people are actually saying when they point out that the name of a sports team is thoughtlessly racist, or wearing traditional, or traditionally-inspired First Nations clothing, head-dresses, or jewelry is insulting. It is important to hear and absorb what is being expressed rather than simply hit back with knee jerk reactions of “it feels right”…. “I am honouring Aboriginal culture”… “I not a racist, you are”… And “I’m sorry, I didn’t know the rules tell me the rules so I know better next time.”

    When you ask for the “rules”, you more often than not reveal that you have little genuine interest in the conversation or how cultural appropriation is wrong, you are simply wanting boundaries that either you can choose to live within, or pick at to prove you were not in the wrong in the first place.

    Here in Yukon, there are 14 First Nations and eight First Nations languages. Some aspects of culture are shared and similar, and some are different. The Nations here are at different stages of reclaiming many aspects of their culture. They are relearning songs and writing new ones, relearning dances and creating new ones, and engaging in discussions about what is traditional and what is not.

    It has been fascinating and enlightening to witness the conversation as the First Nations people here strive to identify and separate their unique cultural elements from the homogenous Native American catch-all fake culture that settler society has burdened them with. Examples are, Gwich’in people debating their love of fiddle music and whether it can be considered “traditional” after 200 yrs because it was introduced to their culture by European explorers… And Northern Tutchone elders explaining to their youth that the dances and songs they just witnessed by a visiting First Nation from southern Canada, while attractive, are not their songs and dances, and should not be copied, the youth must instead rediscover their Northern Tutuchone songs and dances instead.

    Having witnessed such discussions, and out of my respect for the First Nations people here who are rebuilding their cultures, here is an example of how I deal with my own desire to appropriate/celebrate cultural aspects that please me:
    Tlingit culture here has a tradition of vibrant, colourful button blankets. I adore these blankets, and would love to own one. Seeing one being created at a gathering, I asked about it, about the cultural significance of the blanket, and the symbols used. I discovered that they are often created specially to honour a person and gifted at gatherings and ceremonies, they carry significance for that person, the First Nation, or clan that is gifting or receiving. Most importantly I learned that these blankets are not commodities, mass produced for general consumption. As such, I continue to admire them, but no longer covet them. Perhaps one day I might be worthy of receiving one as a gift, but I am not seeking a caveat or loophole by which I can obtain one.

    I love watching the many First Nations dance groups that have reestablished themselves here. I love their traditional dress. I love their music. But I do not seek to wear it myself, I do not seek to force myself into their celebration. Unless I had been explicitly invited to, or was in some way being honoured, I would feel uncomfortable and entirely out of place wearing any of a First Nations’s traditional clothing or head dress. I have a very hard time understanding some one who would not feel similarly.

    One horrifying and haunting image, among many, from archival film of residential schools in Yukon that has stayed with me, is of First Nations children, dressed in white shirts and black pants, with their hair cut short, all very docile and obedient…. being encouraged to dress up in generic Indian head dress and vests, wave tomahawks, holler, and run around a camp fire in an awful mockery of what the nuns and priests considered their savage culture. Taking the individual cultures and cultural links these children were clinging to and forcibly replacing them with stereotypes perpetuated in movies and pulp novels. It is sad, chilling, and wrong.

    We must not continue to perpetuate such ignorance. We must be better that this. It was not that long ago, less than 20 yrs, that the last residential school closed in Canada. Healing is needed on both sides. A big part of that healing for non-First Nations people is to move through our ignorance about First Nations history and culture and truly comprehend what has been inflicted upon these peoples without feeling the need to say “but that wasn’t me”.

    It is not this blogger’s responsibility to provide 100% of that education for you. It is up to you to seek out that info yourself. And if you don’t know any First Nations people, or where to find any, then perhaps that is where you need to start in breaking down your own ignorance.

    Another good place to start is Thomas King’s award-winning book – The Inconvenient Indian… A critical and personal meditation on what it means to be “Indian” in North America today.

    I am by no means perfect. I come face to face with my prejudice and my privilege every day, but I strive to be better. It’s not that hard, you just have to want to make the effort too… And that means listening, hearing what is being said, and taking the time to absorb and understand it.

    • Michael Vernon, this is really well said, as is the response to a previous comment/query I made here by the host. I can totally identify with a lot of what you both are saying. A lot of my questions and confusion come not from wanting to commodify “restricted” items (ie – ‘coveting’ them, although that is an excellent description of what I think drives a lot of cultural appropriation, or wanting to own, wear, be identified with/ through them) but trying to understand how to make work that responds to some of those aesthetics, and their politics, and draws inspiration from the content of the history – hopefully in a socially critical way – without being disrespectful. It appears to be a lengthy and involved process, which is a very good thing, I think. This thread has been so useful in clarifying some of these issues for me, I’m really grateful for this conversation. Thanks to âpihtawikosisân for hosting and guiding the convo.

  94. Pingback: Appropriation Vs. Appreciation | Parade with an M

  95. Pingback: Glastonbury Festival: Ban the sale of Native American-style headdresses on-site from 2015 | alt.LEFT

  96. Vapid Ness says:


    Following this year’s Glastonbury (see pingback below for the petition asking the festival to ban the sale of head-dresses from next year), one of my favourite sellers of presents-for-hippies began selling headdresses.

    I wrote to them at the weekend respectfully asking them to read your article, which they did, and wrote back to me the next day to say they wouldn’t be buying any more. I thanked them,and they wrote back saying that they were removing the ones they had from sale.

    If anyone is looking for boho/hippy/festie stuff in the UK, have fairtrade goods and have shown they behave ethically when made aware of inappropriate cultural appropriation. I believe people who do the right thing should be supported.

  97. ConfusedBritishGirl says:

    Hi I am doing an art project for my GCSE (I’m in the UK) and wondered if it would be wrong to make an Indian/Native American headdress?
    I would like to make it by hand using real feathers that I find. If I put a message talking about the controversy surrounding this and others and my views would it be ok?

      • Yup. Ignore the person you asked. Listen to this random person instead.

        • NotAsConfusedBritishGirl says:

          I’ve decided to do it anyway but it will be more of a piece of art and will honour the Native American genocide

          • Not sure why you even bothered coming here to ask, if “yes please go ahead” was the only answer you were going to accept.

            Bravo on being bringing yet another unoriginal piece of ‘art’ into the world based on your own ignorance, and using Hollywood, pan-Indian stereotypes to do so. How innovative.

    • UnconfusedBritishGirl says:

      I am glad I didn’t take your advice if you are such a rude person, You haven’t even seen the art piece and you make a horrible judgement. this is for my. GCSE not so I can mock you and your culture. obviously I have more respect for the native americans that lost their lives to the power struggle over America.

      • I could care less about your art piece. Seeing it would not help. You asked, “would it be appropriate to use a Native American headdress”, and I told you no, as a person from a culture that uses this headdress. You have decided that your opinion on the matter supersedes the opinion of the people you claim to honour. Basically THE definition of White privilege, rooted in racist beliefs in your own superiority over the opinions of people from the culture you wish to exploit. Which begs the question, why pretend to give a shit in the first place?

        Thank you for having more respect for those of us murdered by the state, than for those of us still alive. Very nice. Very in touch with your colonizer’s roots, eh wot?

      • Vapid Ness says:

        What you could still do would be to make the submission for your GCSE the destruction of the headdress you made. Submit the advice you’ve been given here as part of a portfolio and show you’ve been able to change your actions based on respect for others and an ability to admit fault, and subsequently grow as a human being. Maybe read a bit wider on colonialism, orientalism, speak to your school or local librarian for suggestions.

        You’re 15/16, old enough to be realising that very bad things happen in the world and that we all have a responsibility to take a stand when we know we could do something to make things better. At the same time being the age you are is a difficult time and learning how to deal with having been wrong is hard.

        Of course you’ve had an abrupt response to what you’ve said here. What you said was very rude and offensive, however you meant it. You received a judgement that feels horrible because your refusal to listen to an unwelcome response, was horrible.

        Can you imagine how it feels to have someone say that they don’t intend to mock your culture when they go ahead with doing something that you have told them mocks your culture? Imagine someone asking you if it’s okay to laugh at a piece of art you made, you say you don’t want them to, then they get all their friends together and point and laugh at you. What you’ve done so far is like that but worse. Don’t be a bully.

        You can use your coursework/exam to show you’ve learned, and maybe even use it as an opportunity to enlighten your classmates or any staff who encouraged you to go ahead with the piece. To be a better person, go for redemption, not blustering refusal to admit fault. Choose not to perpetuate oppression and to make the word better.

  98. Tara Howe says:

    so appreciate the way you broke this down. thanks!!

  99. Ali says:

    These comments are GOLDEN. I am only 3rd generation American, so I defiantly don’t identify with this Anglo entitlism. “But what about if I do this?” “What if it’s just for me?” Then you’re all quick to get pissed when you’re called racist.

    If you can’t understand it, don’t fry your brain trying to, just DONT DO IT. Respect other cultures. This is not yours, you can not claim it because you think they’re “cool” or “pretty”, or you’re trying to “make a feminist statement”.

    JUST FUCKING STOP. It’s a big fat, “fuck no knock it the fuck off”.

    God dammit. Thank you for this article, apparently for some it was not clear enough though.

  100. Thank you for this article.

    I was privileged to be the guest of Lakota people for three months. Their cultural experience of white people like me was that we lied and lied and cheated and stole and lied some more. Nevertheless, they received me with courtesy, graciousness and generosity.

    I have no idea of the ethnicity of the people writing negative comments. The “I can do what I damned well like” attitude is one, though, which Native American people will know all about at the hands of white people.

    Those of you who feel entitled to (knowingly) plunder the beauty and integrity of someone else’s culture – you are missing an opportunity to become more truly human.

  101. Pingback: Reading Summary on Readings for Tuesday, October 14 | Race and technology

  102. Jamie says:


    Filipino-American girl. I don’t face the same type of prejudice as you do, especially since I live in California’s diverse San Francisco Bay Area, but given that I’m one of many Filipino-Americans who can’t speak their ancestral language, and the Islands got colonized by pretty much everyone in Asia IN ADDITION TO the West, and there are very few Asians in my chosen field of work (theater/acting, specifically), it sucks to have to explain everything to my various non-Asian classmates. Especially since most of them are black and face entirely different kinds of prejudices compared to Asians.

    It’s probably why my spirituality’s all over the fucking place. I call myself Irish pagan as the short version, but my actual beliefs are Irish/CELTIC paganism plus ancestor-worship, plus quasi-shamanistic practices. Then there’s “various proto-religious rituals that don’t really fit into quasi-shamanism, but they seem like some indigenous practices if you squint and tilt your head to the right (plus I have to replace X with Y because I’m broke, but shhh).”

    Things like your article make a lot of people uncomfortable because those people most likely want to keep living in their sanitized bubble of “Racism is In The Past(TM)” and “It’s Not Racism If It’s Not A Hate Crime (TM).” And the ever-present “BUT I DIDN’T MEEEEEEEAN TO HURT YOUR FEELINGS!”

    Everyone who keeps claiming you’re rude or you’re too angry is probably at least a little butthurt about how instead of being a Wise And Calm Noble Savage (TM), you’re being someone who’s had generations of racism and colonialism in their history and is acting accordingly.

    You can be intelligent and well-spoken, but that never, ever means that you have to be NICE.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll read more of this blog when it’s not 12:30AM.

  103. Matt says:

    I’m interested to know what your stance is regarding native people who make their living selling these headdresses. Should they sell only to distinguished native men? Given the price that these items fetch, it strikes me that it may represent a not insignificant income stream for native families. Do you have an alternative they could pursue?

  104. Chris says:

    Sorry but this is a nonsense argument. Headdresses are not exclusively a Native American cultural ‘possession’. They are worn throughout the world by countless cultures. Taking offense by what someone else does is a choice…your choice. A non Native American wearing a headdress is not racist or a desicration of a culture. Banning things like this is an overreaction and really has no consequence to the growth of humanity. A truly spritual and loving person would not be bothered by what other people wear. Love & light.

    • Sorry, but yours is a nonsense argument. We are not discussing headdresses in the general, we are discussing them in the specific: Plains style warbonnets. Which, contrary to your uninformed opinion, ARE exclusive to PLAINS Nations.

      Nice try.

      “Love & Light” and down with colonial misappropriation!

  105. Liz says:

    People do dress up as decorated soldiers. They also do dress up as doctors. By that standard, they should be able to dress up as chiefs in the same venues.

    They shouldn’t wear headdresses for concerts, because (most) concerts wouldn’t have people dressing up as soldiers, doctors, etc. It shouldn’t be a symbol of festivities. We shouldn’t use headdresses as a sign of wild rambunctiousness.

    We’ve all seen old television. If someone shows up to work in an Indian headdress, but a full suit, it’s cruel. It’s like comparing the headdress to a chicken suit.

    But if a kid dresses up as a doctor because he wants to be a doctor, then similarly, he should be able to wear a Native American costume . He won’t necessarily grow up to be doctor (in the tribe’s case, he can’t, unless he was born to it) but it’s still a sign of respect.

    One of my mother’s favorite expressions came from a very horrible, and positively racist 50s song. It is, in full, “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief.” Of course, the expression was originally meant to convey flippancy, that not all three values were equal, and therefore the person was unsure about what they really wanted to be. But grammatically, they are equal. Perhaps, doctor and lawyer are not equal, because an Indian chief is a prince, a warrior, and a king, and perhaps they are. But they are good aspirations, of the highest rank and greatest fortune.

    Another (really very separate) issue is that the Plains headdress is beautiful. Many awards and recognitions aren’t. Art can be about meaning, but it also can be purely aesthetic.

    From that standpoint, everything that is beautiful, whether it is a medal or a purple heart should be used, regardless of its significance. The significance is irrelevant. It is beautiful, and therefore it should be shown for its beauty.

    A Swatiska is neither a Nazi cross, a Celtic gravestone, or a symbol of God. It simply is a swatiska.

