Friday, 3 October 2014

My Culture Should Not Be Trademarked

Draft after draft comes out of me and it is as if I cannot get the words out without writing a novel. That would be good, of course, if it was a novel I was aiming to write and not quick informational pieces and responses to recent bigotry. Growing up as a Native American has been alright for me, but for many others it is terrible: met with racism, being pulled from your home by the government, poverty. The only things I have experienced that are even remotely close to that would be living as lower middle class and attending a school where I was the only Native American student. Literally. 0.01% was myself and my neighbor, Amanda. When she left, it became 0% on all school letters that included demographics. When that happened it also seemed like the government didn't want to support Native American club or send benefits for Native students at my school (though technically students was just student - me.) One time. I got a letter saying I was federally recognized and could receive free books about Native Americans one time. But when I became that unlisted 0%, it was like I wasn't even there.

BELOW: In the infographic for my school's report card year 2012-2013, the 0.01% was bumped up to 1%. The following year, Native American was not a category at all. Despite my high test scores in English Language Arts, the category shows -- as not applicable.

Except for the time in my one of my History classes when we told the class our names and what ethnicity(ies) we were. "So do you like, dance around a fire?" someone asked me, and I was met with the horrible picture of a dancing Tiger Lily in my mind. No matter how many times I laugh it off the feeling of being at a loss for words, stammering, it does not go away. "Yeah, of course, we all do, right?" I threw back, rolling my eyes. But that was only to be met with "Are you really even an Indian?" and it kept going back and forth until the teacher moved on. He seemed genuinely interested, but being a History teacher that was expected.

Those who have asked me if I dance around a fire or if I go around barefoot like Pocahontas did not seem to mean any harm by their questions, but because they were so repetitive it made me sad; made me wonder. Why were those the questions they asked anyways? With the portrayal of Native characters the way they are, and the marketing of such characters, it is not hard to see why. Tiger Lily from Peter Pan? She was just supposed to dance and be lusted after by men; to be quiet and submissive instead of fighting back, waiting for Peter to save her. Pocahontas - though I personally love the film as opposed to other Disney classics - was extremely wrong in terms of stereotypes as well as being historically incorrect. Primary, secondary, college, and big league sports teams put the icing on the cake of offensive Native stereotypes. Which brings me to why I started this in the first place.

Sifting through social media tags to find writing on real cultural aspects of various tribes or just connect to other Native Americans always leads me to something like this:

"Soft Light" by nrprtm via Deviant Art

Though this photo is not as overly sexualized as often seen, it is still appropriation and an incorrect representation of tribal cultures. When the photographer posted this photo in 2011 she was met with a storm of people telling her about how it was wrong, racist, appropriative, and should be taken down. After saying she would fix it, she disabled the comments and captioned with a story about how she had not meant any offense - said caption has since been taken down, but the photo remains. Wearing a war bonnet or headdress is always something debated upon due to traditional reasoning for wearing or not wearing them. Companies and designers that create such head wear today usually have some sort of defense about how it is "cultural appreciation." 

A prime example of this is Novum Crafts, an "Indian Headdress" supplier online. They explain on their website that the crafts are by Indigenous Balinese artists. The headdresses "use real feathers and authentic leather," and are "authentic looking replicas." In a blog post titled "So, can I wear a native American headdress?" they talk about the cultural appreciation factor. The post even talks about sports teams, and  they say that the teams have chosen names or symblols in appreciation for characteristics like bravery, courage, valor, and honor. 

Well-known Washington Redskins owner Daniel 'Dan' Snyder often uses the same argument, as do other teams under fire. However, this argument is problematic itself. Those who use caricature versions of Native cultures all appear the same in terms of their perception of Natives: redface or other "war paint," feathers in the hair or a full headdress, lots of skin showing between ridiculous "animal skin" outfits. What do you get from such imaging? I sure don't see the cultural appreciation there. But why is the cultural appreciation argument wrong, you ask? Simple.

To say you are honoring Native American culture by using stereotyped versions of Native people is incorrect because it is singular. There isn't just one Native tribe, like this excuse often leads people to believe. As of 2013, there was over 500 federally recognized tribes and the numbers were growing. This means there is over 500 different cultures. Plural. Such a small difference between culture and cultures, one letter; but it is that one letter difference and blanket term that causes people to be depreciative of such cultures. 

Along with little to no knowledge of Native American groups, genocide is a term many people clearly do not have in their vocabulary range. All through school I never once heard that word in correlation with what was and is done to Native people. Genocide committed against those who were Jewish? Sure. Every year that was something I learned about. The largest genocide, though, was committed on our land. Millions upon millions of Native Americans were murdered. By continuing to stifle the history of genocide committed against Native Americans, our country continues to oppress us.

