I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently which has been weighing heavily on my mind. I have gone back and forth in my head about whether I really wanted to write about this or not but here goes…
If you read wedding blogs often, you may have noticed a considerable amount of imagery cropping up these days of tepees, feathered headdresses and decor as well as fashion elements associated with Native American culture. I find this to be rather unsettling.
O.k. you say. So what’s the issue?
Well let’s start with a definition of cultural appropriation so you can understand a bit why this would be problematic. This is taken from ‘Feminish‘-
“Cultural appropriation is the adoption or the theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behaviour from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artefacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had”.
How does this apply here? By nature of their context within the industry and the audience being targeted, Native American cultural elements are reduced to mere romanticized images on the pages of these magazine blogs. Completely divorced from any historical awareness, feathered headdresses which are considered sacred by Native Americans are now the new tiara for the modern bride. Dreamcatchers – which came to be identified as a symbol of unity among Indian Nations- have been commercialized into ‘oh-so-chic’ (sarcasm here) ceremony backdrops. Tipis or teepees have been relegated to mere props for models to lounge around in as they stare idyllically into the camera and it goes on…
I, like many others, bought into this trend initially and I even pinned an image or two but in the pit of my stomach, something just felt wrong. If you are going to appreciate a culture, you don’t take their symbols at will and then completely twist their meanings to suit your needs.
Worst of all, is ignoring the privilege here. Native culture may be a fad for some but it is a reality that others live and when this trend fades into the next season, Native Americans as a group will be left standing, still facing the racial discrimination and insensitivity that comes from being a minority. There’s nothing romantic about that.
There’s so much more I would love to say on this but others have said it much better than I could ever hope to, so for further reading please check out the links below: