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Fashion Industries Playing ‘Indian’

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MOOR graphic by LESLIE HWANG
PAULA KIRYA
Staff Writer

The Native American community suffers from its history of distress. Many left in this population honor the traditions and rituals of their ancestors; thus seeing a Victoria’s Secret model sporting a traditional Native American headdress with revealing lingerie, or Urban Outfitters’ “Navajo” collection, featuring the “Navajo hipster panty,” is bound to cause offense.

A large portion of the Native American population still continues to venerate their culture’s practices as they would have years ago, so exploiting a traditional headdress could be just as offensive as depicting the Holy Cross or the Star of David in an explicit manner.

Native Americans are generally attached to their history and do not find their past as ancient as many contemporary Americans do. Due to the gradual reduction of their population, Native Americans do not have many remnants of their past; Pawnee artist Bunky Echo-Hawk is convinced that their cultural identity is “all [they] have left.” Designs representing Native Americans in a poor light taints their general image, especially since it is usually done without their consent. It somewhat lets society disregard or determine who they are.

Many Native Americans do not necessarily want to prohibit the depiction of their culture in the fashion industry, but want corporations to work with them when representing them in their work, as very few do. When companies like Nike or NATIVE(X) seek input from Native Americans, they are often welcomed with a sense of respect, showing that simple communication can go a long way.

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