By Kirsten Shaw
Native Americans: who are these people and what do you know about them? Some believe that Natives are savages and don’t have feelings. Many people think that they are “Redskins” or that they once helped the pilgrims out. Some think Natives are just a trend (how about we start trending #NativesAreCool?) – so cool that we as a race are going to just let others borrow our culture and turn it into a fashion statement.
To back me up on this, I can speak out for teens everywhere when I say that we have our idols and inspirations. I for one, like One Direction. After noticing on social media that Harry Styles, a member of the band, was caught wearing a headdress in a western shop, it tore me apart. I read some of the stuff underneath his post, I started to scroll through the fans comments, especially noting the Native American ones. Seeing Native American fans being torn apart as well was the hardest. I too was upset, seeing someone that I love become someone so insensitive was terrible, One Direction was too caring and kind to hurt fans like that. The question was did they even know that we, Native American fans, existed? I was way too worried to find out.
But it wasn’t only Harry that was making the headlines. The photo snapped of Khloe Kardashian wearing a headdress during a photo-shoot was obviously done by choice, her choice. Fashion is big everywhere. We have Victoria Secrets Fashion Show, red carpet events to award shows, The MET Ball, Fashion Week along with a string of many more fashionable events. Most people see the headdress as a statement piece. Lots of people say that its beautiful. Just like a little girl wears a crown that sparkles, most people wear a headdress because they see it as a symbol of nature, of peace and nirvana of sorts.
Joey Maalouf, a beauty expert, who was featured in an episode of ‘We Spy Style’ on POPSUGAR’S YouTube channel thought otherwise. They were debating on whether or not Native American headdresses in popular culture and in the fashion world is okay or if it’s racist. Each were given a red and a green flag, the red being ‘This is not ok and it’s clearly racist’ and Green being ‘It’s okay, they are paying homage to Native Culture, and its beauty.’ Joey held up the green flag and stated his opinion by saying “I think people sometimes wear things like this headdress, and may not understand the context behind it but they think its such a beautiful accessory, and I know for a fact all of these people are wearing it, because they think its beautiful. So why not celebrate what they’re doing instead of making them sound like they’re racist?”
I get his point, I can see that these famous people might just be a bit envious of our culture and not have a clue what the war bonnet stands for. On the other hand, I think that the more sensible thing to do is to celebrate life and pay homage to us by coming to our powwows, seeing our events, supporting our causes and seeing what happens on the reservation. The way youth have to walk to school on dusty dirt roads and how most Native teens ‘if lucky’ will graduate. The labor some Natives go through just so they can provide food on the table is unsettling. Deadbeat dads are common and sometimes moms quit because they don’t have a significant other to help them with things that men would have an easier time doing, house repairs etc. I look at headdresses as a sacred thing. I don’t look at them as an accessory and I don’t see them as something you would see a model wear down the runway.
Let’s go back to The Victoria Secrets Fashion Show incident. A funny observation is that in history Native Americans only let males, preferably male chiefs wear the war bonnet. Never in the history of Native culture did women get to wear or were seen wearing this ceremonial piece. To see woman wearing it at festivals and other events is wrong because its not traditionally what women wore. Even the woman who wear feathers on a headband are just pathetic. This is when a light begins to appear.
A music festival in Canada called ‘Bass Coast’ banned many of its patrons from showing up in headdresses. Anyone that did would be called out on it and would have to remove it immediately but wouldn’t be banned from the festival. Ellie Goulding, a popular singer and Perrie Edwards from the chart topping British girl group “Little Mix” are a few examples of women that young girls look up to. I’m sure that many Native parents would make their girls stop buying or investing their time into these artists because of their carelessness and racism towards their culture. This would not only have a decline on the artists sales but also they would lose a pretty hefty chunk of their fan base. These fans might also stop showing up to their events. They could also rile up other fans, not necessarily natives, to end their participation in the fandom and to go to another one. Once perceived as racist, websites, social media, tv, award shows, stores and many other platforms would close their doors. Being seen helping out someone that is in the hot seat could be risky for their own careers.
You may ask, am I still going to love Harry Styles even for what he did back in 2013? I feel as though his actions were sickening and I will never forgive him for what he has done but for the fact that he deleted the picture manually shows his bravery and I commend him for being more aware of what’s really going on. Do I think this might happen again? Who knows. Many have their opinion and many think otherwise. I feel that they can do whatever they want but if they had common sense, most would change their minds. If we continue to just let celebrities and others get away with these things, people’s minds may never change.