Faux Native American fashion

Discuss

103 Responses to “Faux Native American fashion”

  1. lesserlesserwashington says:

    Quit appropriating and selling my culture.  

  2. Patrick Delaney says:

    I get why people would find it offensive to use the term “Navajo” when referring to a product, (you wouldn’t market a shirt as “African American”) but I really don’t get why people are offended that Navajo designs are being used commercially. Sacred/culturally significant iconography and design have been borrowed from pretty much every culture and used in clothing. If that offends you, fine, but what makes it “wrong”?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Appellation contrôlée and its Euro counterpart are one of the reasons that European goods remain so highly desirable, even in a global economy.

      • Layne says:

        Hah – no, really? 
        This kind of culture-food copyright insanity seems no better than the media companies spraying C&D letters all over the world at some kids lip-synching to a Justin Bieber song. 

        Where’s the sense in holding onto a copyright by your legal fingernails rather than improving the product? Traditional European goods go stagnant while they enforce cultural superiority by legal fiat. Meanwhile, new, cheaper, better versions spread out from countries that are new to the game and eager to innovate.  Watches & wine are the first to spring to mind. 

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          If you don’t get why Roquefort is Roquefort, then you’re an ideal consumer for Chinese knock-off goods. Some of us can taste the difference between French cheese handmade under strict controls and WalMart Blue. And if you think that it’s possible to improve Roquefort, you’re just insane.

          • Arclight says:

            “And if you think that it’s possible to improve Roquefort, you’re just insane.”

            Really? Of course I’d say it’s incredibly difficult to improve something like that, but *impossible*? Never say impossible. You just can’t entirely exclude all possibility like that.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            It’s like saying that Picasso is an improvement of da Vinci or that Brutalism is an improvement of Baroque. You can make another blue cheese that tastes good, possibly better to some people, but you can’t improve Roquefort because it would then simply be something else. Unless, of course, your view of life is that cheez is cheez and buildings is buildings.

          • jimh says:

            Agree! The best way to improve something is by adding cheese. When it is already cheese, it cannot be improved.

          • C W says:

            The more radical the change, Arclight, the more it would NOT be Roquefort but a new product.

          • Ambiguity says:
            And if you think that it’s possible to improve Roquefort, you’re just insane.

            Once you try the cat-butt Roquefort, you’ll change your tune!

          • teapot says:

            I entirely agree  (except in the case of champagne, where champagne had become the widely-accepted English noun for ‘sparkling white wine’).

            The latest version of this is wagyu beef. Supposedly if you have Japanese cattle breeds you have walking Wagyu beef, but IMO it’s never going to be the same as the real deal from Japan.

        • The Chemist says:

          There’s copyright stupidity, and then there’s slapping “Made In The USA” on something shipped in from China.

          One of these things is not like the other.

    • bardfinn says:

      Upon a little reflection:
      Lands: taken.
      Autonomy: taken.
      Language: pretty much taken.
      Lifestyle: taken.

      Plus there’s a law protecting their culture from appropriation.

      • Brainspore says:

        Don’t forget all those offensive sports team mascots and multimillion dollar weapon systems wielded by the same military that conducted genocide against the people they are now named after. Apache helicopters and Tomahawk cruise missiles away!

    • Warren_Terra says:

      It’s one thing to play with another’s art style. It’s another thing to take their name. In the first instance, you’re learning from them; in the second, you’re claiming ownership of their identity.

      • Arclight says:

        That’s pretty much the only thing I see a problem with, here. So long as you’re not trying to pass your stuff off as actual Navajo stuff, I don’t see that you’re doing anything wrong.

      • C.J. Hayes says:

        I would argue the opposite: that commercializing the art style and branding it something else is the way to take their identity.  Would you say your name is the best way to identify you?  Even legally that’s not true.  And if some guy went around to your friends and family calling himself by your name, they’d know it was bullshit.  But if a version of you went around doing whatever, people might get confused.