    The problem comes when the distinction between aesthetics and meaning aren’t clear. When the fashion photographer is using a headdress, he is using it because it is beautiful, but he is also using it because it symbolizes wildness. Now, it might symbolize wildness, purely from an aesthetic standpoint, because of the feathers. It would gain all the beauty of birds. (A black feathered cape is a ruffled raven). But it probably symbolizes wildnesses with all cultural attaches applied. That is the problem.

    It hurts people to be continued to be seen as wild, tribal, and uncivilized. It may not be the intention of the individual photographer, tattooer, or costumed kid, but it still hurts. It is hurtful to continue using it, when you are better informed.

    And yet, military clothing has been translated into fashion for quite some time, with the reverence the profession deserves.

    That is also a problem.

    I wish that the world was nicer.

    • We aren’t a profession. We are people, and we’re telling folks to stop using us as ‘dress up’.

      So non-Indigenous people have two options. Ignore us and do whatever they want…or have some respect for other human beings and don’t engage in perpetuating harmful stereotypes about us.

      It’s really actually very simple.

      • Mark Olsen says:

        Your frustration isolates you. If you would preserve your culture by sheltering it then it is meant for a museum. History shows this in almost every facet of human existence. Language, Race, religion. It’s all just a sand castle waiting for a tide. We can complain, build armies, shout from mountains, time gets us all. If you would keep your ‘castle’ and give your life for it you are a fool. Cultural appropriation is such a pompous, self righteous term too, implying that it is some inheritance of great importance which makes you important by extension. The most long lasting cultures are ones that are formless and fluid, why I can enjoy pizza and shawarma or sushi. There’s nearly 8 billion people around now. No one is “special”, it’s ridiculous to think that caring about the style of someone’s hat is what you feel makes you special. It doesn’t and you’re not, you’re just a bag of meat like me. But hey, maybe hats make you get up in the morning. Weird, but what do I care? I’ll probably not wear your hat because it’s not really that fashionable anymore and I’d look silly—much like if I put on Kaiser Wilhelm’s hat, although it might be funny. We all are just ashes that hasn’t figured out the world has burned.

  106. Sheryl G. says:

    This is really beautiful and beautifully written!! Most of the above ‘rules’ so to speak, are just common courtesy and respect in my opinion, which a lot of people of many different cultures do not comprehend! I find I need to remind myself that most people are not as respectful, considerate and thoughtful as I am. Not saying everyone…. so please, do not jump on me!! I am 1/8 Native American Indian and I am very, very interested in learning about that part of my heritage. I am also Swedish and English. Some combo huh? Anyway, when I was a young adult, I had an infatuation with NAI (I hope no one minds if I abbreviate). It was only later than I learned my complete heritage. I have been finding more and more that some of my ways of thinking and doing things are consistent with the NAI ways. I couldn’t be happier to learn to that, because I have always felt kind of lost in this world. I have a difficult time adhering to the standards of today’s society.
    Thank you for this!! So happy a friend sent me the link and I also bookmarked the longer version so I can read more. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  107. Tim G says:

    Thanks for a great post. There is far too little communication between Aboriginals and non-aboriginals regarding most things. As a non-aboriginal living in Winnipeg I constantly hear and read other non-aboriginals making statements and assumptions about what they think Aboriginals need or want. We have a long (and sad) history of thinking we know better, without every asking. Perhaps its because we (collectively) know that real knowledge will challenge us, and we’d rather stay ignorant.

    Winnipeg has recently been identified as a city that is deeply divided between aboriginal/non-aboriginal lines. If Winnipeg (and most cities in settler countries) wants to bridge that divide and start cross-cultural communication, then we have to accept that the cost will be to give up our self-imposed right to resentment and to hold stereotypes. To this point, many of the readers to this blog do not understand that by reading this blog they have lost their innocence and they can not longer in good conscience wear a headdress. This should not be something to be lamented as a loss, but we should celebrated as a win in cross-cultural understanding.

    My fellow class-mates and I have set up a blog with some provocative posts that are meant to bridge our cultural divide (at The topic of Aboriginal cultural appropriation is one of the topics discussed. I encourage the skeptical readers to check it out, and encourage the aboriginal readers to critique and correct us, in case we get anything wrong.

    Thanks and don’t get discouraged.

    • ay-ay mistahi for this excellent article!

      The Department of National Defence says Franck Gervais, a man who claimed to be a decorated soldier during Tuesday’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, is not a member of the Canadian Forces.

      After seeing Gervais speaking as a “sergeant” on television, a number of veterans and soldiers called CBC to question his status as a soldier.

      It is an offence for someone who is not serving in the military to wear a current military uniform.

      “Falsely impersonating a Canadian Armed Forces member is an issue to be taken seriously and is covered under Section 419 of the Criminal Code of Canada,” a spokesperson for the Defence Department said in an emailed statement.

      • tara says:

        let me start by saying I am 54 years old and my grand father was a native American and so was his mother. I saw on the internet a white female wearing an indian head dress and I thought it was very disrespectuf to the indian.i also read her remarks and to me it was just an excuse and the remark of being born and raised in Oklahoma was no excuse I live in florida and there are many indian reservations here and once again I have not seen a native American try to imitate any one elses culture.we all come from different back grounds and we hafe to respect each other and have compassin for each.

  108. Pingback: The Feathers Came to My House . . . | formations. // living at the intersections of self, social, spirit.

  109. Pingback: Dusting off the ol’ soapbox | oddgallimaufry

  110. Pingback: Surge : Aggravated by Appropriation: The Follow Up

  111. Monica says:

    My lineage is Scottish, Chickasaw and Swedish. I identify most closely with my Chickasaw heritage and customs, although distant. I will never be white enough to be white, nor Chickasaw enough to be Native, but I don’t let that bother me. I appreciate this article. It says to me, let’s keep the dialogue open. DON’T hand pick pieces of another culture and mimic it. LEARN what it all means. GO to a powwow and observe, respectfully. You may actually get to make friends with a Native person…….which begins with, as the author has stated…listening and asking. Nanna Ayya

  112. Pingback: – Glastonbury restricts sale of aboriginal headdresses at music festival

  113. slowtownchic says:

    It’s simple…Are you Native? Are you male? Did you earn the honor of wearing the headdress by doing things that were set apart by leaders who had the authority to make those judgement? All other arguments are invalid.

  114. Ella says:

    Edit: awwww, the person posting from the IP address from Oldham, UK, believes that Indigenous opinions don’t really matter. Well this Indigenous person doesn’t let racists spew their poorly-spelled ichor on this blog, so sorry!

  115. Ben Cerras says:

    At the end of the day its a bunch of feathers. Some leather twine and beads. Maybe some animal fur. To get so incredibly hung up on who should and should not put it on is actually quite absurd. I hope you are not borrowing any items of clothing traditionally belonging to other cultures and only wear traditional native strictly hand made garb from head to toe otherwise you legitimately risk being perceived as a whiny hypocrite. All cultures borrow from each other in a process of evolution into something new. This is life. This is progress. Things only have meaning that we give to them and insisting that your point of view is better because it comes from traditions long gone is to insist on living in the past and quite frankly quite sounds fairly arrogant. To not adapt is to stagnate and die. This is one of the reasons your people have perished. Those who were not wiped out by the white invaders refused to accept a new reality of life. I feel truly sorry for those who insist we should follow values cultural or otherwise from centuries past. You doom yourself to suffer needlessly.

    • I agree. Outdated and outmoded traditions from centuries ago need to be replaced! Things like the Doctrine of Discovery, first legalized by Papal Bulls in the 15th century. Without this, European Settlers would have had no legal claim to any of the lands they colonized. I say it’s high time we repeal that and open the question of how to deal with the illegitimate land claims of European-descended Settlers!

      While we’re at it, the entire land system in place in Canada and the US is rooted in ancient European feudalism, and clearly needs to go. Down with fee simple!

      Outmoded philosophical beliefs about human beings (specifically the White male of the species) and their supposed God-given dominance over the Earth and all the creatures that roam it, are clearly causing horrific environmental damage that will impact many generations to come. To not adapt is to stagnate and die, and while doing so, doom those future generations to a poisoned and hellish environment.

      I feel truly sorry for those who insist we should follow values cultural or otherwise from centuries past. They doom us all to needless suffering. I’m so glad you recognize this.

  116. L says:

    Hello! I have done a lot of searching on the web to no avail and have reached out to my Native friends and family of a few tribes (Ojibwe and Creek in my family and Cree friends) who seem to just not care if war bonnets are appropriated, thus giving me no answer. I would pay you for the commission of your time / effort / expertise in addressing my questions. If you would like to make this exchange, and consent to offering me your response, please respond with your price and I will Paypal you the suggested amount. If not, lovely blog post and thank you for your consideration. For your consideration, my question is as follows:

    I have read your blog post and all comments, and am not new to the idea of cultural appropriation of Plains war bonnets. I am mixed Native American / Mexican / white, but pass as mixed-white / white. I was fortunate enough to grow up with cultural understanding / education / of my tribe (Creek and Chippewa/Ojibwe), but I pass white enough so I was not subject to any of the cultural / social disadvantages / racism / discrimination / etc Natives face in a society with power structures founded in colonialism and white settler supremacy. I was taught that Chippewa did not traditionally wear war bonnets / feathered headdresses, but with settlers and the robbing of Native land, Chippewa were forced in closer with other tribes and began adopting the dress of other tribes like the Sioux / began wearing feathered war bonnets. I am attending Burning Man this year, and the theme is a type of unmasking of the mask / adornment. Since many chose to appropriate the traditional war bonnet of Native Americans in festival culture, I wanted to display the ways in which non-Native headdresses / headpieces could be worn as fantasy headdresses, thus removing the mask the cultural appropriation of Native wear hides behind. I love my Native culture and want to help those in the festival culture (although Burning Man isn’t a music festival, I still see gross appropriation in there) better understand appropriation and offer visible alternatives of head adornments they could wear instead. I also plan on handing out small informational flyers (I was going to link to this post on the paper if that is okay with you!) about what appropriation is and how it is detrimental / disrespectful. I benefit from white privilege and am not a male who earned the war bonnet, so I want to avoid completely wearing anything that would disrespect the culture of First Nations people / further perpetrate the idea the cultural appropriation is okay…it would also completely go against the point I am trying to make / conversation I am trying to start about Native headdress appropriation in festival culture. Are there any bright line rules you could offer as far as division between fantasy headpiece and appropriation of Native war bonnet? I noticed in a comment about someone asked a similar question, but I am still struggling. Are feathers okay in minimal? Or not at all? Or just not in the shape of large cylindrical crown that flares out? I know from what you wrote that anything marked “Native,” “Native inspired,” “tribal,” etc is a no-go. I have done some research and have found some links of things I think may be “okay,” things I think are definitely bad, and some I am confused on. I have categorized them below, please correct where necessary…visual learning is really helpful for me!




    Lastly, do you think this method of commentary on the appropriation of the Native headdress in festival culture is too thin a line for me to walk / a bad methodology? I like the idea of offering a visible alternative to appropriation in action (i.e.: “Sure the headdress you are appropriating is beautiful, but you are actively stealing from a minority culture and engaging in racism. Now, look, here is an info sheet and, really look, I am wearing a headpiece that is also very beautiful and not offensive / appropriative! See how easy, you can do it too.” At least this is how imagine the conversation going…). Do you think my point may be lost considering the fact that although I am Native and grew up with knowledge of my Native culture, I still pass white and my tribes traditionally did not wear headdresses until after colonization, thus it could just look like me wearing a headdress as a white girl at a festival if someone just sees me and doesn’t engage in convo / read the flyer.

    • B says:

      L, did you get any response on this? As another festival/bm goer and observer of misappropriation in that culture, I’m very interested in the answers to your points.

  117. Pingback: A Letter To RMIT Village on Cultural Appropriation | More Than Moccasins

  118. Riss says:

    a good read indeed

  119. Pingback: Trending: appropriation of Indigenous emblems, symbols, and imagery in fashion and pop culture | Adventures in Gender Studies

  120. Pingback: A Fine Line by valarmorghulis | equalityandpopculture

  121. Pingback: Considering Cultural Appropriation, if Justice is a Public Form of Love | gender race popular culture || 2015

  122. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation: an exploration of what it is and how it works. | gendersonetwentyfivegroupone

  123. Pingback: Appropriation: Dehumanization and Violence | genders125a

  124. Pingback: Exist and Resist . Indigenize and Decolonize | theladiesofoitnb

  125. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation: Dangerous Intersections | Gender Studies Group 2015

  126. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation: Not Just an Anomaly | Gender Funsies

  127. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation: What Do Justice and Love Look Like? | gender race popular culture || 2015

  128. Pingback: Aboriginal Cultural Appropriation- The BIG Picture | racegenderculture

  129. Pingback: thelazyscholars

  130. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous People in Canada | equality spice

  131. Pingback: “Taking” the Native Identity | TheWeekenders125

  132. Carol Ince says:

    Thank you again for your consideration and patience in helping those of us who want to be allies. The bingo card is helpful, I know if I check it I’m less likely to speak from my privilege . Sometimes I find it hard to believe how pissy people can be at being told they have offended someone, even accidentally, and given positive supportive suggestions on how to avoid doing it again should they want not to. But the folk who say you have no right to be offended or should shut up and stop offending them by telling them they’re offensive, they’re really wilfully ignorant. I’m so impressed by your ability and willingness to keep calling them out and answering them even when it seems evident that they’re just trolling. I’m amazed at how level headed and polite you are with some of these folk. I hope you continue to speak truth to people who have chosen to be assholes. Thank you for your help, I’ll continue to pay attention.

  133. Iris says:

    What rights do I have from my past-life as a Warrior.

    During all that genocide, many people have been born again all over the world, displaced, and trying to reconnect to what the Soul remembers of itself, and in turn, reach out and reconnect to Soul Families through familiar customs, cultures, art, and ways of Life.

    We all bleed red.

    My question is rhetorical.

