Bloggers Adrienne Keene and Dr. Jessica Metcalfe on Native Headdresses, Patterns, and "Aztec" Labels in Popular Fashion
>"The terms Cherokee and Navajo and now Aztec are being used to represent the kind of hollywood indian stereotype of the feathers and the buckskin and the geometric design that are vaguely reminiscent of Navajo weaving," says Keene, who's Cherokee and completing her Ph.D. in Education at Harvard. "It's continuing these stereotypes that Native peoples, with the inclusion of Aztecs, worldwide, are represented by that one Hollywood Indian sort of stereotype and erases our individual cultures and experiences."
Metcalfe says she understands that some people think critiquing fashion is making a tempest in a teapot, but responds that fashion is an important part of mainstream media.
"This stuff shows up in magazines in supermarkets, it is right there, part of our daily interaction," she says. "Fashion is so intimately connected to identity, it is our second skin - what we wear says something about who we are and it says something about our perspectives on the world."
And it's not just the names companies use for branding that's the problem.
Graphics like the skulls that grin beneath feathered headdresses on Ecko's Weekend Warriors polos and sweatshirts reference historical images and opinion page cartoons used to dehumanize Native Americans, they both say.
The images also bring to mind current cultural challenges including alcoholism on reservations as well as tribal attempts to require museums, universities, and libraries to return bodies and burial artifacts from excavated graves.
"The headdress skulls is really offensive to a lot of Native people because it is insinuating that we're all dead, that we're like the night of the living dead Indians," Metcalf says. "And then associating our sacred headdresses with partying and drinking and debauchery, all of its really offensive."
NEXT: METCALFE AND KEENE PROPOSE SOLUTIONS