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Here at True Sioux Hope Foundation, our mission is to bring permanent and positive change to the Lakota Sioux Tribe living on Pine Ridge Reservation. For us to continue to make an impactful change, we must also work to raise cultural awareness and educate the nation about not only the Lakota Sioux Tribe or Pine Ridge Reservation, but also Native Americans as a whole.

As defined by Nadra Kareem Nittle, a race relations expert, cultural appropriation is when one culture exploits another culture with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience or traditions. Lately, we’ve seen several examples of Native American cultural appropriation, so in this post we will address not only examples, but also why these appropriations are offensive to Native Americans.

So, what are some of these appropriations? We’ve listed a few below:

  1. Dressing up as a Native American We touched on this topic late last year in our “We’re a Culture, Not A Costume” blog, which you can reference here. “Dressing up” as a Native American, or wearing traditional Native American clothing as a costume, portrays Native American culture in an offensive, shallow and untrue representation. The rising popularity of music festivals has brought a lot of inaccurate portrayals of Native American clothing. If you have doubts, just reference this popular brand’s, “Festival Shop,” which includes feather hair extensions, beaded cuffs and a Native American headdress. These items should not be seen as fashion accessories but as ceremonial items from Native American’s rich history and culture. Remember – Native American Indians represent a culture, not a costume!

  2. Native American mascots and logos You may have seen it in the news recently, but a Utah high school drill team received backlash for its cultural insensitivity to Native Americans in a recent dance routine. A member of the Paiute Tribe witnessed the dance and said, “It wasn't an honor for them to do that performance. It was disrespectful.” She believes stereotypes like this will continue at the school unless they decide to change their mascot, which is currently the “Redmen”. This is the case for many Native American mascots and logos across the country. Yes, Native Americans understand that the name might be a tradition to the particular school, sports team, etc., but non-Native Americans must also understand that these names, logos and mascots are offensive to Native American tradition.

  3. Inaccurate characterizations of Native Americans One hot topic we’ve seen on the internet and social media lately is the introduction of one of J.K. Rowlings latest stories on Pottermore. Dr. Adrienne Keene, a Native Appropriations blogger, responded with: “[Native Americans are] not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world.” This is a great example of inaccurate characterizations of Native Americans. Oftentimes, non-Native Americans are uneducated about the true facts of Native American history. It is these characterizations that continue to perpetuate the misunderstanding of who Native Americans.

By educating ourselves and stopping the use of Native American cultural appropriations, we can begin to move forward and enact change for cultural misinterpretation. To learn more about the history of the Lakota Sioux Tribe on Pine Ridge Reservation, please visit our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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