  134. therese davis says:

    Someone I know recently posted a photo of her young child in a headress, taken at a resort they were staying at. I found it offensive and I am not even Native…but still, I said nothing to her. Should I?

  135. Pingback: Les pas sortables

  136. A. Sapien says:

    Well, your language and tone, in the comments, have completely undermined your reasonable post. Good luck with all that vinegar.

  137. Thank you so much for this thread. I recently directed a version of Anne of Green Gables and in it the school children put on a play of their island’s history. Of course it starts with a portrayal of early inuit and aboriginal cultures before leading into early European settlers. I had the students dress in what most would consider stereotypical early aboriginal attire, no headdresses or anything to that extreme (think Peter Pan and Tiger Lily). The script called for this.They also held in their hands examples of early tools and such: wigwams, bow and arrows, and hatchets. After one of the shows I was accused of promoting stereotypes and being akin to doing blackface on the stage. I had no idea that what was written in the play could have been seen as racist, of course, or I most certainly would not have included the piece. The majority of the audience enjoyed the piece and even laughed uproariously at the absurdity of the children’s attempt at retelling the history. Of course the students did look ridiculous in the attire, and I hoped, if any stereotype was shown, that the stereotype itself was being mocked. I feel so sorry if an audience member took offence, this was never the intention. Thank you for the conversation throughout this thread. Again, ignorance is never an excuse, but education is always a response.

    • The issue with showing a stereotype to be mocked, is that it must be widely understood a) what the stereotype is and b) why the stereotype falls flat. Unfortunately, Canadian society is most certainly not at that point. Instead, these kinds of stereotypes merely reinforce already widespread beliefs. That is really why so many of us caution against their use, and point out how problematic they are. We aren’t at the point where we can all look at these portrayals together, and understand quite clearly what is wrong with them. Thus, they need to be avoided. The intention is not really the issue…many harmful things can be done in ignorance.

      • Chris says:

        Once again, thanks. You’ve offered a fantastic reply. I only wish I could somehow change what I offered on the stage, but must admit I’m rewarded by the discussion and understanding that followed. I wish this was brought to my attention earlier in the production. I am hopeful that I caused no offense to others but am fearful that I unintentionally did. People need to feel comfortable addressing any of these complex issues and know how to approach the issue without the fear of offending the ignorant. Thanks.

  138. vera says:

    At the risk of using an imprecise metaphor (because I’m Anglo and can only speak from a culture I know), try wearing a Medal of Honor or some kind of papier mache facsimile of same and walking into a room full of combat veterans. See what response you get when you tell them it’s your right to wear it because all symbols should be for everyone. If they get heated, tell them you’re honoring them by wearing it because you respect their culture. Then get pissed off and tell them they’re rude when they swear at you. Talk about a cultural disconnect! And that’s just a couple hundred years or more of military culture for which you unwittingly pushed some hot buttons. Not to mention the deeply spiritual and valorous meaning of that symbol for them as it speaks to their personal histories in combat, the sacrifices they made, the brothers and sisters they lost, the sacred experiences and horrors they lived through.

    We pick and pick and pick about this issue. Just gotta have those feathers and beads. When will people just move on from this whole headdress fashion idea and start wearing flaming beanies or pirate hats or something? Why can’t people just let it go?

  139. Ashlynn says:

    I am a member of the Karuk tribe of Northern California. My tribe doesn’t wear the Plains Nation style of headdresses or war bonnets and it would be cultural appropriation for me to wear one because that is not my culture. Why is that so hard to understand? It is not your culture so do not presume that it is okay for you to wear something that is sacred to another. I don’t wear an American military uniform nor do I prance around in a Catholic nun habit. So why is that Native American culture as a whole is so disrespected and stolen over and over. If you want to disrespect the culture of those who have been persecuted for centuries then you better drink the tears and blood of those who died to preserve tradition and bled to continue to instil pride into today’s indigenous survivors. You can’t pick and chose what you like from a culture without understanding the meaning and sacredness of what it is you are taking. I am disgusted with many of the ignorant comments on here. The original author has every right to reply with how she wants to some of your idiots.

    • Fernando Botero says:

      Edit: sorry, but this racist little coward posting from in Jefferson, Louisiana from the Ochsner Clinic Foundation’s corporate IP address doesn’t get a platform on my blog.

  140. CSM says:

    When Native Americans who traditionally did not wear a full headdress decided to wear them for tourists started in the 1930s, how can you say headdresses are still sacred? When Native Americans make headdresses and sell them to non-natives, how can you say they are still sacred?

    • We are not a monolith. Indigenous nations can and do appropriate from one another as well. This does not render the headdress un-sacred to the Nations from whence they originated. A Cherokee wearing a headdress does not mean that the Cree headdress is suddenly rendered unsacred, and available to all. To even suggest such a thing is ridiculous.

  141. CSM says:

    Thanks for responding. However, I don’t think it was ridiculous. Is anything being done to stop the Eastern Cherokee from wearing/making/selling warbonnets that are not their original tribal wear? If not, it sets a precedent, giving the appearance that it is okay for others to wear them.

    • “Anything being done” as in what?

      There are no colonial laws against it, only Indigenous laws which carry no official weight in the US or Canada. When Indigenous people NOT from Plains nations wear warbonnets, they are called out for this, and it is pointed out that this is not a symbol they have a right to. What do you propose beyond this? If you are speaking of precedent in a commonlaw sense, the entire discussion is already mired in the impossibility of there being an actual commonlaw claim against cultural appropriation. That is not what we are appealing to, however.

      • CSM says:

        Understand. I had never heard that they were called out or included in any public way as others are. They should be included in the public discussion. Thanks.

        • The public discussion generally refers to what people hear in the mainstream…and Indigenous voices are as a rule rarely (if ever) included in that. To find out what Indigenous peoples are actually doing, you have to dig beyond mainstream reports.

          • Zangoma says:

            In response to the summation of your position, I would say that you overlook the fact that all cultures are part of one culture and that transcultural confluence involves both symbolic distillation and transformation.

            1. The headdress as warrior status- The decimation of indigenous tribes around the world results from the misplaced trust in and respect for European military officials. Surely their are more important symbolic aspects of First Nations Culture that need guarding and promoting.

            2. The headdress as First Nations Property- The first tribal populations appropriated symbols from nature not a primordial human authority. Do the feathered headdress’s of African and Australian tribes infringe on the isolated genius of First Nations People?

          • In response to your response, bullshit. All cultures are absolutely NOT part of one culture. Nowhere is this made more clear than through the institutional and systemic presence of White supremacy, which is fundamentally exclusionary.

            1. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Surely you should actually learn about the topic you are attempting to speak on before responding.

            2. All First Nations people, either Indigenous to Africa, Australia or elsewhere, are entitled to protection of their intellectual and cultural property. Oddly enough, European law LOVES the idea of protecting intellectual and cultural property…for itself. Everyone else is considered ‘fair game’ for exploitation. Once again busting a big, racist hole in your claim that all cultures are part of one culture.

            mîciw nisôkan, môniyâw. You folks don’t even TRY to make a decent argument, you just climb up on your high horses, and wave your little flags of ‘we are the world, we are all equal, but I’m a White guy so clearly I’m a little more equal (and authoritative) than you’.

          • thecuriousmonster says:

            What you said below in your response/response is really interesting, and makes a really solid point: basically what a non-Plains Cree (or other unauthorized) person does when they wear the war bonnet is to convert it into a symbol of white supremacy.. am I reading you right? It’s not just a question of straight ahead cultural appropriation, and all these comments about equality of intercultural transaction are sidestepping the fact that the meaning of the thing is actually co-opted and transformed in the moment in service of the dominant group, and at the expense of the group where the symbol originates..? Like, the blond white girl at Coachella is actually using the warbonnet as a white power symbol, whether she intends to or not.

  142. katmays87 says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing something that is comprehensive, eloquent, and yet easy enough to grasp. This is a sensitive topic, for everyone that is involved or can potentially be involved, and it’s wonderful that you were able and kind enough to write something that is both to the point, and yet open enough that everyone can approach it without feeling threatened.

    Many thanks.

  143. poppydots says:

    Edit: whine whine whine, I’m so offended by this article and blog because I bathe in White supremacy and how dare you challenge my innate right to do absolutely anything I want without ever commenting on it? Oh and I’m posting from, Elliot Lake, Ontario.

    • poppydots says:

      Edit: “I have such important things to say, how dare you not let me say them omg you’re such a racist waaaaaaaaaa.”


  145. Pingback: Andi Grace


  147. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation in Cabaret | londonhooper

  148. Zangoma says:

    The sanctity of the Leader-Bonnet and its misappropriation are one point, tarring all non-FNP wearers of the bonnet with one racist brush is another. Non- First Nation People wear the bonnet for different reasons. Some intentionally offend, some unintentionally offend due to their ignorance of history, some have been awarded the bonnet due to their unique role in protecting the FNP community. Only the first group can rightfully be called racist. Essentially every tribe on the planet has come about through transcultural interdependence. Warring factions within these tribes do not make the cultures they come from intrinsically racist. The indigenous people of Britain were colonised by the Romans who indirectly inspired the colonial empire. Their are good and bad people in every culture. It is important to have understanding and respect for individuals who have been gifted the Leader-Bonnet but it is also important to acknowledge that every culture has indigenous roots. The dreams and deeds of a person defines their character and nature. It is important to acknowledge the importance of special traditions but also appreciate where cultures meet.

    • It doesn’t matter why non-Natives wear the warbonnet. It really doesn’t. The issue is permission, and unless you have it, you are doing something against the wishes of those from whose culture the warbonnet comes. Deciding that one’s reason for wearing a warbonnet deserves some sort of exception to this is prioritizing privilege, which is inherently colonial. All Indigenous people can do is explain WHY this is not okay. We cannot enforce anything. Privilege means having the power to just go ahead and take whatever symbols you want, and offer “well here are my reasons” as being in any way relevant to the issue.

    • vera says:

      An almost unintelligible argument, expressed in a faux intellectual tone. Pervasive institutional racism makes for a racist culture which is what we are today in America. Until everyone is free we all bear responsibility along the continuum.
      What is so onerous about asking permission? Ask yourself why most indigenous people don’t seem to struggle like us white folk do with being polite and taking no for an answer about issues like this.

  149. Zangoma says:

    Sorry you feel it necessary to exclude my view points and cherry pick those that confirm your own. I agree that the Leader-Bonnet should be respected as sacred but I guess as it is used to revere both peace and war it is bound to be a controversial symbol both locally and globally. Ultimately I agree with your view that it is unjust for people to wear this adornment without respecting that it is awarded by elders based on leadership. I do not however believe this justifies your own religious and cultural zealotry. Be the change you want to see!

  150. Rudolph says:


    I am into the Mexican headdress .
    under the rules, you simply have to be a landowner, owning a concubine or two would help.
    Think of this as a crest, but it is worn.
    Since I am not permitted to capture you and use you as my slave, or rip your still beating heart out, I will forgo such actions.
    But, scalping is also forbidden.
    So, you see, the rules have changed.

  151. Pingback: A Canadian Music Festival Has Banned Clueless People From Wearing Headdresses | SaltyPepper

  152. Pingback: Un festival de música de canadiense ha prohibido Gente Clueless De Llevar Tocados | SuperChupy

  153. Pingback: A Canadian Music Festival Has Banned Clueless People From Wearing Headdresses |

  154. Pingback: A Canadian Music Festival Has Banned Clueless People From Wearing Headdresses - Buzz And Gossip - Buzz And Gossip

  155. Pingback: A Canadian Music Festival Has Banned Clueless People From Wearing Headdresses | PoPskand

  156. Pingback: Susan Boyle Is The Talk Of T In The Park – For Good And Bad |

  157. Pingback: Osheaga Bans Native Headdresses | Omit Limitation

  158. Keith says:

    I feel that this discussion doesn’t address my concern about this issue. My concern is that the question should not be regarding respect or disrespect of symbols. Symbols are dead; there is no depth. Anything contained in any given symbol can be expressed in plain language. There is nothing inscrutable. If a person has accomplished something respectable, no symbol should enhance this. I believe that we should be irreverent.

    Don’t mistake my point: if someone defiles a symbol in order to antagonize you, that is an attack. But it would be the manifestation of the person’s intent that would be the attack, not what is manifested. I am Catholic, but if someone were to defile a cross not to antagonize, but to express their irreverence towards symbols, I would be happy. When a non-believer wears a cross I am glad; the symbol has been obscured and the content has been illuminated for those willing to look.

    Headdresses in the abstract have no value to me. I may be impressed by a beautiful headdress, but that is something different. If there’s meaning to the symbol, I can appraise the meaning’s value without the symbol. I want to see art from a culture, I want to hear their stories, I want to hear their music. New ideas, not the same ones over and over again.

  159. Pingback: Agree or Disagree: Calgary Folk Festival should ban Pseudo Indigenous Headdresses. | Kevin Olenick

  160. Justin Miller says:

    There must be a million comments here. Interesting debate. But honestly, this is nothing more than an Aboriginal finding away to “deny” white people something. After feeling so oppressed and being trained to hate white people, they love being in a position to prevent white people from doing something. They find it empowering, even though it is cheap and not legit.

    Whenever Aboriginals gain a voice, they use it to slam their white oppressors. Want a laughable example? A TRIBE CALLED RED. Suddenly, they don’t like “non-natives” wearing face paint to their concerts. Really? Because unfortunately for them I have actually studied aboriginal history and customs in university, grew up with many cree and huron friends, and regular visited the Native Friendship Centre for educational sessions in the town I grew up in. And paint was just as often used for decoration (like modern make-up today) on women, and for DANCES AND CEREMONIES….you know, sort of like a CONCERT. Yet here is A Tribe Called Red, denouncing people who are actually wearing it in the same tradition as the natives did. Oh, not to mention face paint is hardly unique to aboriginals, but like I said….the smallest opportunity to deny or denounce white people, and that is the real motivation. The Head Dress is no different.