  3. Gnou says:

    “Navajo” prints started long before Urban Outfitters, but for some reason they have to take the blame for all unimaginative designers. They just used the term everybody else has using to describe native-inspired designs - other parts of the world call the same designs “Aztec,” hopefully someone will catch to “the rest of the world” in the next 50 years… You know, before it gets out of fashion again.

  4. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Politics aside, who would wear that if they weren’t being paid to model it?

  5. ciacontra says:

    Or just do it right.  Seattle’s clothing manufacturer Filson sells hand-knit Cowichan sweaters, knit by the Salish up in BC.  http://www.filson.com/products/cowichan-sweater.11023.html?fromCat=true&fvalsProduct=mens/sweaters&fmetaProduct=1011

    • Mac says:

      Right on. Why do we have to buy from Urban and Forever 21 when there are Native designers created amazing pieces? Take a look at Native designers such as http://shoshoesquiro.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/martinicouture.darylene. 

      Also look at how http://nativex.com/index.php works with Native artist and designers. 

      • penguinchris says:

        Well… we don’t “have to” buy from UO and Forever 21, but this kind of thing isn’t really accessible to most people except from such places.

        I checked all three of your links… only the last one has products you can actually buy, and none of them are clothing (there is some quite nice stuff there, though, which is tempting me). And it’s not cheap disposable fashion, either, like Forever 21 is (UO is not cheap – I only shop in the clearance section there – but the quality is much better, though not top-notch).

        And… I saw the mentioned Navajo-inspired hipster panties at a UO store, and they were fantasy-inducing sexy/cute (they are a little less inspiring seen on a model, but I really like the design, as well as the one with foxes on it). You won’t find that from “authentic” Native products.

        • Mac says:

          http://nativex.com/ sells tees, bags, and accessories all of which showcase Native designs with proceeds going back to the designers. It is a side project of mine.
          And yes, you are correct, we don’t ‘have to’ buy UO or Forever 21, but they are the businesses converting on the ‘tribal’ trend and unfortunately they don’t work with Native designers to showcase authentic design.

      • C W says:

        “Why do we have to buy from Urban and Forever 21 when there are Native designers created amazing pieces”

        Urban/Forever 21 make cheap knockoffs, it’s what they’re known for.

        • Mac says:

          Price is what rules in the current market and that’s why UO and the Forever 21s of the world have fared quite well.  But its nice to see some consumers shift to purchase socially responsible products. Products with a story.

  6. sam1148 says:

    Looks more of a throw back to 60′s, 70′s fashion. Even the photo looks styled like early 70′s right down to the wood paneling. “Western Wear” was pretty popular in the 70′s with specialty shops that sold things much like this, beaded purses, turquoise jewlery, etc..etc.
    I can see why the tribe wants to protect their name for their products, but the ‘look/feel’ of native American styling in fashion is old news.
    “Is that a real poncho or a Sears Poncho?”

    (Edit: The redhead looks like the girl from “That 70′s Show”)

  7. Reed 1GM says:

    How do hipsters feel about this nonsense? I would bet the market for this stuff is probably the tragically unhip 16 year olds who can’t buy cigarettes or PBR, and whose boyfriends can’t grow mustaches.

  8. toxonix says:

    Those patterns are copies of Pendleton’s originals. Pendleton Woolen Mills is still in business, and makes everything in the USA:
    http://www.pendleton-usa.com/custserv/custserv.jsp?pageName=CompanyFactSheet&parentName=AboutUs

    See also “Indian Trade Blanket”
    http://www.pendleton-usa.com/custserv/custserv.jsp?pageName=IndianTrading&parentName=Heritage

    Pendleton wasn’t really about exploiting the Native Americans for the sake of fashion, but it did sell the tribes blankets based on the ‘traditional fashion’ or traditional patterns of those tribes. Anyhow, very high quality stuff, made in the USA, very desirable regardless of what the hipsters are wearing these days. I see no problem with Americans wearing American inspired designs, but let them be made in America, rather than imported cheaply at exploitative prices.
    (The red-head model on the left can call me anytime. She’s a fox!)

