First off I’m not one for being very political or get easily offended, I have thick skin, I am always willing to hear another persons opinion. Some of you may know I’m Native American, I am Akimel O’Otham and Tohono O’odham basically if you look at a map, find Arizona, look at phoenix, we used to inhabit all that area surrounding phoenix and south even into Mexico. This was before reservations. Now we inhabit 583.749 sq miles south of phoenix. This is known as the Gila River Community, this is where I am from.
Why am I telling you this. Today I came upon the “No Doubt” video on the web, I’m not going to post it, you might be able to find it somewhere. Anyways I had made this twitter post:
“Tired of damn hipsters, companies, and bands using Native American culture as a fashion accessory.”
Which may not mean much, but today so happened to be a day I spent working at a community event called “Elders Day” it is basically a day for the elders of the community to tell stories, hear words of encouragement from each other, and of course to share lunch together. I always enjoy hearing the stories that the elders tell and how life was in the community in simpler times, how they went to school during the day and then came home and did actual chores like feeding the animals, getting water, actual things that were needed to be done to live. How they would ride horses all over the community, and in the night being able to look up into the sky and see stars forever.
They shared alot of good stories as well as bad stories, how many of them were shipped off to boarding schools and how many of them had to have their names changed, how they had to learn to speak english, how many of them had to have their heads shaved because they were not allowed to have long hair, and not even wanting to admit to someone that they were Native American. And these are not even the real bad things.
I never get tired of hearing these things from the elders in our community Im glad they are here to share these stories and show us young people how life has changed for them and us. which is why I made the post about how im tired of Native American culture being used as a a status symbol. Its easy for someone to throw some feathers in their hair, to wear a head dress for fashion purposes, to throw a man in the maze on a tshirt, or hang a kokapelli on the wall. It may seem cool or fashion forward.
I used to work for our cultural resources department in the community as a Lab Technician, basically I was paid to clean artifacts that the archeologists brought into the lab. I was responsible for taking care of everything from the smallest pottery sherd to large pots and jars, shell jewelry, stone tools, even taking care of human remains. This usually consisted of preparing the remains for reburials. Some people may think it is superstitious and wrong. I felt it was my privilege, my way of taking care of my people. Even though these people passed on thousands of years ago It was me that was preparing them for reburial. Why did we even move them you ask? well development happens, schools are built, roads are made, things of that nature. I always thought it was far better to put them somewhere where they can actually rest instead of being out where someone can bother them.
Why am I even writing all of this again? My point is that Native Americans have a very long history of up’s and downs, you may think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But to be honest it really isn’t, if you are interested in Native American culture actually put some time and effort into learning about the culture.
And while I’m typing that, the same goes for all cultures, Not just Native Americans.