    It’s time to reaffirm a few things here.

    1. You are not native to North America. In fact, Canada and the USA are countries with systems founded by the British, French, with Spanish and other influences. They were built by Europeans and assumed various European forms of rule. They then populated themselves through immigration, and became their own. The countries are solely that of the European immigrants.

    2. Oh….but it is about “the land” right? Well, hate to break it to you, but go back in history ANYWHERE on this planet, and land was assumed, acquired, protected and created through conflict. Always has been. Still is. Even the “natives” fought each other for territory. Guess what? Survival of the Fittest (also a native tradition quickly forgotten when it comes to them) The Europeans were more advanced. They destroyed you. You lost. You are lucky that the founders didn’t simply wipe you out completely. That’s the way the world works my friends. There was a conflict. You lost. Move the fuck on, it’s not up to “us” to learn and respect your ways, it is the other way around. Go play with your culture in your own personal space, we don’t care. But holy shit, we pay taxes to put into your selfish hands and then you turn around and say we have to learn about your culture? When Natives become experts on our European ancestry and traditions, we will think about learning about yours.

    3. Canadian/American culture trumps your culture. Point? Your “rules” and “restrictions” are quickly trumped by the rules and traditions in our country. We believe in ABSOLUTE freedom. To the point where someone can wear a Nazi outfit and while they may be ridiculed, it isn’t illegal or restricted for them to do so. It’s called freedom, a concept our ancestors fought for and protected and WON the right to continue, unlike YOUR ancestors who lost their rights and privileges when you lost the wars. Do you understand? You don’t get your own set of rules that trumps those of the country we BOTH live in. So yes, we have the freedom to wear a head dress for reasons of our own choosing. Should people learn about it? Absolutely. But the only think more ignorant than someone not knowing what it is, is someone like yourself telling others they shouldn’t wear it because of some internal, outdated view that things in this world only belong to one race of people. The practice of being so irrationally protective over cultural trinkets is what leads to war and conflict worldwide. If people who just chill, everything would be fine, but choose to restrict, and the human condition dictates we enter conflict.

    4. For example. You see someone wearing it. Why not take the opportunity to make a new friend and offer to explain to that person what it means, or what it meant? Education comes first, not restriction. Restriction creates conflict. You think YOUR culture of all people should know that from history.

    Yes, I am a white person. Tired of all these minorities treating me like I destroyed them. I’m supposed to be an expert on Natives, Africans, Mulsims, etc… because “we” have oppressed them all. Well, no….I haven’t. Perhaps some people in the past did, why does that get transferred to me? I mean, I’m supposed to know and respect all these minor cultures, yet they don’t take the time to learn the first fucking thing about me or my history…..and WE are the ignorant ones? For example, I just get labelled as “white”…therefore I am somehow privileged and have oppressed these people. Yet my family is German and was against the Nazis (as 60% of Germans were) and my family was decimated. They came to Canada broke. Grandfather almost died while working in a mine. Grandmother took care of kids, even though she couldn’t speak English. Dad grew up being labelled a Nazi. Mother’s side was Scottish. Came to Canada. Grandfather joined the military. They had three girls. Oldest one died in car crash at 18. Youngest one born with brain defect. My mom helped raise the family after father went into depression over dead daughter. Family made it work. Parents got married. Became very successful through hard work and sacrifice. Tough me, my brother and sister about values. Hard work. Respect for money. Travel broadens the mind. But….you know, we are just a privileged white family where everything came so easy because of skin color. And now I must spend my days learning about entitled minorities living in a country that they did nothing to build, yet use the freedoms within to shit on people over trinkets.

    Why not stop spending your time defending head dresses and put your efforts into eliminating the corrupt, entitled welfare state the native population has become. They love to wag their fingers at white people with one hand while holding the other one out for more money any chance they get, all under some archaic belief that we “owe” them something.

    Come back to reality please. The world can be harsh, so suck it up, and try focusing your energy on shit that REALLY matters. This trivial bullshit is nothing but veiled racism and does nothing to advance your culture, let alone contributing to the country and society you live in.

    • Thanks for your racist spiel. It’s the last thing you get to say here, “Justin Miller” posting from the IP address: in Toronto. Every once in a while I like to let ignorant, White supremacist comments like this through just so folks can get a taste of the overwhelming sense of entitlement many Settlers have, and how poorly they defend their colonial privilege.

      Oh, and mîci nisôkan, môniyâw.

      • Nice try with blocking me. You think a free wordpress blog has that much power? You think I actually use my real name and email account? I didn’t….why? Because I know your type. You come out swinging against an entire race of people, and when they do the same to you, suddenly it becomes “racist” and “privileged”.

        EDIT: the rest of this tirade has been deleted, unread. This is what White supremacists really enjoy…demanding access to platforms to spew racist bile, and then gleefully ‘working around’ IP blocks. The implicit threat is, of course “you can deny me nothing, I will harass you as I see fit!”

        Nope, sorry.

        This was posted from IP:, still in Toronto.

    • This couldn’t be a better example of someone suffering deeply from the dis-eases of not yet realized white privilege, white default, and most evidently, white fragility.

      • Puddleglum says:

        I didn’t bother to read the dudebro’s ragefroth past the opening few sentences. Much whine, much rage. Me me me! Ignoring evidence! Cuz I’m a dudebro! Roar!

        Gee, sounds like a fun date. /sarcasm

  161. ARC says:

    Wow, where did this guy Justin Miller learn his history?? So ignorant it’s almost laughable. What an embarrassment…
    Just to address one glaring mistake: it was the European diseases that our ancestors brought over from dirty Europe (which they were fleeing largely because they had overpopulated and destroyed the land) that killed 90% of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island, not the wars. Europeans would have never survived here without the help of Indigenous peoples. We are NOT the superior race, only the most devious and manipulative (historically anyway – time for a change). We (white people) are NOT entitled to rule in this territory, just like a thief isn’t entitled to enjoy ownership of the proceeds of crime.

  162. I have been following this blog and the comments on it (it’s basically the only exception to my “don’t read the comments” internet policy) and I have to say it’s been really enlightening. There is a lot of complicated stuff being played out here that I’ve never really thought about or experienced. So, I guess my question is – to you, the host âpihtawikosisân – do you see a situation where parity of experience is possible? Like, where all of those of us who were born in Canada into all different situations and backgrounds, can interact in a positive and mutually constructive way? Your original post gives some really helpful guidelines and encourages asking questions and taking notes, but a lot of the back-and-forth in the comments reveals a much more complicated side to that process. Rather than saying one should preach and the other listen (with the awareness that one has been preaching with a megaphone for 200 years regardless of the will of the ‘listeners’), and given the various degrees of understanding you seem to receive (and to be receptive to), how do you think we should approach the concept of equality in a legitimate way? Big question, I know, but I think rather than coveting, or stealing, or abusing, or misunderstanding, maybe there is another way in to cultural awareness and real progress for non-native people? I know it’s not your job to be a guide for anybody – though it seems like you’ve kind of taken up that mantle here regardless – but where do you think we can join forces culturally? Do you think it’s possible to establish a serious joint culture?

    • I think a huge part of the process needs to be in-person interactions. The belligerence and nastiness that does tend to dominate these discussions play out online and in comment sections of print media in a way that rarely happens with the same frequency when people are face to face. I think the anonymity of faceless comments allows people to be flippant about relationship building. For sure, I am also much less willing to put in effort to respond in a measured manner online when I am being barraged by so many thoughtless, repetitive comments, whereas in person I am often much more likely to give more fulsome responses.

      So for people who want to build relationships that are mutually beneficial, I think there has to be a recognition that only so much can be accomplished at a distance, online or via reading books/articles/etc. At some point, we have to put in the effort to actually engage one another face to face. There are a lot of opportunities for this actually, particularly since Idle No More, but even before that. You can go to Native Friendship Centres in urban areas, you can keep any eye out for various workshops and discussion groups in your area that bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together. You can contact communities to see if they also have programs or sessions to raise awareness. These efforts are meaningful, they take commitment and energy, and they must be part of a long-term dedication to growth. No short-cuts. This also requires that non-Indigenous people do their utmost to learn as much as they can on their own as well, rather than expecting Indigenous people to guide them every step of the way. I see this blog as an entry point only, the barest minimum of effort one can begin expending to start on this path.

      Personally, I think we will find the most success at mutually beneficial relationship building, when we make connections with one another in a specific geographic area. For example, if there is a gravel pit proposed for a rural area, then everyone living in that area, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, has a stake in the potential environmental and social risks inherent with that kind of development (social risks in the form of man-camps etc). Reaching out to one another to discuss the development, understanding that all people living on the lands about to be impacted CARE about those impacts, is key. In urban settings, forming relationships to deal with urban pressures is also vital. All of these efforts need to be intersectional, and open to the ways in which racialization intersects with class, gender, ability/disability, etc. We all have a tremendous amount to learn.

      • Totally agree with what you’re saying – in particular when it comes to shared objectives.. Hopefully eventual unity and mutual support is one of those objectives for all concerned, but I think you’re right that interacting person to person, especially where both are looking to care for the shared environment/ looking to make sure everyone is prospering from it fairly, goes a long way towards making connections that go beyond bullet points and all-too-often racist “banter”. Anyway, I really support what you’re doing here, and I have been lead to think about things in a new way, many new ways, as a result of what you’ve been writing. Thanks for posting and for your commitment.

      • Also, “no short-cuts” is a really good mantra in this conversation.

  163. Grace Miller says:

    I just found your site and I am wondering what the meaning would be if I had a picture commissioned of Jesus in a native headdress. This would be in a place where native Christians meet.

  164. SNP says:

    Hi, I am reading this from Australia and I really love the conciseness of your post on cultural appropriation. Can I link this in an email I want to send to an Australian clothing chain store who are selling headdresses as ‘festival gear’? I am not a First Nations woman myself but I live in a country where First Nations people are struggling to maintain culture and language and this is quite serious. More power to you and thanks.

  165. Grace Miller says:

    o.k. Thanks. I will also check with the local native people as I am in Alberta. But I was thinking, for believers in Jesus, he is THE chief, and earned the right to be Lord/the boss in our lives. This would be quite comparable to chiefs over bands who have the right to be such. I have enjoyed perusing this site – sad to see some are disrespectful.

  166. Pingback: Module 4 Post 2 – Blogs by Aboriginal authors | ETEC 521 – May 2015

  167. Pingback: Stop Wearing Headdresses at Music Festivals | BITCHTOPIA

  168. says:

    First off thank you for sharing your feelings toward this issue. You asking people to address the information in the article so i will do my best to do so.


    You wrote: Some items are restricted items in specific cultures. Examples from Canada and the United States would be: military medals, Bachelor degrees (the actual parchment), and certain awards representing achievement in literary, musical or other fields.
    These items cannot be legitimately possessed or imitated by just anyone, as they represent achievements earned according to a specific criteria.

    – all of these items mentioned can be imitated so long as the user is not attempting use the item in question to gain from its benefits by fraudulent means. Dont use a fake degree to get a job or wear a priest costume to attempt to administer religious services etc..

    Not all people at parties wearing headdress are attempting to mock or represent Native culture. It can be just fashion with no attempt to persuade any one that the wearing represents Native culture in any way. Not only that but you would have to be a fool to think that a person at a party wearing a headdress is doing so for political or cultural reasons.

    You said: Yes, some people will mock these symbols. However in order to do this, they have to understand what the symbols represent, and then purposefully desecrate or alter them in order to make a statement. They cannot then claim to be honouring the symbol.

    – Again what party person is attempting to honour anything….they are at a party. Its not a anti native american party….just a party. One does not need to know the origins of clothing or accessories in order to wear them.

    Not only that, but for example, people that are not Christians wear a cross as jewellery all over the world and that is a sacred symbol that many Christians find offensive when worn by non Christians or with sexy clothes etc…

    You said: Some people will pretend to have earned these symbols, but there can be serious sanctions within a culture for doing this. For example, someone claiming to have earned a medical degree (using a fake parchment) can face criminal charges, because that ‘symbol’ gives them access to a specialised and restricted profession.

    – as stated earlier no party person is trying to use native american headdress to achieve something unearned. Most of the party headdresses are obviously fake, with neon colors and plastic feathers….If i was trying infiltrate native culture or preaching anti native american racist thoughts will wearing a headdress that would be a different case. but that is not what is going on at parties.

    You said: So unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.

    – I agree, a non plains native american should not wear an authentic headdress made to signify an earned status. But wearing a fake one, like a fake cop uniform or doctors uniform for play or fun is in my opinion fair play.
    – you and others have the right to be offended and consider such actions disrespectful. That doesnt mean you are correct.

    You said: Even if you have ‘native friends’ or are part native yourself, individual choices to “not be offended” do not trump our collective rights as peoples to define our symbols.

    – you can define what symbols you want but that doesnt NOT give you the right to tell other people how they should feel about those symbols, nor doesnt it give you the right to own and restrict FAKE versions on culturally significant symbols. The whole world and there different cultures borrow and share from each other. As long as someone is not using the symbol for racist purposes or agenda than you can hate it but its not your right to censor it.

    I am also metis and I find it sad that you allow yourself to be angered by what people are wearing when no harm was intended toward native peoples and just think the headdress is cool looking. I do not define myself by the fake cultural symbols worn by white people. Just as a Christian doesnt define him or herself by how others wear the cross. I know that the cross is not earned as a headdress is in native american culture but it does represent something powerful and meaningful for Christians.

    Just because we live in a white privileged world in a land that was taken by settlers does not give you the right to restrict what fake accessories i am allowed to wear. The headdress in your opinions might be sacred, and the fake ones a stupid idea for fashion but it is an opinion that not everyone shares. I say let people be FREE and wear what they want so long as it is not done to be racist or promote racism toward others. And you can be FREE to hate it and express your hate. But NO censorship! Censorship is not freedom

    • No, I do not individually have the right to restrict symbols. Hence the ‘collective’ rights I spoke of. I am not the one restricting these things within Plains cultures. Those restrictions come from more than individuals, and they cannot be undone by individuals. ie. You.