  9. Layne says:

    And to be completely fair, they should be shipped with plague *included* for anyone wanting to truly  commemorate the Native American experience. 

  10. hypersomniac says:

    exploitative

  11. Navin_Johnson says:

    “Navajo & Lace Hipster” panties.

    No “Jew & Lace Hipster” panties? or “African-American & Lace Hipster” panties?

    Aw right, that’d be pretty f-ed up..   Hey, we named some hipster panties after your people, culture, and identitiy haw haw…….

  12. Brainspore says:

    Nava-faux.

  13. joe k. says:

    I know a few Navajo Hipsters and not sure they would wear those panties.

    Anyhow, I’ve got a Jewish/Filipino friend who crafts and sells Native American flutes. I’m trying to convince him to call them Tribal flutes, inspired by Native American designs, cause well, he’s breaking the law (yeah right and telemarketers obey the do not call list).

    On a side note, I’m part Native American and part white, but because I was circumcised as a baby, I want to become a Jew — cause I mean, Jews are awesome! But they’re all no, that’s a SPECIAL club. I’m all, my people went through a holocaust, too! And they’re all no, it’s really a SPECIAL SPECIAL club which you can’t join. I dropped it because I didn’t want to engage in cultural inappropriation.

    Some day we’ll be paying extra money to get stuff that was crafted by white people instead of the Chinese. It’s a small world.

    • Guest says:

      You can become Jewish if you want to. Most US Jewish communities are very supportive of people who want to convert, or who even just show interest in the Jewish religion/culture. I have a hard time thinking of what would be regarded as cultural appropriation in that case.

      • jackbird says:

        Traditionally, prospective converts to Judaism are supposed to be told ‘no’ the first two times they tell a rabbi they want to convert – only someone who wants it badly enough to ask three times has the proper dedication. 

    • Warren_Terra says:

      Your friend could also just say that they’re the flutes he made, sell them under his own name, and explain the influences on their design. He doesn’t have to use various paraphrases for “Indigenous North American”, nor does he have to appropriate some tribe or nation’s name (to be clear: I’m not saying he ever would, I’m referring back to Urban Outfitters).

      Another option, if he’s very serious, would be to seek adoption into a tribe. I’m from the Pacific Northwest, where the native peoples have extremely advanced art styles. These styles were suppressed in the mid-twentieth century, but over the last several decades have become highly popular and commercially very successful. Many people who have no Native American heritage or have irrelevant Native American heritage (from a completely different part of the continent, for example) are very serious students and practitioners of these artistic styles, and some of them have followed through on their interest by seeking and obtaining adoption into the tribe whose artistic style has most influenced them, adding an additional level of authenticity to their use of the style and enabling them to label their work accordingly.

      • C W says:

        “Another option, if he’s very serious, would be to seek adoption into a tribe. ”

        Eeeeh. That’s going into http://www.amazon.com/Going-Native-Naive-Shamanism-Neo-Noble/dp/0761824952 territory.

  14. Guest says:

    I think it’s exploitative to market these kinds of products under tribe names like “Navajo”, but I don’t think anyone can claim “ownership” of cultural elements based on something like race or nation. Just look at the culture we regard as “Western” today – so much of what we regard as trivially mainstream came from other cultures (and that’s okay!). For example:

    - Van Gogh and the Expressionists were hugely inspired by Japanese art.
    - Blacks were oppressed by Americans and Europeans, but music inspired by African culture (ie Jazz) is part of mainstream culture.
    - Jews were an oppressed minority in the Christian and Muslim world for centuries, but huge parts of Western and Muslim culture were lifted wholesale from Jewish literature and religion. (I’m Jewish, but I wouldn’t get offended if someone not Jewish quoted the Old Testament in a book, or on a t-shirt.)

    Also, it goes both ways. Culture in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world draws heavily from Western culture. Look at local fashion or pop music in Japan or Korea, for example. It would be wrong and absurd to tell a Korean pop group not to sing Western-style pop music because they themselves aren’t Western in race or culture.

