Culture

Ditch The Headdress, Read Up On Native Authors: Here’s How You Can Celebrate Native American Heritage Month Respectfully

November is Native American Heritage month. And like most commemorative months dedicated to honoring the culture and history of an oppressed people in the U.S., Native American Heritage Month is an insufficient gesture. Added onto that, November is often a a time when stereotypes of Native people get reinforced. A month of supposed ‘appreciation’ and ‘honoring’ of oppressed communities, can easily turn into one replete with cultural appropriation and prejudice.

So we decided we’d round up a few things that you can do —and not do— to celebrate in a positive and healthy spirit. 

1. Don’t desecrate traditional, sacred Native objects by buying or wearing them as props.

More often than not, we find ‘Native’, ‘Tribal’, or ‘Navajo’ inspired goods in stores, what you might not know is that they could be sacred Native artifacts and spiritual items. Objects like the canupa pipe or a warbonnet —commonly known as ‘headdress’— are part of Native spiritual culture and they should never be worn as a costume.

For Native people, practicing their spirituality was illegal in this country, up until the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978. Before then, Native people were beaten, jailed, and even killed for practicing their ancestral beliefs. What remains of tribal cultures customs, and ceremonies has been paid for in blood.

Among Native people, the warbonnet was only given to those who earned each and every eagle feather for their bravery, self-sacrifice, and great deeds of valor —doesn’t seem very appropriate to wear one as a costume or prop now, does it? Disrespecting the warbonnet is a terrible wrong and dishonors the likes of all who earned them with pride.

2. Don’t make children wear redface and reenact the re-telling of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving reenactments are a whitewashed version of early U.S. history. The retelling of this story only glorifies colonization when we all know that the truth isn’t so pretty. In actuality, an official “day of Thanksgiving kept in all the churches for our victories against the Pequots” was said to have been proclaimed by Massachusetts Bay governor William Bradford in 1637, celebrating the slaughter of up to 700 Pequot men, women, and children.

3. Don’t promote the fetishization of Native women.

We should all know this by now, but since not everyone acts like it, we’ll say it louder for the people in the back —Do not dehumanize women of color. We’re not your fetish and will not be devalued any longer. Reducing Native women to a fetish is oppressive and objectifying. It subjugates Native women while denying their agency.

Native women face higher rates of violence than the general population. A report last year by the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center found that more than half of Native women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime and 96% of those who commit sexual violence against Native women are non-Native.

4. Don’t support racist mascots.

It’s 2019 and the sports team, Washington R*dskins, literally has a racial slur in its name. It mocks Native identity, it reinforces ignorant and racist caricatures of a whole culture.

5. Don’t pretend to know better than Native people on Native subjects.

I’d like to believe that Native people know more about being Native because well…they are Native, they’ve lived the experience daily. Native people know more about their heritage than non-Natives do and silencing their voices is equal to erasing them.

What’s more, don’t bother Natives on social media by sending them the worst instances of cultural appropriation and racial violence that you may stumble upon while scrolling. Natives who are present in online spaces see it often. Even if you mean well, for Native people, constant exposure to this sort of toxic environment is damaging and exhausting.

6. For the love of God, don’t buy culturally appropriative products from Non-Native vendors.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, do not buy Native imitations at places like Urban Outfitters or other stores who have actually been on trial for stealing names, references and designs from Native people.

Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, “it is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.” Violators may face civil or criminal penalties of a fine up to $250,000 or five years behind bars. Before buying goods from a purported Native vendor, ask them if they are following this law, and what tribe they belong to. It is not offensive to ask a person who claims to be Native what tribe they hail from. Tribal identification is commonplace and accepted among Natives.

7. Do teach real Native history to children and read up on works by Native scholars and authors.

Introduce real and accurate Native history —including harvest feasts—into school events. Invite Native speakers, authors and scholars to speak to students about Indigenous peoples. It’s important that children see Natives as contemporary living people who are still here.

8. Do respect Natives’ beliefs.

It’s pretty easy; respect other people’s religion and belief systems as you would your own. There are many differences among tribes, but in general, they all share a reverence for the land, for animals and plants, for the bonds of community, for the wisdom of the elderly and for the contributions of their ancestors. Their beliefs and traditions might differ from what you grew up learning, but Native perspectives are just as compelling and valuable as everyone’s, and they should be respected as such.

9. Do respect and honor Native-Veterans.

Natives have served in the U.S. military at a higher per capita rate than any other ethnic group in the 20th century, and in the military actions following September 11, 2001, Native men and women veterans served at a higher rate than veterans of all other ethnic groups, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. As we remember those who have given their lives in service to our country while protecting the freedoms and ideals we hold dear, many of our fellow Americans remain unaware of the major contributions Native Americans have made to our nation’s armed forces.

10. Do buy authentic Native goods sold by Native artisans and businesses.

Stores like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, are taking valuable business away from actual Native American artists and small businesses. Support Native American creativity, history, and legacy, and help create a much-needed economic boost in Indian Country by shopping from small, authentic Native businesses. This site has enlisted Native-owned businesses you can shop from online —now you have no excuse.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Día De Muertos Takes Over The Sneaker World With New Collection By Nike

Culture

Día De Muertos Takes Over The Sneaker World With New Collection By Nike

Nike

Mexico’s famed Día de Muertos celebration seems to be everywhere these days. Following the James Bond film Spectre – which featured several scenes amid a fictional Day of the Dead parade – Mexico City created the parade just to satisfy people’s demands.