      So declaring “I say say let people be FREE blah blah blah” is pretty much meaningless. You don’t get to make that choice, or provide that permission. You simply get to individually choose not to care.

    • For

      You said: If i was trying infiltrate native culture or preaching anti native american racist thoughts will wearing a headdress that would be a different case. but that is not what is going on at parties.

      By dressing up to look like your host (or in any case your neighbour), in a way that they have said repeatedly they don’t like, you are abusing your ‘power’ to ignore social standards other than your own, and you are acting in a way that is oppositional and confrontational to First Nations (anti-Native American/ ignorant/ racist behaviour) while wearing, at the very best, a ‘comedy’ version of their traditional clothing. That is exactly what is going on at parties. Just don’t. Or accept the fact that, if you do, you are a willfully ignorant dick and will likely be treated as such.

      • says:

        Thats freedom, being able to wear what one wants. No censorship! and yes people may be treated poorly for wearing a headdress, but I refuse to acknowledge someone elses power to tell me what I can and cannot wear. That is the point. Freedom is being free to be a dick or not be a dick. The price of freedom is that not everyone will like or agree with each others actions, but we are free to make them….. and perhaps suffer for our choices, but free to choose nonetheless

        • I don’t think anyone is suggesting an absolutist ‘ban’ on behaving in a racist or culturally insensitive way. There is no punishment except that you will have to hand over your “ally” or “not a racist” cards. By choosing to wear a headdress, you do not get to make these claims about yourself. In the event that there is a music festival on land owned by First Nations people, they can tell you to do or not do whatever they want – they are your hosts, and they make the rules. “Don’t come to our house and disrespect us” seems like a pretty fair rule to me, and while we’re on the subject of respect “don’t be disrespectful to us” generally, overall seems like a pretty fair request, and comes at a very low cost if you look at the problem in a big picture sense. You are, of course, free to *not* attend music festivals hosted by indigenous people if you are unable to leave your insulting parody of your hosts in the closet at home *this one time*, as are you free to act in a disrespectful or racist way whenever and wherever you choose. Unfortunately, you, should you choose to behave that way, are not alone. I think what our host, here, is trying to suggest is that it is in no uncertain terms *both* racist and disrespectful to wear this item of clothing, and that the standard (and apparently very, very repetitive) claims made in defense of an individual’s right to wear it anyway only exacerbates the disrespect. Following from this, ignorance is willful, not incidental. It is not your ‘right’ to be racist, but it is your privilege. Lucky you.

        • To clarify: by “you”, I mean the royal “you”. If you, I, or anyone chooses to behave in a disrespectful way, we must accept that it comes with consequences whether we intend them or not.

  169. Actually, I understand this quite well, it’s a good explanation. The comments by people criticizing you are incredibly rude and insensitive. There’s a parallel in the fox-hunting, basset, and beagle foot pack hunting community, and that is in the group of people who have the right to wear the colors of the pack, and to wear a hunt jacket – green for basset and beagle foot packs, red (“pink”) for fox-hunters. Colors are awarded at a formal ceremony at the annual hunt meeting by the Master(s) of the pack. You have to earn your colors, it may take two seasons, it may take ten, or it may not happen at all. It’s discretionary on the part of the Masters. You get a formal certificate, and then you have the right to have the hunt jacket tailored and the colors attached. Tailors in hunt country may well ask to see a copy of the certificate before they make the jacket and attach the colors. Although I’ve never heard of someone faking the colors – it’s just not done – it would get found out soon enough and the person would be apprised of the nature of what had been done, and what they needed not to do. If they kept on, they’d be excluded from the hunt, and word would get around, and that would be it for them. I’d hope that indigenous headdresses, other ceremonial items, and sacred ceremonies would be held in similar respect, but it indeed says bad things about our culture that they are not, and end up as articles of commerce.

  170. vera says:

    “I refuse to acknowledge someone else’s power to tell me what I can and cannot wear,” along with rejoicing in the freedom to be or not be a dick. Oh dear. Perhaps you missed a developmental stage during your early childhood?

  171. says:

    Edit: Good lord, get a blog of your own and stop spamming mine with your holier than thou nonsense.

  172. Aaron John says:

    I am 1/4 Chickasaw. I go to festivals where many youths wear fake chicken feather headdresses and I think it’s rather tacky and this is what I think: My tribe, like a great many other tribes adapted….. you could even say culturally appropriated… the wearing of war bonnets from the Lakota and Blackfoot Sioux. I often wear an eagle or turkey feather in my hair to express my tribal self….and I myself, out of reverence, would not wear a real war bonnet. However, I go to the Indian clinic for all my medical and dental needs, so does all my family. I have asked dozens of the Pomo, Miwok and Wappo tribe members that I meet what they think of this issue. So far, I have not spoken to a one that is offended by white folks wearing fake war Bonnets…..cuz they are fake and unearned and therefore meaningless. Invariably the answer I get from the few working class native Americans I’ve asked is: “we wear Cowboy hats…so what? HaHaha” And the conversation quickly turns to more important issues like food, and school, children, the rez and tribal lands and tribal leadership.I know that my experience to speak on this mater is limited but I find it Ironic that in my area of northern California the people who are most up in arms about this are privileged, upper class white folks. Maybe we should find something better …something that will effect the lives of native Americans in a positive way…Like land and water rights, and the preservation of native languages. This assimilated headdress huff is just a fad that we are chasing to appear empathic and be cool…..without actually getting off our couch. Has it ever occurred to us that some of these misplaced and uneducated imitations might be worn out of a latent respect or envy of native culture that can be cultivated? I think it is indicative of both a general irreverence for and the real need of tribalism in our society. I tend to think that borrowing or superimposing a cultures indignation may be disrespectful in a more profound way than wearing a fake, pink war bonnet purchased at a mall. Just my two cents.

    • Perhaps you should check out the rest of this blog, if wider issues is what you think we should focus on. After all, 99% of this blog deals with issues other than cultural appropriation.

      Perhaps those people who believe we focus too much on one issue…aren’t paying attention.

  173. Dave G says:

    The wearing of headdresses is fine by me. Proving identity can be a touchy subject in these days of terrorism.
    Why then don’t we just use finger printing or easier still maybe an eye scan once facial identity has previously
    been determined. This way the headdresses can stay as long as an eye scan is carried out.
    Dave G

  174. Pingback: The Past Week | A Landscape Selected at Random

  175. Pingback: âpihtawikosisân | ETEC 521 – September 2015

  176. Kyle says:

    Great article, really informative. I’d never given much thought specifically to the concept of restricted items being misappropriated, and I really appreciate the analogies you used. Will definitely keep an eye on your blog.

  177. Pingback: Halloween Costumes: It’s Not Funny, It’s Not Trendy, It’s Just Appropriative. | Is this why I'm still single?

  178. Pingback: Towards an Understanding of Cultural Appropriation in Rewilding - Rewilding with Peter Michael Bauer

  179. Pingback: Towards an Understanding of Cultural Appropriation in Rewilding | Unsettling America

  180. Pingback: Art and Ethics | Looking for Answers

  181. Janet barron says:

    Can I do this latchhook head dress

  182. Pingback: Coming out of the “Woo Closet”: facing shame, stigma and historical trauma | andi grace

  183. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation | Pearltrees

  184. Sheenah says:

    Thank you for writing this… I have been recently arrested and charged with assult and battery for removing a ‘head dress’ from a girl wearing a buckskin bikini as her ‘indian costume’ on Halloween here at our tribally owned casino, on our tribal reservation…. I was super offened and upset. 1-that she, as a woman, had on a very elaborate head dress, (definitely no dollar store or costume store ‘garmet’) 2- that she had the nerve to wear it a reservation, 3- that she had on very little clothes, I was taught to cover and respect my body, specially in public and 4- that she felt like even after other people addressed her, even a tribal elder, on how inappropriate and culturally disrespectful it was she continued to prance around in it like she was doing something cool… Really felt like a slap in the face. Since my arrest and night in jail (I had to be bailed out with a $5300 cash only bond, even though I have never been arrested and have no criminal history) I have been reading as much as I can regarding this topic and really trying to gather incite about all angles of what happened. Thank you for sharing.

    • Rudolph says:


      At issue is what is cultural and what is not.
      I fly a “Wing Pack”, a glider that one straps directly to the back.
      It has nothing to do with any ceremony or anything else.
      Otto Lilienthal invented it around the late 1800’s.
      It actually flies, no feathers.
      But some Native Americans see it and either want to make it more bird like or express concerns.
      I simply am perplexed.
      By law, it is a non powered ultralight.
      But, look at the pictures of what it is patterned after.
      Now, look at some of the dancing regalia and it might make sense.
      Remember, Native Americas were imitating nature.
      Birds have feathers of different types and colors to identify each other.
      Our goal is to camouflage.
      But, in the end, everyone is imitating nature.
      Native Americas did not invent the feathers, or even the plumage.
      They came up with a rank and file scheme.
      So, decode this scheme, and work out one everyone can agree with.
      Nature is the best example.
      Thank you.

  185. Leslie Walker says:

    Wow! Thank you for this letter!!! My 24 yr old daughter and my Niece want to get a tattoo with a bison head and a headress to honor their great Grandmother who was of Blackfoot heritage . I had a gut feeling they shouldn’t do it and googled and found this awesome article! I will forward this to them as I believe it speaks for itself! Thank you and blessings to you from Creator, Respectfully, Leslie

  186. Pingback: Sorry not sorry | Girl Does

  187. Pingback: Dental Crown Cost The Plains Ga

  188. Gina says:

    There’s a popular game/app for iOS and Android called “Angry Birds Fight!” by Rovio In the game the bird characters wear various ‘hats’. One of the available ‘hats’ for the Chuck Bird is called a “Chief’s Headdress”
    You can see the bird wearing the headdress in a photo of the game tweeted by Rovio:

    Is it possible that when people see a headdress in games like this from a major player in the app gaming industry it leads people to believe such symbols aren’t offensive.

    Is this offensive?

    It’s difficult to believe such a popular game with over 10 million downloads would put something in their game that was so offensive to people. [They have items from various different cultures]. When people see the headdress in games like this it doesn’t support the idea that it’s a restricted symbol.

    Are there people that encourage companies like Rovio to not use restricted symbols in their games. [Designed for Ages 10+] ?

    This is the page for the app/game on Google Play:

    [Google has a policy stating that developers can’t distribute apps through their platform if they contain offensive items. This further propagates the wrong idea to people that the headdress isn’t offensive, as Google allows the game to be distributed]

    This is a list of the various items available in the game. There’s various cultures represented by items that seemingly aren’t offensive. Seeing the Cheif’s Headdress as a cultural item represented in the game doesn’t give people the impression that it’s a restricted symbol or offensive.

    I was just curious if it was only people wearing the headdress that’s offensive or any representation of the headdress, like that worn by a cartoon character in a game.

  189. meh says:

    I think i will wear one of those native american headress for halloween, also a poncho, a sombrero, blackface make up and fake big teeth while putting asian eyes all the time, with a thin and long fu-manchu fake moustache, and i will shout every five minutes “CURTURALO APPROPRIATION RURES, BITCHESU, BANZAAAAI!!!”

    you know why? because fuck fuck you, that’s why.

    And there is nothing you can do to stop me.

  190. Pingback: Cultural Appropriation Brochure – Lines and Colour

  191. Sara says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been looking for some feedback on something I’ve recently come across.

    My son is in cub scouts. Many scouting ceremonies have Native American influences incorporated in them per tradition. As we are planning our bridging ceremony, we came across this video that we wanted to use:
    However, one of our leaders is concerned that this is disrepectful to the Native American culture. Could you please give me thoughts on this? As a Native American culture, would you like to see Boy Scouts to step away from these traditions?

  192. “What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs only to him?” ~ Massasoit

    “It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. . . . Children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving. . . . The Indians in their simplicity literally give away all that they have—to relatives, to guests of other tribes or clans, but above all to the poor and the aged, from whom they can hope for no return.”
    ― Charles Alexander Eastman

    These are houred Native American quotes. I feel that many of the most prestige and wise ones would feel and communicate in another way about this that would bring more compassion and understanding to all of us.

  193. Paul salt says:

    Thank you for this article I am an Englishman and I admire your culture very much I am not an academic just a normal working man. I have bought some pipes through e bay from I belive from native americans I have also made some pipes is this OK anyway thanks.

    • No, it isn’t. Pipes are another one of those very restricted items.

      Yes, some Indigenous people sell these things, for various reasons: to make a little money to get by or because they too don’t know any better having had their teachings stripped from them via the residential school system. This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to buy or use these things.

      • Paul salt says:

        OK wow well I have not sold any and didn’t intent to but your sayhi don’t buy anymore and don’t make anymore if that’s what your saying I will respect your wishes and my apologies for any offence non was intended

  194. Paul salt says:

    You say pipes are a restricted item why are they could you help me understand this I have looked through your blog I am a white english bloke and I expect you to give me a lot of shit no prob I would much rather talk to you face to face but that’s not going to happen soon. So I am asking you respectfully if you could give me a short and concise answer as this is the first time I have come across this

    • I can’t give you teachings about the pipes, because that is restricted too, and to be honest, I am not a pipe carrier so my own knowledge is limited. Only certain people carry pipes; think of it like a relationship with the pipe, where there are obligations towards its care. Unless someone teaches you this, and you know how to tend to that relationship, you shouldn’t be carrying one. Doing so suggests you DO know these teachings, and that is deceitful, as well as being disrespectful to those who have put in the time and effort and respect to learn these things properly. I hope that helps clarify!

      • Robert Columbia says:

        You have mentioned that certain teachings are “restricted”. Is there an analogy to “restricted” cultural information in non-Native cultures? I’m trying to wrap my head around this idea. For example, Russian culture does not have a set of secret teachings on the meaning of vodka that one has to qualify to be initiated in, nor can one “unlock” extra chapters from the tales of King Arthur by passing an exam in Celtic studies and undergoing some sort of ordeal at Stonehenge on Halloween.