    So as long as these patterns are treated respectfully (like Native-American inspired geometric patterns used as a motif in clothing), I personally don’t see a problem. On the other hand, something like a “[Navajo/Jew/Black] hipster [panties/scarf/etc]” is ALWAYS going to be offensive.

    (I haven’t lived in the US since I was a child, so I may not be aware of how this issue plays out there. If anyone can explain differently to me, I would like to hear it.)

    • Brainspore says:

      Van Gogh and the Expressionists were hugely inspired by Japanese art.

      But how many of those Expressionist paintings might have been mistaken for Japanese art, let alone marketed as such?

      • Guest says:

        This is a Van Gogh: http://jaybot7.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Van_Gogh_the_blooming_plumtree_after_Hiroshige_1887.jpg

        Marketing products in a deceptive way, that would imply that they were authentic Native American art, is wrong – I totally agree. But using beautiful Native-American-inspired geometric patterns doesn’t seem wrong to me. (Edit: but to clarify, I do think they should be used in respectful ways. And if it’s a line by a major chain, I would probably feel uncomfortable buying Native-American-style products if they weren’t produced in some sort of coordination with the tribe in question or with Native American artists.)

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      Also, it goes both ways. Culture in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world draws heavily from Western culture. Look at local fashion or pop music in Japan or Korea, for example. It would be wrong and absurd to tell a Korean pop group not to sing Western-style pop music because they themselves aren’t Western in race or culture.

      All places that have been the victims of war and colonialism at Western hands.  Just sayin’.

      • Guest says:

        Why look at only the past couple hundred years? If you go back far enough, you’ll find examples of war and colonization all across the board. Where do you draw the line?

        In my opinion, culture isn’t something that should be limited by hatred and old nationalistic grudges. (And I say that as someone whose nation still holds grudges against the Roman Empire, the Greeks and the Church, to name just a few.)

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          I’m just saying that it’s been a factor.  Some would even argue that Western culture is practically forced on those people.

          Where do you draw the line?

          I don’t follow, Native Americans are alive now in the U.S. and many are marginalized.  That’s kind of why this kind of thing is so dumb, people parading around coming off like d-bags as if the people who’s culture they’re appropriating don’t even exist anymore. You don’t need to go back in time.

          • Brainspore says:

            Native Americans are alive now in the U.S. and many are marginalized.

            The “marginalized” part is really important. Considering how high the unemployment rate is on many reservations, would it have killed Urban Outfitters to cut some kind of deal where actual Navajo people would be making the clothing?

          • Guest says:

            In the past, it may have been forced on them. But to say it’s still forced on them in the present is a little patronizing. They choose their own culture, and it just so happens that many of them choose Western-style pop bands, for example.

            You can also state the fact that many east-Asian countries are marginalized in the world economy, and that many of their citizens live in extreme poverty. But I’m not aware of any controversy over paisley clothing (edit: to give one example out of many).

            I am against marginalization of Native Americans in US society. But banning sale of a certain type of geometric pattern isn’t going to fix that. In general I think Native American communities should be given a lot more support and visibility, and I’d hope that anyone who would buy these products with knowledge of their cultural origin would put their vote toward that. (Just like I think ANY decent person should put their vote toward supporting equal opportunity, economic or otherwise, for all in the US.)

            I definitely think you have a point. But I also think banning cultural elements isn’t the way to go.

          • C W says:

            “would it have killed Urban Outfitters to cut some kind of deal where actualNavajo people would be making the clothing?”

            UO steals designs from American designers on the reg, they have no desire to pay people for NEW concepts, let alone traditional ones.

        • Steve Pan says:

          Hahah, the standard “where do you draw the line argument” from racists. Turns out the genocide wasn’t 100% effective and American Indians are still alive and still struggling, much like the descendants of the people brought over as slaves etc. Nobody in Europe gets mad at Italians for conquering them because that was so long ago and they have more important petty hatreds on their minds. Meanwhile American Indians alive today get to see their cultural identity be used for sports mascots.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          In the past, it may have been forced on them. But to say it’s still forced on them in the present is a little patronizing.

