A fashion show, sponsored by Victoria's Secret, has sparked a wave of objections in the Native American communities. In an article titled "Hey, Victoria's Secret: Cultural Appropriation Isn't Hot. It's Wrong," Chelsey Luger, a journalist originally from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, publicly scolded the retail chain for introducing a line inspired by African and Native American cultural dress.
It amazes me that with all the important Native-American issues: brutal policing and mass incarceration, reparations for land grabs and ethnic cleansing, educational policies, poverty, tribal sovereignty, mineral rights, etcetera, and the Native-American leaders are focusing so much energy on the "patent" rights to their former cultural dress. Is this some cynical version of "pick the battles you can win?" Jeez.
When this battle is won, what will actually be won for crying out loud. Do Native-Americans gain by preventing their culture from inspiring creative expression in other cultures? And going after the fashion industry? The fashion industry has an attention span of several weeks. They will be tired of this fashion sooner than Native Americans can organize against it.
My heritage is Irish. I constantly see mock-Irish culture, cuisine and clothing everywhere. Should I spend my time and energy to end it? Should I be small enough to feel undermined by it? Cultures are shared and constantly re-interpreted in other cultures and it has been this way throughout history. We share and "adapt" each other's cultural dress, lifestyle and cuisine. Would the Hispanic community gain by picketing Taco Bell for their mock-tacos or other Mexican restaurants that hand out mock-sombreros at birthday lunches?
Maybe it's time that Native American cultural leaders and journalists focus their attention on issues that actually make a difference in peoples lives and avoid the typical "window dressing" issues that tie up so much of our cultural narratives.