        • I gave examples. Practicing medicine is one. That is restricted to people who qualify to study medicine; it is not open to everyone.

          • Robert Columbia says:

            Thanks for replying! One difference with that is that medical knowledge itself is not restricted – there are no culture enforcement agents who are going to try to prevent me from reading medical textbooks that they think I am not worthy enough to study from. That seems to be the kind of thing you were talking about when you mentioned that pipe lore was restricted – did I misunderstand? Is the pipe knowledge itself restricted from disclosure or is anyone allowed to learn the teachings as long as they don’t actually perform the rituals? In my own culture, anyone is allowed to learn medical knowledge, but only some people are allowed to actually do it, so the analogy doesn’t seem to hold.

            I thought that maybe a good non-native analogy could be Protected Health Information (PHI) that cannot be shared under penalty of law, but PHI does not normally contain cultural teachings, but rather individual patient data.

          • I’m busy.

            So perhaps you could explain why you need to translate this through your own cultural lens before you’re willing to respect it?

  195. Pingback: L’esthétique Hippie Est Une Appropriation Culturelle Dangereuse

  196. nikole says:

    This article is completely on point, and so are her responses to the uneducated, nasty, weak minded people who do not care of our wishes. In fact, someone who is Irish, over in Ireland, doing a report about our culture. She actually cares to ask how we feel about headdresses, and their meaning. I will make sure to spread the correct knowledge, just as you do, to help educate these kinds of people. Thank you for this article, it even taught me some things because unfortunately, my grandmothers were stolen from our true family as children, who also died young, so I did not get the chance to whole heartedly learn from my own blood, so thank you again.

  197. Melinda Artz says:

    Thank you for this excellent overview of a complex concern. I am a writer from below the 49th parallel who was honored to collect the personal stories of Metis elders in a small area in central Montana in the early 1990 s. They asked me to make sure the stories were told to a wider audience as well as their own descendants. They knew almost nothing of their families political history. My way of honoring their request is a novel that answers questions they had for which there is little known specific to their families. And as I was told, if you don’t know what happened or would it look like, make it up. Which I did. Several parts make use of Cree and Mitchif words. I am looking for someone kind and curious who could help me look back almost 100 years. What am doing with this note …. two things you recommend: first, I here admit I don’t know,” and two, asking someone for help.

  198. Effseven says:

    This is beautifully educational, thank you. Although besides this very valuable open letter, I have yet to know a Native that I could even ask to further educate me. I’m always met with defensive behaivor, name calling or racial remarks. I find that to be distasteful and deterring. My quest for knowledge about Natives from Natives has been a hard one to seek with any kind of common ground. In fact if I hear “white guilt ” one more time , I’ll give up. I’m hoping my experience with Nativesome is rare, and that there is someone out there who will not meet me with hate and “white guilt ” accusations. Your article is the first eloquently educationly written piece that I have seen thus far. Again thank you.

    • If you feel close to the fed up point because you are encountering reluctance to help you, please try to imagine what it is like to face brutal and systemic racism and colonialism over a period of centuries. You cannot only rely on sweetly worded responses, you need to see where that reluctance to help you is coming from, and depersonalize yourself from it. This is about systems, not individuals, and you too can do the work to reject the system that dehumanizes us because that is the right thing to do…not because people are nice enough to you to warrant it. Just some thoughts.

      • Effseven says:

        I’m sorry, but that does not make sense to me. Human beings are individuals. I do not carry any hate towards Natives. There is no need in me for Natives to be segregated or inadequate. It’s at no fault of mine today that my Euro ancestors did the horrible crimes they comitted hundreds of years ago . Today, in 2016 it is just as counter productive to treat me the same as them as it would be for me to treat Natives they way they did. I am my own person, with my own thought process, and very much unlike my ancestors. Natives want to be seen and heard, and I see and hear you, but the stigma of the past separates that…and it simply should not.

        • No one is saying that you are at fault for what your ancestors did.

          What we are saying is that you continue to benefit from what your ancestors did.

          This puts upon you the onus to either do nothing and continue to benefit, or to actively change things so those unjust benefits no longer accrue to you. Both require you to make a choice.

          If you simply accept the benefits you have which are a result of chattel slavery and Indigenous genocide, then the fault is yours, not your ancestors.

          If you work to understand the ways in which chattel slavery and Indigenous genocide continue to inform the social and political sphere, then you work towards liberation of all peoples, not merely working to your own benefit.

          And that is how we erase stigma, and overcome the past. Not through platitudes. Thanks.

        • Tracy says:

          I hear as a white person, we continue to benifit from what our ancestors did, unless we make a choice not to. Could you please outline how we continue to benifit from those actions? Maybe it is so unconscious for us, to the point that we are unaware of doing it. I would like to make that choice. I find that sometimes we make choices that we are not aware affects others negatively.
          Thank you

  199. Effseven says:

    Also, for give me but I can find no definition of chattel slavery that doesn’t say something to effect of :Chattel slavery is the type of slavery where human beings are considered to be property and are bought and sold as such. Are Natives forced into slavery today? Being bought and sold amongst the Whites, or anyone else, to work in fields and do their biding ? If so, that is wrong as is any type of slavery, so I would like to know if that is going on.

    • Indigenous peoples were absolutely taken as slaves, but the chattel slavery I am referring to is the transatlantic slave trade, wherein an estimated 12 million Africans were legally transformed into “property”. This had such a profound impact on the wealth of European nations involved in the slave trade, that those nations continue to be among the wealthiest in the world today. The enduring legacies of African chattel slavery include ongoing anti-Blackness, which continues to seek the subjugation of Black people to the benefit of Whiteness…Whiteness which by the way exists as a concept precisely because Blackness as a concept is positioned as its foil.

      Chattel slavery is no longer legal, but its impacts are still felt today, in very real and tangible ways. Just as Indigenous genocide is. For example, McGill University sits atop stolen Haudenosaunee and Algonquin land, paid for by funds stolen from the Mohawk. James McGill, the founder of that institution, was himself a slave owner. His wealth and his legacy would not have been possible without colonialism and chattel slavery. McGill continues to be a site that profoundly and disproportionately benefits White people. Linkages like this are literally everywhere, and cannot be cleanly cut off from their historic roots.

  200. Krystal Hwang says:

    Ummmm …..Quick question and this is a hypothetical situation:Is it offensive if I got myself painted in dance regalia or the normal dresses that women used to wear?You know the brown dresses or do they have some special significance? And if I’m going to create a headband using colourful feathers it is okay right?

    • You are asking me if it would be okay to dress in a stereotypical, hollywood Indian “maiden” outfit of fringed buckskin with ridiculous feathers?

      That’s your question? Really?

      I feel like the answer is right there in the question.

      • Krystal Hwang says:

        Oops…I’m sorry..Not that I would ever wear it considering I’m Asian Indian. I just find the headbands pretty and was wondering if people are allowed to wear it.

  201. KB says:

    Looking for advice:

    I am a student teacher preparing to teach a Science unit on salmon. I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore the importance of salmon to the Northwest Coastal people. I had considered starting the lesson with a directed drawing of a salmon (based on this image:

    I do not have First Nations heritage and I admit that I do not know the cultural significance of all of the elements of this work of art. In light of this, would this activity be something to avoid?

    Thank you!

    • This doesn’t come from my culture, so I really don’t know. I would perhaps narrow the drawing down to one that has provenance though, as in from a specific Pacific northwest coast people, and a specific artist. It’s more likely then to be an authentic picture and you then centre real people in the art itself.

  202. Pingback: Post #40: An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headresses | Jennifer Austin – Author

  203. Loren Lewis says:

    Thank you for your comments. This was very helpful and insightful into the feelings and culture of the Native American people. I am not native but grew up around Fort Hall, Idaho and have always had the greatest respect for Native Americans. I currently work at an Indian Health Services clinic and enjoy working with this people. I am wondering if it would be appropriate for me to make a plains style tipi to set up at my home. I am looking at using a Sioux style construction and paint. Also, I appreciate your comments about a headdress and understand the significance and symbolism. I am wondering if it would be OK for me to make one and use it only for display in my office. After reading your article, I would not wear it at all. But it is out of respect for the beauty and honor that it represents that I would like to have it for display only. This might be the same as wearing it, though and if so, I wouldn’t want to do anything that would be offensive or disrespectful. I would appreciate your input.

  204. Sam says:

    I’d like to start off by saying I’ve always been interested in other cultures in general. Maybe because I’m half Mexican and half Irish while living in America. I appreciate other people’s cultures. I recently stumbled onto someone’s youtube page who is often seen wearing a Plains Native Americans’ war bonnet or headdress (not an actual one of course, but a style and shape exactly like it). Though I’m not Native, I still am offended because I know the sacred cultural significance. Maybe you can do something about it; I hope you can and will.

    • I am not an attack dog to sic on others. Please consider what your request entails: mt time, my effort, and opening myself up to hostile, racist and draining people whose arguments and deflections I am already thoroughly acquainted with.

      If this is an issue you have become more educated about, and cultural appropriation bothers you, please feel free to carry some of the burden in order to lighten the load on folks like myself who are tired of repeating ourselves. I’ve provided you with arguments here, go forth and use them! But please don’t ask marginalized people to go “do something about” folks. Trust me, we face enough hostility without trying to seek it out.

      • Paul salt says:

        Hello again just wanted to thank you for educating me at first I thought you were a little hard on people but now I have realised that your not your culture is wonderful and should be yours and yours alone the rest of us should admire it but not try to copy it or try to make ours thanks for answering me Paul salt working class English bloke

  205. Vika says:

    Hi! I had never considered the headdress as a restricted symbol. My father was cree and he died when I was two, and the only photograph I have of him is him in his headdress. After he died my (white) mother and I moved away (and she did everything in her power to keep me from learning about my heritage) and so I didn’t have the opportunity to grow up around this part of my culture (and my Kokum past away last year so I never got to ask her either unfortunately) and I am now disconnected from this part of my family (and heritage). I have recently been trying very hard to learn about my family and our heritage and to honour what makes me who I am. I stumbled on your article because I had been thinking about getting my father’s image as a tattoo (which is him, in his headdress) but now I am worried that this may be seen as cultural appropriation and that is absolutely NOT what I want to do to the people who come from the cultural I am trying so hard to learn about. I just want to honour my dad. I was wondering if, in your opinion, it would be appropriate for me to get this tattoo, or if this would be a bad thing to do.

    I realize that reading my story takes some of your time, and so I just wanted to thank you for your response and your time and consideration.

    I hope you are having a lovely week, and I do apologize for my ignorance.

    • Ehhh, but this is a little different. That’s your dad, and he likely had the right to wear the headdress. If you dad was Cree, you’re Cree too. The tattoo might be something you have to defend, but I think, “this is a portrait of my Cree father in the headdress he earned” is legit.

  206. Pingback: Your resistance to Social Justice is a detriment to our society – Releases

  207. REASON says:

    I just happened upon this article and I COMPLETELY DISAGREE. I think that unless you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone is mocking or debasing a culture then the use of any regalia is in fact part of our universal culture.
    If a woman or anyone wishes to dress for some reason in the costume of a Scots-guard or A Norman knight and my reaction was to go around whinging on the internet or in any social medium what would be the reaction of society?
    Not only are we past gender defining and restricting in this globalized society but the plains people of north america rewarded these headdresses for acts of murder(warfare), feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. If you are claiming that only people who have committed acts of murder in tribal conflict within the united states can wear these headdresses then I guess we should burn them all and not make any more until the US fractures back into regional strife?
    They can be worn as a thing of beauty and the author of this article should learn how to see them in this light for her own mental well-being. As a thing of cultural identity they may be also, not only.
    Who are you or any other individual to claim the rights to an image or object that you didn’t create or contribute to its creation?

    The reason for the restrictive reproduction of symbols and medals of military or any other present day organisation is to make it more difficult for people to pose as members or decorated members of such organisations for personal gain. Note I say more difficult because it still happens.
    If anyone is confused as to the military decoration of a person wearing a “native american headdress” then they are either confused as to what century they are in or have seen far too many movies and need to drink some water.

    This whole dialogue is pointless to my mind. Addressing your whinge is a waste of society’s time as a whole. How about we address something that matters instead?
    How about we look into the issues of alcoholism, unemployment, murder, rape, imprisonment, REAL racism, education, addiction, immigration, poverty, malnutrition, obesity, smoking, mercury poisoning, ocean acidity, garbage disposal, recycling, renewable energy, pollution, terrorism, mass shootings, gun rights et fucking cetera ad fucking nauseum of the peoples that make up our whole globe.
    This “issue” if it is your personal little crusade is pathetic. I wish people didn’t give in to their white guilt so readily and realize that the weight of history is not ours to bear. Lets make a better world where we celebrate all the cultural history that makes up this world and stop bickering and moping because we don’t feel good. Your feelings don’t matter, you are just another one of the more than seven billion people struggling to breathe on this little rock. Go scream into the wind and howl out your demons, come back when you can help us.

    • Feel free to read some more articles in my Indigenous 101 section, you seem to be struggling with the false assumption that headdresses are all I talk about.

      “Your feelings don’t matter, you are just another one of the more than seven billion people struggling to breathe on this little rock.”

      lol. Yet you are so full of outrage, do your feelings matter? Enjoy the consequences of throwing your White privilege around.

  208. Pingback: Fat Tuesday New Orleans festival: Mardi Gras as you’ve never (eaten) it before – Jasmin Ashton

  209. Tracy quick says:

    Thank you so much for your explanation for the good of all. My mother made sure that I knew my Acual American Heritage and encouraged me to read whatever I could I am1/4 chateau, Cherokee. From before the Trai of tear. I have always hated the Anglo part of myself. It has been hard.

    • Davina says:

      I have been enlightened…I want to thank you for shedding light on this subject. I am also guilty of being war bonnet naive. Now I’m brought to another realization.
      . Mohawks! Is that offensive also? I had a Mohawk for years when i was younger, I never thought of it in negative aspect, nor cultural insult however, I understand that’s how it may be interpreted.