          Some people might argue that there’s still an element of that.  That said, I’m pointing out that it’s an important aspect that’s hard to ignore, that’s all.  There’s an aspect of cultural imperialism/dominance that can’t be completely dismissed.

          I definitely think you have a point. But I also think banning cultural elements isn’t the way to go.

          I’m not for banning “elements”, but that doesn’t mean that “playing Indian” isn’t offensive and shameful.  The more that non-native folks appropriate and bungle Native American culture, the more that bastardization becomes a representation of Native Americans. 

          • Guest says:

            Claiming someone else’s cultural identity – especially without real respect for that culture is offensive – I agree.

            All culture is “bastardized” to a certain extent, however. Even these patterns were influenced by native South American culture, and by Oriental designs. I think that elements from Native American culture can be incorporated into Western culture (like so many other cultural elements have been in the past, and vice versa) without it taking anything away from the original culture. I don’t think that using a particular geometric pattern is *necessarily* falsely claiming an entire cultural identity, and I think it can be done in respectful ways.

            I think if anything it would be better to focus on positive action instead, and strengthen the portrayal of Native Americans in US culture and media. For example, more funding and exposure for Native American artists, or a clothing line (and other kinds of projects) done in partnership with one or more tribes. Prominent and positive portrayal of Native American culture and characters in popular media. More cultural awareness in schools. Getting funding for community centers in Native American communities to help preserve their culture.

            Also, we should keep in mind that Native Americans are part of the general US population too. They also buy clothing from these stores. I think there would be something wrong with NOT including their cultural elements in American culture. (I mean, if I walked into a major chain that sold Christmas t-shirts but no Hannukka t-shirts, I’d personally feel alienated.) Though obviously this should be done respectfully and in consultation with them.

          • C W says:

            “Also, we should keep in mind that Native Americans are part of the general US population too. They also buy clothing from these stores. I think there would be something wrong with NOT including their cultural elements in American culture”

            That’s an incredibly weak argument against their concerns.

          • C.J. Hayes says:

            @ Cate Pedersen

            That’s all very ideal, but to say that all culture is bastardized to an extent is also not a good reason.  You could argue that we also borrow from the Aztecs and Incas.  Yes, we borrow from all kinds of other cultures and it was a bastardization.  But it started with respect.  Not only is this not done with respect, but we’re taking from a culture that still exists here.  Yes, as part of the U.S. essentially, but one that’s still trying to maintain as much of their tradition and unique culture as they can.

            Products influenced by their culture *can* be produced respectfully, but hopefully by them and with their consent.  At least that would make it more difficult to be mass produced.  It would also create a more expensive product that not everyone could afford.  In fact, I’m sure that happens.  What we hadn’t seen much of before this was mass production by a company known for highly marked-up products aimed at people with no or little respect for culture.

            And because of the way the law is, it’s going to be pretty easy to mass produce Native American articles without any legal backlash.  All they’ll have to do is change the name, call it anything else.  And everyone will see it and know what it is until it’s fully integrated into our culture, and then it’s just another piece of clothing.

          • Guest says:

            C.J. Hayes

            That’s… pretty much exactly what I said. I completely agree that the Urban Outfitters line was tasteless (and illegal). And I said these products should be produced with respect, preferably in consultation with the tribe in question.

            These products are going to be made anyway. The question is whether it they’ll be marketed under a generic name with no profits going to the tribes, or whether they’ll be produced in consultation with the tribes, with native designers, under the tribe name with a percent of the profits going to the tribe. I think it’s pretty clear which one is preferable.

          • C W says:

            “These products are going to be made anyway.”

            So your argument is “i’m in the wrong, but shit happens”?

            What a weak and defeatist line of reasoning. People are complaining for good reasons, telling them they should stop complaining because life is horrible is many times more useless and lazy than their expression of disgust.

          • Guest says:

            @google-4b3c8a17ed014a95db54ba5b738648c0:disqus Love how you’re apparently replying to imaginary posts that I never actually made. Try addressing my actual points instead of attacking people based on straw-man arguments.