Failure to realize that we are still a marginalized people is also lack of willingness to learn in this current day and age. My personal experience shows that even those who are part of the crusade to be politically correct turn away from information regarding the continued oppression of Native people. With someone right in front of you saying "I am here, I am Native, and this offends me, check out Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry,"and giving information, how can one - in good conscious - say something along the lines of Native Americans don't care about offensive mascotry, stereotyped film characters, and other issues that we are against. How can one, with a Native American right in front of them disagreeing, throw out horrible stereotypes and jokes about alcoholism, suicide rates, and poverty while claiming that the actions of the majority do not contribute?

While it may be true that as a people we have loads of other issues to worry about than football teams and Disney films, one has to take a look at the bigger picture. All of the problems have to stem from a source, which means we must look to the root in order to fix all of the other problems. A good place to start would be with poverty: look at the patterns, habits, and lifestyles of those in poverty, try to fix those problems, go from there. There are many different approaches that can be taken to begin rebuilding our broken bridges, depending on a starting point. Like Jacqueline Keeler said, "we can multitask." If we cannot have an opinion and a say in who can benefit from watered-down imitations of our cultures how can we begin to give the world what we have?

This piece was edited by myself and Jasmine. It is an introduction to a series in which I will address many of the things that have been said to me in response to controversy over the Washington Redskins team.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Mercury Retrograde Survival Guide

This blog entry was taken from its original format at Evolve & Ascend - here - and drafted for refreshing in the future. The original post went up on 8 February 2014, but the information is still relevant and helpful! I hope you like what I've written, as this was my first piece with Evolve & Ascend and a lot of love went into writing it. What better theme for anything astrology than Sailor Moon? Hop into a nice bath like Sailor Mercury and get reading, because there is a lot more in store for you with this version!
“Hello again, Mercury Retrograde! It is not-so-nice to see you!” many say while balling up their fists in frustration as they are late for a job interview, miss a flight, or get snowed in the day of a big performance. “Can you just give me one day of peace? One amazingly beautiful day full of success and happiness with not one second of slight problem?” To which one is answered with another disaster.
While some experience this as a disheartening period where everything falls apart, many find solace in it as they are able to rejuvenate. This retrograde period is lasting 5th October to 25th October in Scorpio, though the effects can be felt for a few additional days on either end. Whilst searching different social medias on this Mercury Retrograde, I found that all too frequently people were becoming upset. Never fear! I have some things for helping you through this. 
“Mercury Retrograde: How To Survive for Dummies” coming right up! Okay, so definitely not dummies, but beings who are super sensitive to all this energy. If you are feeling like things are slowing in pace or coming to a stop, this is definitely the time to take a few moments for yourself. Think of these mishaps you are experiencing as a gift, not a curse. The lovely Lohla has even done an emergency Astreauxlogy report on The Pulp Zine that offers insight to all of the other Astro weather situations one may be experiencing right now, including Mercury Retrograde and what to expect. While the post is a little longer due to content I have found it quite helpful already, and it includes many details you may be wanting. Don't let length discourage you, though, as she has subheadings for each Astro weather situation!

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  • Health: Make sure to be eating normally and healthily so that you can be in great energy and not feel sick. (Or any sicker than you need to, depending on the effects this retrograde takes on you.) Personal tip – drink plenty of water to aid in any dizzy/airy effects your head may be feeling. Tea is always nice to have, especially if it has healing properties. There are plenty of online shops where you can buy specialty teas, create your own blends, or try blends others have created. The list below includes teas that you can get at a local cafĂ© or even at a store nearby.

  • Declutter: Not only is this good for your energy in general, but it will give you something to do as well as something easy to focus on. If there is not too much space being taken up, just rearrange some things for a new look! Pinterest is a really lovely place to look for inspiration. I personally have two boards that include room looks I am inspired by: cherie and xo. You might also find some inspiration in Georgia's Bedroom Files - such a clean and organized space, with a picture perfect look.
  • Electronics: Technology seems to be a big problem for everyone during this time. Areas in California have been on a flex alert and having power outages during the heat for a while already! Make sure to do a backup of any files you know you cannot stand to lose, just to be safe. Many electronic devices get a little wonky. You will also want to try to limit use for a period of time – too many devices at once could cause an energy problem with all of them. Oh, and if you are still having issues with your iOS8 device then perhaps try a simple approach to things: dial down the cellular use, check your email, and find a print book to relax with! There's no shame in that game.
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  • Confirmation: Have you booked a flight? Maybe an interview? Make sure to double check the information you were given. Since many are feeling off it is a possibility that you could have been misinformed the first time. Ask as many questions as you feel you need to. It is also good to think in terms of yourself and any risky decisions you may be making. “Better safe than sorry!”
  • Emotions: Keep them in check. I know there will be instances in which you feel like something is a personal attack, but chances are, it probably is not – and if it is, it is probably best left alone. Repeat to yourself this: “It is only the Mercury Retrograde. Everything is grand.” And so it shall be! If you are really feeling alone, try spending time with some friends that are also aware of Mercury Retrograde so that there will be a mutual understanding, or writing all your thoughts down.