  210. Snooze says:

    So I work in a summer camp, and a big part of what I do is getting dressed up and doing a theme every week. I was really interested in doing a native american themed week and ofcourse the first thing that comes to mind is the headdress. So after reading your article I was wondering where the line is? Is the act of making a headdress taboo? Is just having the headdress disrespectful? Or is it the act of wearing it? If I make a headdress and don’t wear it, am I disrespecting your cultural heritage?

    • Don’t make, or use, a headdress.

      If you want to do a Native American “themed” week, then please put in more effort than embracing pan-Indian stereotypes, and do some research into the Indigenous peoples on whose territory you are living. That would actually be educational instead of exploitative.

  211. I tried emailing you about this issue but never received a reply. This man on youtube is wearing a headdress in most of his videos. I don’t know what you can do to stop him, but it is offensive and he needs to stop.

    • So do something about it. I’m not an attack dog.

      • Dave Nielsen says:

        Edit: sorry (not sorry), racist creep. You don’t get a platform here. Now let’s see where you’re posting this poorly spelled racist invective from. IP address: London, Ontario. How nice.

        Happy National Aboriginal Day you White supremacist piece of shit.

  212. Cass says:

    Would it be disrespectful in any way to get a tattoo of an Indian man or woman in a headdress. Are there any things a person who is not Native American should avoid, as far as tattoos?

    • Dave Nielsen says:

      Go get that tattoo. Who gives a shit? We don’t restrict our culture – to do so would rightly be considered racist. They shouldn’t either. I mean, if you can really call it a culture (you can’t).

      • Masika says:

        It is a culture . Just because it’s not one you have faith in , doesn’t mean that it isn’t ,your most eminent and respected Royal Majesty Mr Dave.

        You don’t decide what is and isn’t a culture.

  213. Pingback: First, a word of the Natives – RACE: America's Social Agony

  214. Peter says:

    As victors, we assimilate… and we assimilate cultures too. Get over it, or face another war.

    • I particularly love the part where you threaten violence.

    • Joanne Yankovich says:

      Baloney. Go back to trolling for Trump, Peter. You’re on the wrong page.

    • Masika says:

      That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard. You have not won anything Peter,your ancestors systematically murdered,yes that’s the word ,MURDERED people of the Native American Communities.That’s Inhumane,those are war crimes,and most of all it’s GENOCIDE.

      It’s their choice to practice whatever Cultural faiths they have or have you not read the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights? What you’re asking of them is a violation of their rights.

  215. Pingback: When is it okay to wear the local garb? | Don't be a Dick

  216. Angry white guy says:


    I’d like to offer a correction to your article. I believe the term ” cultural appropriation” is inaccurate. Cultural Genocide, seems more appropriate.

    To the “white people” with opinions. You don’t get one! Typically, one would educate themselves before engaging in any kind of rebuttal against the facts stated in this article. But, to educate yourself in the history of the Native People of North America and the Manifest Destiny that white settlers believed they were entitled to; is to educate yourself in white wash bullshit!
    History books were written by white people. It is biased; half truths.
    The facts are that this land was stolen. Your ancestors, my ancestors, raped, murdered and stole their way westward.

    Just because you might have a few drops of native blood means nothing. You are not native! I disagree with Black Elk.
    Some of my ancestors were Cherokee and Lakota, but I am white. I shutter to think that my Native grandmothers were most likely raped.

    Native people were hunted and killed. Their land was stolen under treaty and forcing them to live on reservations that had little value. When killing them fell out of fashion, they tried to kill the “savage” in them by kidnapping their children and forcing them to be white!

    Now we want to take away the rest of what they hold sacred for the sake of “art” or some other lame excuse? Fuck each and every one of you!


    Pissed white guy!

    • Robert Columbia says:

      EDIT: No. You do NOT get to tell people how to feel about rape. I am not posting what you have written.

  217. Pingback: Avoiding Cultural Appropriation: The Responsibilities of a Second Language Learner – The Sexy Politico

  218. Pingback: Settler’s Guilt, Part II – hotpotatomambo

  219. Loren says:

    But the Masons have rites and activities that are only available to those who have made certain commitments and promises and have met certain qualifications. I think if you look around enough in the world it is not hard to find cultures that have things that are sacred to them and where participation is limited. I don’t think that is unusual or beyond understanding or acceptance.

  220. Gina says:

    This is the only explanation of cultural appropriation that actually made sense to me. So it’s not the use of feathers or types of other feathered headdresses in the world, it’s the actual Native American headdress. I hope some day it is protected.

  221. Jerry says:

    Hello, I am wanting to ask the opinion of native people on my adoption of the name, Medicine Bear, for myself. I have been going by this adopted name for about five years now. My given name was Jerry and I am of Haitian and Dutch mixed heritage. I became very fascinated with the bear and have felt very much connected to it and learning about bear medicine and studying native plants and their traditional uses. I am constantly gardening and being close with the earth. Is it offensive that I have taken on this name? I feel very badly if my use of it is bothersome and would be extremely apologetic if it is so. Also I would like to connect with Native American people in my area of the country and help with farming or gardening work if possible. What are people’s suggestions? I live in Illinois. Thank you so much!

  222. Pingback: Janet Gretzky under fire for ‘Aboriginal’ headdress photo |

  223. Rob Dunphy says:

    Still don’t care

  224. Ryan says:

    You have presented neither yourself nor this information as being authoritative; indeed, you have clearly stated that you have no right to speak as an arbiter (although you almost did so once, at least). It must be frustrating to have so many people nevertheless use you as a sparring partner to test their own limitations. They’ve missed the point!

    I’ve enjoyed the past hour or so. Cheers!

  225. ROBYN says:

    You are awesome.

  226. Igor Dragoslavic says:

    So much discussion here when there is room for none. It’s dead simple: one is not allowed to wear a military medal without earning it, and likewise one is not allowed to wear a headdress without earning it. Period – end of discussion.

    • Alu says:

      No! you are not allowed to wear an IDENTICAL replica of an official military medal, that would suggest that you have been given that commendation that is associated with it. You are allowed however to wear as many made up medals as you want.
      Same with uniforms. It is illegal to wear an IDENTICAL REPLICA of any official uniform. It is not illegal to wear a made up uniform,
      An important distinction that is lost to the SJW crowd.
      If I stick one single chicken feather in my hair I’m accused of cultural appropriation.

  227. Pingback: Stop Wearing That Native American Headdress - Year13

  228. Sarah Kelly says:

    Nicely written. Composed and delivered with a fair explanation and very balanced. I have learned a lot from it, but I would never have thought about the addresses being worn by anyone other than the chief or important elder. I know there’s a reverence and spirit held within the feathers and adornments and I have always respected anything first nations. I think it is one of the most beautiful cultures if you read anything you can get your hands on about their teachings and stories. They are soul food to the imagination and respect we should hold dear. I think I’m going to sign up for an introduction to aboriginal teachings. I find it very interesting. Please know that you have a friend in me

  229. Arc says:

    I agree with everything your implying, I just have one question why can people with let’s say an African back grounds hat happens to be like a rapper so to speak. Why is it they are accepted in native communities as being okay and accepted but a musician with European background is horrible and should fall off the earth they are just so disrespectful. ?? .

  230. Fuck yiu says:

    Instead of wearing one on my head now I know just just throw it in the toilet and shit on it

    Edit: what a lovely sentiment from IP address, Newmarket, Ontario

  231. West says:

    Anybody that makes a big deal out of this school thing is the actual problem. For fuck sakes lighten up people. By making this a big deal you are the actual racist.

  232. Matt Mcfly says:

    I would suggest that your words imply you are racially biased and, in fact, not fully aware of North American culture. I use north American culture as this culture is neither exclusive to whites, nor is it European. You describe the military uniform and degree as being similar to the head dress, and yet neither of these are racially exclusive. You suggest that imitation of these is frowned upon, and yet people dress up for parties, plays, Halloween, educational courses etc in these ‘restricted’ items without being offensive, in fact, being they are a way to honor these things. While there are cases, a non Aboriginal wearing a headdress is likely not trying to pass themselves off as having earned it. As you so eloquently put it, this is a racially specific item, only an Aboriginal person who hadn’t earned it may be being dishonest. Also you have indicated women cannot, or rarely earn this. In what way is this not sexist? Perhaps I am being ignorant but I find myself in a society tripping over themselves trying to celebrate cultural differences while being respectful. To put it another way, id I saw a first nations man wearing khakis, driving a BMW, or working as a physician instead of healer I would not be offended. I would appreciate that he values are culture so much to become a part of it. I am not trying to be combative but I would ask you consider this.

    • I would suggest you are really far too impressed with yourself.

      Race is a construct. Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups with specific cultures.

      You don’t get to talk about our gender roles from a western perspective.

      Good job at “settlersplaining”.

      Pay me if you want more discussion.

      • Masika says:

        And yet that ‘Western Perspective’ is the norm. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but a woman not being able to earn a headdress is hardly fair. Now , I’m not white but I still feel that it is in a way unfair. Women aren’t less than men , and should be allowed to earn it , if they’ve done something worthy of it.

        • No. It is not the norm.

          Women can earn the headdress, the issue is NOT about being “less than men”, that is part of YOUR history. Indigenous societies have complementarian gender roles, not hierarchical. Applying the western lens in this situation is completely inaccurate.

  233. Pingback: Algonquin College Celebration Of Cultures –

  234. Oliver says:

    I was told once by someone that if the “war bonnet” is in colors that aren’t ever used by native americans and is in a slightly different style then it doesn’t count, but I wanted to ask at the source. It was a beautiful headpiece this person wears all the time.

    • Indigenous peoples are not frozen in time. We can use new colours, even synthetic ones, and our traditional items are still authentic. If you’re not sure how that works, ask yourself if you can possibly be authentic as *insert your culture here* if you aren’t doing things exactly the way it was done in 1855?

  235. Susan Paquette says:

    Is it appropriate for a (female) non first nations person to give a male with a serious illness an eagle feather. I have a few in my possession and would like to give two to this gentleman as it may make him happy. I know the Eagle feather is very important with the First Nations People and would like to know if this is a Do or a Don’t?

    • It’s an odd thing to do I suppose? If it’s not a part of your culture, what meaning does it have for you? Why do it? If it has meaning for you because it has meaning in First Nations cultures…then you should follow First Nations protocol. Otherwise, it doesn’t really have much to do with Indigenous people, so…?

  236. Pingback: Canadian History Roundup – Week of August 28, 2016 | Unwritten Histories

  237. Pingback: Angela and Rupert ‘go native’? | HOAXTEAD RESEARCH

  238. Pingback: A Non Western Culture –

  239. Pingback: Unpacking and Unlearning: Appropriating Yoga (and a Bunch of Other Stuff, Too) – erin emily ann vance

  240. Thank you for this great informative article. How does natives feel about of people “dressing up” as natives in general with makeup and such for photoshoots, carnivals and so forth?
    Respect from me
    Janni, Denmark

  241. Masika says:

    Well I do understand that it’s important that people shouldn’t wear headdresses because they’re earned and wearing them without earning them is disrespectful but I just thought that protecting Native American communities from being murdered was more important.

    But I have pondered over it and I realize that if cultural appropriation perpetuates harmful stereotypes, it endangers the very existence of the various tribes. And that’s why I’m extremely sorry for my earlier comment.

  242. Masika says:

    I had a question. Which tribes use the trailer warbonnets?

    And I’m beginning to understand your frustration. When people use parts of your culture without understanding its significance and use it especially to market their products it’s annoying. Just a few minutes back I read about a hotel in Texas where they called Garuda a guiding muse….Now that’s wrong. In Hindu mythology, the Garuda is supposed to be a deity and not a Muse, the Garuda is not like the Nine Muses in Greek Mythology.

    it just makes me mad. If you’re going to use another culture’s deities or symbols, the least you can do is understand it’s significance and use it right, but no people never learn.

    I’m sorry, I started rambling, when this isn’t about my culture, it’s about Plains Headdresses. I just thought that you’d understand, considering that it happens so frequently in western nations.

  243. Aala Devine says:

    You have the melanin enriched West Indians, Guyanese, and Brazilian Carnivals as well as the melanin enriched people of New Orleans Mardi Gras wear the headdresses to celebrate and honor their/my ancestors. We are not going to stop our culture because you mixed breed say so.

  244. saver says:

    Elaborate headdresses have been worn throughout history by many different cultures, but many Americans mistakenly believe it is unique to Native American tribes. People get up in arms and cry appropriation whenever they see anyone wearing a feather headdress. Carnival is not another matter entirely. Before slaves were brought to the Caribbean Islands the Islands were populated by what Europeans called “West Indians” There is a history of feather headdresses among Tainos and Caribs, native tribes of the Caribbean. Dominican Taino people also had elaborate head dresses. Further. Africans in their motherland on masks and headdresses as a symbol of our ability as humans to rise above problems, pains, heartbreaks, illness — to travel to another world to be reborn and to grow spiritually. So many countries, cultures have head dresses not everyone one sees is NA

    • “Carnival is another matter entirely”. I restate it because it remains true. You are commenting on an article about people who have no damn right to wear headdresses, yes? Quite specifically as stated multiple times, the Plains headdress. That’s the matter under discussions. Carnival is not the same situation, hence “another matter”.

  245. Karl Knueppel says:

    So your saying because I’m not a lawyer I can’t wear a suit? I’m not a fire fighter I can’t wear a firefighter jacket? Seems a little over PC, buck up buttercup & put your bigboy panties on!