    • David Pescovitz says:

      There’s a Seinfeld episode where Dr. Whatley, the dentist, converts to Judaism for the jokes. That offends Jerry, who is then accused of being an anti-dentite. Ummm… It’s funnier when they do it. 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ythrdCsOFJU

  15. joe k. says:

    Also this: http://www.utne.com/mind-body/Germans-weekends-Native-Americans-Indian-Culture.aspx

    I’ve met some Germans who feel they have a better respect for and greater right to engage in Native American culture than actual Native people, who to them seem lazy and uninterested in their own cultures, without any acknowledgement that many native people are too busy trying to eek out a life in reservation poverty.

  16. Ninstints says:

    It’s a fine line between appreciation and theft, or preservation and theft. When the UBC museum of Anthropology removed totem poles from Haida islands is that preservation or desecration?

    http://bringmeoneofeverything.com/trailer

  17. Freddie Freelance says:

    All I can think of is to riff on The Addams Family Movie: “Are they made from REAL Navajos?”

  18. philipbarrett says:

    Apparently Southwest Airlines pays the Zia for the right to use their insignia on Southwest’s 737s.  Nice gesture since most businesses large & small just appropriate it.

  19. jimh says:

    My first thought was “godawful”.

    Then I went to lunch in Hayes Valley (SF) and saw two people wearing sweaters with similar designs. They were not walking together. One was a 20′s male with ironic facial hair. It doesn’t make me want one, but I guess…
    hipness achieved.

    I get that the Navajo object to the use of their name. Totally get that.

    But with the name removed, isn’t there now going to be an increased demand for the real McCoy? Hipsters seem somewhat interested in quality and authenticity. I know it’s not *all* about money, but is this not sort of good news for makers of original Native American goods?

    • C W says:

      “But with the name removed, isn’t there now going to be an increased demand for the real McCoy?”

      That doesn’t necessarily follow, but “we’re not getting enough money” isn’t all of the issues with appropriation to begin with.

  20. Charlie B says:

    Navaho Hipster Panties would be a great name for a band.

    But I guess we’re all much too politically correct for that.

  21. Aloisius says:

    So let me get this straight. Pendleton, a Portland company, has been making “native” designs on blankets for over a hundred years. The company has traditionally sold these blankets to Native Americans, so much so that the designs, many of which were created by Pendleton, are considered to be authentically Native American. Now Pendleton is licensing out their designs to companies like Urban Outfitters for non-Natives to wear and Natives feel like they’re ripping off their culture… which was created by Pendleton.

    I’m not exactly sure how to feel about this. The Navajo have a right to protect their name. It isn’t all that far from a simple trademark and labeling things as Navajo is clearly violating their rights (yes, they get special rights in this situation… but they could have easily just filed for a trademark to get the same rights).

    On the flip side, Pendleton seems to have created most of these designs over the last hundred years and appropriation of a culture for use in fashion is hardly new. The Navajo and other tribes have themselves engaged in it. I don’t see how you can stop it.

    • Mac says:

      Pendleton doesn’t license designs to UO, but they do sell native-inspired clothing.

      UO and the fast fashion brands have no authentic connection to Native American culture or tradition for the most part whereas Pendleton has been working with Natives for 100 years.

      • penguinchris says:

        UO does sell several authentic Pendleton products in their stores, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine Pendleton may have some involvement in the designs used on the clothing (I have no idea myself).

    • C W says:

      “their culture… which was created by Pendleton.”

      A wholly false premise. The designs were manufactured to the tribe’s specification, and now Pendleton has decided to sublicense the tribe’s long-standing cultural designs.

      • Mac says:

        Pendleton does not ‘sublicense’ native designs to UO. They do however make Native-inspired clothing that UO buys and then sells in their stores. 
        UO, Ralph, and other fashion companies use Pendleton textiles as inspiration for their own Native-inspired designs. That is something Pendleton can’t control.

  22. sam1148 says:

    I”m waiting for the Dali Lama to send C/D orders for fractal art derivative of sand paintings. 