Now, Día de Muertos is being picked up by brands from all over the world as a way to pay tribute to the popular, traditional holiday (and likely make some money in the process…)

Nike is the latest brand to announce its own Día de Muertos collection and it’s already got fans of the iconic brand ready and waiting with their wallets in hand.

Nike announced its latest Día de Muertos collection which is set to debut later this month.

Last week, the footwear company announced it will be releasing its 2020 Día de Muertos collection later this month, ahead of the Mexican holiday where families gather to celebrate their loved ones who have passed away.

According to Nike’s announcement, the collection includes four styles of shoes including the Air Max 90, the DBreak Type, the Blazer Mid and the Air Jordan 1, all with unique designs that have “a modern approach grounded in art and culture.”

“Día de Muertos’s traditional ofrendas, or altars, serve as the design inspiration behind each of the silhouettes and apparel pieces, with colors, patterns and crafted details nodding to the delicate, handmade artwork of papel picado and flowers typically seen at an altar,” the announcement said.

In addition to the four noteworthy sneaker types that will be available, the collection also includes t-shirts and a sweatshirt, all of which will likely sell out fast – so have your wallet ready!

Nike’s Día de Muertos collection is known for its festive colors and iconic designs.

Credit: Nike

The Nike Day of the Dead sneakers are the sneakers that the swoosh brand launches every year to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It is an annual celebration and remembrance, known for its striking iconography and festive colors.

Using the traditional Mexican Cempasúchil flower as a common thread and interpreting the motto “Para Mi Familia”, the four models are colorful tributes to the members of the family, both present and past.

Each pair is based on the traditional Day of the Dead ofrendas (altars), using bright color schemes and intricate details that salute the delicate papel picado and flowers that often surround them.

Some of the pieces — specifically the T-shirts, sweatshirt, the DBreak Type and the Air Jordan 1 — even have the phrase “Para Mi Familia” written on them, to bring the collection “back to the notion of family,” the announcement said.

The collection will even feature a special, limited edition Nike Air Jordan 1.

Credit: Nike

First up are the Nike Air Jordan 1 mid-cut shoe. It combines a white base with purple and gold overlays, provides a “Family” touch on the fender, special details on the tongue badge and insoles and a cracked leather around the neck.

If you’re looking for color, then the Air Max 90 will likely be your first choice.

Credit: Nike

The Nike Air Max 90 shoe is the most vibrant shoe of the bunch, covered from toe to heel in playful, swirling patterns that use multiple shades of red, yellow and orange.

Nike’s latest Día de Muertos collection is already available at Nike stores in Mexico but it the collection will be available globally in the Nike App SNKRS from the 15th of October.

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It’s Time For The US To Adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day In Place Of Columbus Day

Culture

It’s Time For The US To Adopt Indigenous Peoples’ Day In Place Of Columbus Day

Tony Anderson / Getty Images

Today is INdigenous People’s Day. While some people still try to celebrate Christopher Columbus Day, many cities across the country have replace the day with Indigenous People’s Day to honor and respect the indigenous people of this land. It is also a way to set the record straight and tell the true history of Christopher Columbus’ legacy.

Indigenous People’s Day is slowly replacing Christopher Columbus Day, as it should tbh.

For years, we have all been told about how Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” to discover America in 1492. Teachers told us that he came to the New World and helped to develop it into a place where Europeans could colonize and better the land. However, that is not the way that Native American descendants remember that violent moment in history.

The reclaimed holiday is shining a light on the resilience and plight in native communities.

The Native American communities faced untold horror and devastation when the Europeans began arriving. The French, English, and Spanish participated in decimating the Native communities through disease and war to take land that belonged to the various tribes.

“Well, if we’re truly wanted to celebrate the progress that we’ve made in this country, then Indigenous Peoples’ Day is completely fitting because we were meant to be completely either killed off or assimilated into mainstream society, and we’re still here,” Rep. Deb Haaland told Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day gives Americans a chance to learn the true history of this nation.

Native communities have known for centuries how brutal Columbus was to the First Nations people in the U.S. The colonizer used smallpox and a slew of other diseases to kill off Native Americans to take the land. It is brutal history that has long been buried and sugar-coated for school children, much like slavery in history textbooks. It is a disservice to the American people and the resilient Native American communities to continue to ignore the true brutal magnitude of Columbus.

Several states are replacing Columbus Day with holidays honoring the indigenous communities of the U.S.

Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C. all observe a holiday for indigenous people instead of Columbus. Alabama and Oklahoma recognize both holidays.

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a minimal and impactful way to honor indigenous people.

It doesn’t really change anything. Instead of spending the day sleeping in and off work in honor of a colonizer, you can spend a day sleeping in and off of work in honor of indigenous people.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a way to honor the people who lived and thrived on this continent before colonization,” Rep. Haaland said in a video honoring the holiday. “The celebration of this day is a long time coming. Activists, community organizers, and the indigenous community worked hard lobbying lawmakers, hosting rallies, and showing tour culture proudly wherever we go so that we could finally correct the record and recognize the real history of this country.”

READ: People On Twitter Are Dropping Real Christopher Columbus Knowledge For Indigenous Peoples Day

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