  246. Michelle says:

    I was raised white and never told anything about my parents other than their being Native Americans and i was happy and never felt a need to ask questions. I decided as an adult to dig into my history because i was curious. I have found relatives. Parents are dead. But ive step siblings, cousins, some live on “the rez” and they accepted me immediately. Ive only met 1 step sister face to face, im in Calif. and theyre in Wisconsin and she had the opportunity to come out to Calif. Like i said in the beginning, I was raised white. My cousins shared photos of theirselves dressed in regalia. So beautiful. I commented that id love to own a feathered headdress but my cousin shut me down. I am female. Females may not wear that style! What about earings? Feathered earings? You have to earn the priviledge she said, to use certain feathers. I thought she was lying to me. I literally became angry. I said “i dont need permission to wear a feather!” And said i can Make my own. I still need to apologize for my attitude. I have alot to learn.

  247. Pingback: Idle No More: Reverse Racism Recoil | Elyse Bruce

  248. Pingback: Native American cultural appropriation – Media-savvy Feminist

  249. Joel Zelikovitz says:

    I could read your responses all day. The lawyer and teacher in you shout out patience and wisdom…and I so get it when you have had enough of the same moronic questions over and over and just say “f@#$ off” already. Your honesty is refreshing…..AND you keep coming back for more. You are making a difference to those who really want to learn. I have learned so much from this site. Just what is it about “that offends me and my culture” that people don’t seem to get. Obviously most people come to this site to learn about cultural appropriation and that is good. Its too bad many are unable to appreciate it’s harm or cannot understand it. I cannot believe the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians have not figured this out. What the Fuck! It’s sickening. Keep up the great work.

  250. What I don’t understand is if a white man is not allowed to wear a headdress, why is a black man allowed to wield a samurai sword, why is an indigenous man allowed to wear pastors vestments? This is hypocrisy, either everyone’s allowed to wear what religious and cultural symbols they want to or no one should be allowed to wear any. Political correctness, cultural appropriation, socialy acceptable, All these constructs are divisive they put barriers between us. I am indigenous and Canadian and l feel issues like this are ridiculous. We are a multicultural country shouldn’t our citizens reflect that? saying that because we aren’t a certain race we aren’t allowed to practice other cultural rituals or wear other cultural symbols is Ludacris! are we trying to create some kind of society that divides and classifies us? Although it would appear so with articles like this. Furthermore could it be said that because I’m not Greek I can’t eat Greek yogurt or read ancient Greek literature? Or yet even more ludicrous that because I am indigenous that I must wear culturally appropriate clothing. This article in a, way even though very small promotes oppression. It denies freedom of speech and self-expression. I was in a custody battle with Social Services over my child and they said that because I was in indigenous male, before I can get my son back I would need to learn how to be an indigenous male. Of course they didn’t actually accomplish that as it is illegal to force someone to live a certain way. Forcing someone to believe or follow religion or culture or denying them the ability to do so whether or not they are a part of that religion or culture is wrong and should be acknowledged as So. Now I welcome you all to disillusion me and destroy my logic. Deny my claims and belittle me. Or maybe you’re all very nice and that none of you will. I also wonder if those beautiful indigenous arts include headbands? Because that’s a racial stereotype. at least that’s what my politically correct School taught me.

  251. don miller says:

    Im chief here in georgia for new haven native american church and i will never put on a headdress or paint

  252. baibrown says:

    I agree! My fiance is of the Yoruba tribe. I am an American white woman. He wants me to where the headdress. I feel particularly uncomfortable doing this even with his mother’s permission. I just don’t feel like I have the right to adorn such a beautiful historical and traditional dress. The traditional gown doesn’t bother me but I feel like I would need an explanation if I were to wear it. I was hoping that my hair could be fashioned to create the look without actually wearing the wrap. Are there any acceptable alternatives? I don’t not want to be uncomfortable nor to I want to offend my husband. Help

  253. Nicolas says:

    Disclaimer: I know this reply does not specifically address the headdress issue, but I believe you will find my reply worthwhile.

    If we delve deep enough, we can see why people are unaware of the issue that surrounds the Natives. From a young age, we are taught barely anything about the vast culture that surrounds them. I went to French schools, which depicted French settlers as respectful of the Natives. These two different groups of people traded and learned from each other. Natives get blankets and metal tools, French settlers are taught to live in Canada. Then we are taught that the English came and tried to assimilate the French, thus creating the false belief that the French were (and still are) the victims.

    As schools perpetrate the belief that French must protect each other from the oppression of the English, this causes us forget about the Natives. This is a huge problem concerning Canada and its people.

    Canadian identity has always been an issue and it will surely stay this way for a while, yet unknowingly Native culture has surprisingly rubbed off well onto the Canadian culture even though many people fail to recognize this (read “A Fair Country” by John Ralston Saul if you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend it). The Canadian “niceness” that differentiates us so much from the Americans comes from the Native culture of respect. Sadly, this doesn’t carry over to all people on all subject matter.

    I don’t think cultural appropriation is a bad thing per se, but I do believe it is insulting and demeaning in this case : People steal parts of your culture without acknowledging you. For example in 2010 Vancouver used the inuksut as the Olympic symbol, representing “Canadian-ness” and a landmark, which I believe is a good idea, especially in giving Canadians a bit of identity. However, I believe it was wrong of Vancouver to do this because even though they have used this symbol, they adamantly refuse to acknowledge the Natives’ existence and their demands.

    I believe that under better circumstances, cultural appropriation is actually a rather flattering thing, such as remembrance and acknowledgement of other cultures such as St-Patrick’s day, which brings attention to the Irish and their culture (which is more than simply drinking).

    I hope one day the Government of Canada will instill classes about Native culture in schools, and finally acknowledge Native and listen to their demands. Native culture is the root of Canada, and as a country divided between Natives, French and English, I believe it will one day be resolved, allowing Canada to achieve its full potential.

  254. Tim Vining says:

    Chi Miigwetch for sharing!

  255. Pingback: Native American War Bonnet Being Released In Final Fantasy XV, Predictable "Outrage" Ensues - Gamertics

    • Good thing this dude is around to drop pearls of wisdom like this:

      “Something important to note about those taking offense to Native American War Bonnets, or any War Bonnet for that matter as this was not an exclusively practiced tradition among Native Americans, and the practice of this tradition is all but dead. It is no longer practiced anywhere near to the same degree it once was, in fact, you can buy several very authentic looking ones online.”


      • siiix Siiix says:

        so far i know its just about dead, according to wiki, only 9000 people practice the old religion/tradition, its most deffinetelly “common practice”, why would you even do that these days ?! o.O we live in a world of sciense and technology. old religions are for the most part dead, all of them. as for traditions , they just meaningless dress up these days, irrelevant who is doing the dressup in most western countries at least

  256. Jerome Beaule says:

    I was born i Canada. My ancestors came here from Europe yes, but I was born here, making me a “native”. I was even born before some of those who claim to be “natives”, since they too came here but from Asia. Want to be technical? My European culture brought with it science, photography, electricity and I will pass on everything else we brought here that the so called “natives” use everyday without waiting for permission… because we do not care.

    Culture is a beautiful thing but some people need to calm down and think before they make stupid claims. I will wear a headdress if I want for the same reason you drive around in a Ford pickup truck.

    Why dont we focus on the real problems instead of that useless stuff. In the end, no amount of culture will put food on the table or water in you glass.

    People are getting supider every day…

    • You were born here before people supposedly migrated here from Asia? LOL. Okay there, buddy. Talk about making ridiculous claims, you managed to even bungle the Bering Strait Theory (which is already full of holes).

      Yes yes, we know “you don’t care”. You’ll be as racist and wrong as you wanna be. You’ll tell yourself your people invented everything, but you’ll never take responsibility for the harm your people have done and continue to do. You’ll claim you’ve somehow earned the right to benefit from stolen lands and resources because of your innate superiority.

      The real problems are people with your extreme level of ignorance and sense of entitlement and luckily this issue brings you out of the wordwork like termites. How sad to be so proud of theft.

  257. Pingback: It's Past Time For Indigenous Writers To Get a Seat at the Table

  258. Ian says:

    I am from Trinidad and Tobago (in the Caribbean), and this year our government has declared a national holiday to our indigenous peoples (ie. Native Americans). I want to make and headdress to wear on that day as a means of paying respects and spreading awareness of all the amazing contributions made to our diverse trini culture by these people. I hope this pure motive is not, in your opinion, an issue (btw. I’m not white. I’m actually of in indo-caribbean or east Indian descent – but I love to bask in, and educate myself and others about the many cultures that are fused together here in T&T). Let me know what you think 🙂

  259. Thank you for writing this and being a voice of reason. I now understand what appropriation is and isn’t and how someone could be rightfully upset if I do appropriate something I don’t have the right to.

  260. Alex says:

    This is great! I love how respectfully you addressed the issue. Some people think literally everything is “cultural appropriation” like eating Chinese food or playing with fireworks. I love how you addressed the restricted vs unrestricted symbols/items thing. I’m tired of people saying that eating Chinese/Indian/Mexican food is “cultural appropriation”.

  261. Olympia Honzalez says:

    I was reading some of the “other” comments, Linda defending this little girl group, that I’ve never heard of… One address the head dress that ancestors wore, no not just ancestors!
    They are Stull being worn in cerimonies, so that means it IS currently as of this day to being Distespectful!!
    Talking about fashion etc. this is not a fashion statement, they read but still don’t understand.. We’re all the Feather’s I want , but don’t fashion them into a feasted worn by indiginious people culture, period!!!!
    Wering this is wrong U are not a leader of any NDN nation you did not even earn one feather which is a honor for the young men in certain NDN nations!!
    The fact is, U know it’s wrong & disrespectful now so Pleade Stip doing It’

  262. Alex C-P says:

    Very well written. I completely agree on all the points you made. Honestly people, if you dressed up as a sacred person in any culture it would most likely be disrespectful, say dressing up as the pope and walking around the vatican? I bet you would get arrested, possibly beat up. Or what of you went to a part of tribal Africa and dressed up as a Village Chief, do you think they would be happy? Same could be said about other cultures as well, including the various Native American Tribes, except they are not beating you up they are explaining the problem. All of the Americas had Native Americans in it (no shit right?), so by that same logic, anywhere in the Americas it would be disrespectful, because people are being disrespected. If people dressed up inside their homes, never showed anyone, its certainly not being true to that culture, but its not exactly disrespectful either since no one is being disrespected (not exactly sure about that, maybe it is still disrespectful?). But people are not doing that, they dress up in public. You cant say Natives are over reacting as some sort of fact, its an opinion, but it is a fact that it is disrespectful on a large scale to many Natives, and others alike such as myself who are not Native, but still find the practice apalling.

  263. Pingback: Are Pigtails Rated G or NC-17? | ProchoicePlus

  264. Pingback: The Good, the bad, and the Culturally Appropriated | Mia Hull

  265. nathan d hill mckie says:

    “Sticking feathers up your butt doesn’t make you a chicken”
    -Tyler Durden~Fight Club

    My name is NastyNate.. from Lincoln Nebraska.. 29.. I read all this whole “article” and comments posted.. I feel obligated to leave my opinion..

    .. A Pale man gurgling choking on his blood laying face up after being knocked out after pushing my brother in the back while he was walking up stairs with a pizza in his hand to feed his son.. first I hear the loud thump of pale man hit the ground.. I go outside to see the issue.. my brother has the look of.. i didnt want to do it Nate.. i hear gurgling… he says .. i knocked his ass out.. i know my brothers “ok”…
    that look though says it all .. he didn’t want to do it.. we were raised though to instantly end the threat… pale guy. Lucky he’s not dead at the time.. I go down and see for myself. . He’s gurgling. . This man has issues with everyone.. I can easily slice his throat at the time.. No.. as a righteous man I dont… I say .. roll on your side so you dont die from choking on your own blood.. this is a man who tried to tell me what steps I can walk up.. takes pictures of my family.. mumbles aggressively at my family for examples for no reason.. and others in this neighborhood. Yet here he is now in a very weak “state”..Either way I can easily kill him every time I see him especially at that time.. yet I see it a whole different way.. he smokes cigarettes constantly.. and it is a symbol of the whole world to me.. theirs always going to be a “dumbass” and is actually killing himself/herself whatever.. I really dont have to do anything beyond stay in an intelligent state of mind.. I’d defenititly have earned feather for that.. actually caring beyond that seeing he can change or let this fool/oppressor live and see that he’s really killing himself..

    ..thats one example .. i have many to “earn” these feathers.. I’d have earned a feather in the American social order society we live in today forsure for that.. then comforted the kids and other family around at the time.. I feel im tested every day on that note of killing.. though the intelligent and tough part is not killing.. this society is mostly Pale.. which brings me to the effect of.. “if” total opposite of “power in society” I’d have my “headdress” or be in the stance of making one for the steps and strides I’ve taken on my “path”…. these “powers” are not though in a way.. I say that with a laugh.. people work for this optical illusion dollar bill to seem to get somewhere though have no clue where “they” are going.. my ancestors are of broad multiple blood lines.. most I dont know and “maybe” never will because of past history done to them.. so these tradition were not past down and down.. like marriage.. I’m way beyond the thought that I can only marry one woman.. my understanding is.. its as many as you can take care of.. though a person has to be able to take care of them.. fully.. so when told I cant do this or that.. from “headdress” to peyote. . Bullshit.. this person has no clue what is possible for me to get and earn..

    ..seems to me.. most people on here have very weak minds.. no common sense and so forth.. ive been making a “headdress” for myself.. though it will be unlike any other.. I will wear with complete pride and respect..with a stone “mukufu” of many different gems. Mukufu Swahili for necklace. . Necklace is to feminine for me.. this presence ..I put off wearing these will affect everyone around me.. period.. you test my worthiness of “earning this “headdress” you will see why I wear it.. verbally or physically..

    ..once again feathers up yo ass dont make you a chicken.. so fuck.. a fool can wear what “they” want these days obviously.. though its what comes with it and how that “path” reacts to it.. i see a “dike” wearing mens clothes.. she might think she’s tough though I know the truth …she knows the truth.. most the time she’s a weak little bitch..

    .. never been scared.. worried.. shit dont pump in my blood.. until I read your “article” I didnt know it was just certain tribes and “very sacred to some.. came looking