  23. Henry Pootel says:

    E__ A_ _OES

  24. jansob says:

    I see the problem calling it “Navajo”, suggesting that it’s somehow associated with the tribe. But have no problem with selling clothes with these designs (which, as is pointed out, are NOT sacred traditional designs, but long standing commercial ones).

    Everyone is inspired by what they see, and I think it’s ridiculous to object as long as people are not  CLAIMING authenticity. I’m wearing a tie that uses a traditional Japanese fabric pattern…am I guilty of some sort of exploitation of the culture of Japan? Am I insulting the culture because it’s not part of a hamaki or yukata?

    There really is a  point to be made about line-drawing, and it’s not racist to bring it up. Are “Celtic” designs ok? Batiks? Should white people avoid saris or dashikis or indeed any pattern or cloth from a culture not their own?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Should white people avoid saris or dashikis or indeed any pattern or cloth from a culture not their own?

      But your sari was probably made in India or by Indians. That’s the difference. I want my keffiyeh to be made in Palestine on traditional looms, not in China. Or maybe I should say that I want a keffiyeh, not a festive Middle Eastern inspired scarf product.

      • sam1148 says:

        That’s a point about wanting a ‘designer’ product. Unless you’re speaking “tongue in cheek” here. 

        The markup for ‘native goods’ are probably the same for those ‘knock offs’ with little going to the actual producers. Australian art has the same problem with aborigines in ‘shops’ cranking out authentic artwork with more going to the middle men and suppliers than to the workers. (there are some exceptions to that I’ll admit, but that’s rare).

      • Guest says:

        But what about if someone wants to use paisley on a tie, celtic knotwork on a dress, Hebrew letters in a tattoo, or Scandinavian snowflake patterns on a sweater? The issue isn’t only physical objects, it’s also about the designs and patterns that are associated with specific cultures.

        • C W says:

          “But what about if someone wants to use paisley on a tie, celtic knotwork on a dress, Hebrew letters in a tattoo, or Scandinavian snowflake patterns on a sweater?”

          The context changes based on the prevalence of a culture, and how close it is to being wiped out, marginalized, or appropriated by the larger mainstream without showing any actual care for it.

      • jansob says:

        I haven’t noticed the same sensitivity to the Polynesian culture…a search for “Tiki” on BoingBoing will show that the actual religious icons of a badly exploited culture are fair game for PlayDoh figures, glow-in-the-dark alien dolls, bars, costumes, USB drives, plush toys…the list of “astonishing”, “cute”, “quirky”, “gorgeous” Tiki goods is endless. Not sure why that’s ok, but a “festive Middle Eastern inspired scarf product” is not.

        You might say that they are not likely to be mistaken for the real thing, but neither are these coats likely to be mistaken for traditional native garb (although they certainly should drop the Navajo name).

    • C W says:

      “Are “Celtic” designs ok? Batiks?”

      Generally less symbols of oppression worn by oppressors (depending on context).

      “Should white people avoid saris or dashikis or indeed any pattern or cloth from a culture not their own?”I’d say sometimes, yes! Certainly they should avoid any politically charged garb if they “don’t care about politics” and aren’t willing to take the slightest interest in world affairs.

      • jansob says:

        And I’m sure you’d be happy to decide who gets to wear what. Would licenses be required to own certain patterns? Or perhaps a sensitivity test to be taken at the registers before checkout (and upon failure being sent back to the blue jeans and golf shirt section). This kind of this kind of over sensitivity can get nutty real quick.

        • wygit says:

          Thank you.

        • C W says:

          “And I’m sure you’d be happy to decide who gets to wear what. ”

          I’m not, put the South Park DVDs down.

          I’m saying for all this raging over what you can say and wear is less important than whether it’s a good idea to appropriate culture without concern for context.

  25. Ambiguity says:

    Some might say that Rawnsley was simply inspired by the beauty of Native American arts and crafts, and he hoped to use his Jacquard skills to make beautiful blankets the tribespeople would love. And in that, he succeeded. Others might argue that this was an early and sly version of cultural thievery.