  • Spending: You have probably already heard that it is not the best time to make big purchases, but I will give you some new tips. Think of things in terms of a month ago: would you have spent $300 on a new purse? No? Then it would probably be best that you sit the money aside and wait for November before doing so. If it is something absolutely necessary to your life – car, house, etc. – make sure you double check any paperwork, especially the fine print, and double check it again. Having a second set of eyes help would not hurt, either. This does not mean you cannot get nice things or search for them. As I previously mentioned, I have been on Pinterest - and eBay thanks to the anticipation of a gift card from Influenster. Just play the waiting game with mass amounts or many little amounts.
  • Nostalgia: This is the perfect time to reminisce. Take out those old mixtapes, scrapbooks, and letters from middle school locker buddies! Go out for coffee with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, or to mend things with one you may have had a falling out with. This is the time to forgive and forget. It is also a good time to finish any old projects you may have left to fall through the cracks.

  • Love: This bit is brand new, of course, because in the middle of vamping it up I received a DM from The Indie Chicks telling me that I am amazing and capable of getting everything I've dreamed of. With the stress I'm feeling over my Go Fund Me campaign - or lack there of, thanks to this retrograde - it was a nice reminder. Tell people nice things! Go on tumblr and send cute anonymous asks, message random followers sweet things if they seem down, compliment strangers! Just because retrograde might be hard doesn't stop you from being capable of spreading good vibes.
  • Create: Have you been thinking of starting a new project? Maybe working on a new canvas since you have finished all your old projects? This could be the time. Though you do not want to invest too deeply in some things where money is concerned, taking the time to plan out something new won’t hurt. Of course if you have the supplies for small things already, why not give that a go? The Pulp Zine has some really cool DIY tutorials for various things, complete with photos that show you step by step. I really like the dip dye nail tutorial Gabriel did, and the DIY fruit ice cubes one by Mariah - yummy!
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  • Relax: A day should not pass where your mind becomes so clouded that you do not take out a few moments for yourself. In all the stress of the retrograde, especially, now is the time to relax. Take a nice, hot bath as you sip a cup of Earl Grey; stretch and do some yoga or go for a light jog; read under a tree. Do something to be at peace with yourself and the things around you, even if for a short moment.
  • Journal: Yes. That is all. Journaling is a good way to get your thoughts out. Whether you understand them or not, journal. When the retrograde passes you can look back at what you have written and find that you understand it. Also take a look back at old journals. There may be new meaning that you happen upon. If you don't have any words for things that are going on, try art journaling, photo journaling, or even dream journaling. There are endless ways to journal, and none of them are wrong.
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  • Learn: Feel an unusual push/pull that almost went unnoticed? Do not ignore it, for it may be something that the universe wants you to notice. Just make sure that what you do notice is in accordance with the other things from this list, as you still want to be mindful of what is around you. You can also take this as a tip to do some research into something you may not know about! Before Mercury actually went direct, I did some shopping for books about my tribe - Choctaw Nation - as well as general writing by Native Americans about our issues. Other than the recent controversy about the Redskins, people don't really have knowledge unless they are involved. Perhaps check out Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry if you are at a loss for what to do with your time~ EONM is an organization I really admire.
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Since self-care is really the key during Mercury Retrograde (or at least in my opinion,) I've compiled some cute things from other Pulp Babes that you can take a look at or read while you relax. All of these pieces are from the self-care section or relating to one of the above listed things.

Take Care - a comic by Molly, a reminder
The Legal (And Healthy) Miracle Herb by Lucy, some health
Comfort: A Click Away by Myself, some electronic health
On Being a Lone Wolf by Myself, some emotions
My First Skin-Baring Photoshoot by Georgia, some nostalgia
Hotlines & Resources for Those in Need by Candy, some love
Once Upon A Dream - a photoshoot by Jessi Jae Joplin, some creation
For When You Need a Pick Me Up by Kiki, some journaling
The Trans Asterisk and Why We Need To Stop Using It by Gabriel, some learning

The list may have looked long, but be assured that it will help ease the stress that is felt during Mercury Retrograde. Go ahead and tweet/DM @cosmicdear for more chat on the Mercury Retrograde or just if you need someone to be a listening ear. If you do not have twitter or would my other contacts, please feel free to email me:

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Happy retrograde!