    Judging by the quote in the post, sounds like the former, if you ask me. After all, he was selling to the tribes, not using them as marketing collateral.

    As the great Bard Robyn Hitchcock says, “How can you respect me, if you can’t sell me something?”

  26. Richard says:

    I suppose everyone needs an ax to grind.

    I was recently in New Mexico where I saw the original painting of this Pendleton blanket design, done there by a young Pueblo artist for Pendleton:

    Three Corn Maidens Saddle Blanket
    http://www.pendleton-usa.com/product/Home-Blankets/Native-American-Inspired/AMERICAN-INDIAN-COLLEGE-FUND/THREE-CORN-MAIDENS-SADDLE-BLANKET/166221/sc/1787/c/1823/pc/1816.uts

    I am sure I don’t know the whole story, but I was told that they asked her to do it for them and they would produce a blanket of her design. It is too bad the writer couldn’t have included more about Pendleton’s American Indian College Fund and how it helps native people.

  27. Guest says:

    One of the commenters on the original article made a very good point: some part-blooded Native Americans don’t look like they are ethnically Native American, even though they are both by blood and by culture. (For example, her daughter has one Native American parent, but she appears to be Caucasian.)

    Even if you see a “white hipster” on the street wearing Native-American-style clothing, you can’t actually know whether or not they really are Native American.

    • C W says:

      “Even if you see a “white hipster” on the street wearing Native-American-style clothing, you can’t actually know whether or not they really are Native American.”

      Do you seriously think that Native Americans are just going to wear anything that “looks Native”? They’re going to wear items of their tribe, or made by/exclusively for their tribe. Your argument is implausible.

      • Guest says:

        “Native-American-style clothing” actually does include authentic Native American clothing/items. Seeing as said attire is (a) clothing; (b) in a Native-American style.

        Also, I’d be interested in hearing what makes you qualified to generalize for all the Native Americans in all the tribes in the US, what they would or would not wear. Seems to me like that would be up to the individual.

        Especially considering that in the article it’s actually mentioned that the Pendleton/Vans skateboarder shoes in Native American patterns were “a big hit with Native American communities”.

      • Charlie B says:

         Huh?  My daughter wears whatever she wants.  Are you suggesting there’s a tribal fashion guide that she’s supposed to follow?

        Your post reads extremely racist in my opinion.  I hope you were being ironic.  If not, eat my shorts.

  28. RufusTheGreat says:

    good. maybe now I can find a better quality dream-catcher, mine doesn’t seem to work.

  29. BunnyShank says:

    Oh. See I knew of a bunch of dirtbags in the 70′s that stole native american blankets from collections, and cut holes in the center of them to make pancho’s. I thought that was what UO was referencing.

  30. nihoan says:

    If your consumer ire isn’t stoked yet, you may have noticed Old Spice has a product line called “Fiji,” whose  tagline is “Smells like palm trees, sunshine, and freedom.” Last time I checked, the Fijian people are under control of a military dictatorship. Guess these details escaped the folks at Proctor & Gamble marketing. Hawked by a BoingBoing sidebar, no less.

    • wygit says:

      So nobody’s allowed to dream about tropical islands anymore without researching the political situation?
      It’s a dream, a fantasy, like (also popular here on BoingBoing) playing pirate.
      Playing pirate and saying “arrrrr” doesn’t mean you support the Somali kidnappers/murderers, it’s just a fantasy.

    • jansob says:

      Check out my Tiki comment above for another example of the Pacific cultures being fair game.

  31. Navajo is a tribe, not a brand.

  32. C W says:

    “I think I know something about cultural appropriation, thanks.”

    This is not analogous. Christianity is a syncretic expansion upon Judaism. This is treating symbology as knockoff fashion.

    If you were to speak of the Kaballah cult, sure. That might be similarly debased. But Christianity’s influence in western culture? Bullshit. Judaism is similarly syncretically “stolen” from the other cultures that formed the basis.

  33. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Reminder: Please stay a bit closer to the original topic of Native American cultural ‘property’.

Leave a Reply