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Jaque Fragua

Appropriate This!

Seven Native American artists confront stereotypes head-on

August 19, 2015, 12:00 am

hile most fashion and pop culture trends in the digital age are quick to die out, that of appropriating elements historically associated with Native American culture seems to be holding strong. From a blighted stab at an Indigenous Victoria's Secret angel to a bonneted Pharrell Williams on the cover of ELLE, Adam Sandler's latest attempt at comedy or basic girls at music festivals, compartmentalizing the 562 federally recognized Native tribes into one suede fringe-wearing, tomahawk-wielding and feather-topped stereotype has outstayed a welcome that was never extended.

"Non-Native people have been fascinated with 'the Native' since contact. I think one of the reasons has to do with the fact that, whenever we as a country feel threatened from outside forces, we look inward for strength, and we look at America and grab the thing that separates us from other countries—and that's the Indigenous people," Jessica R Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) told me in 2012. Three years prior, Metcalfe founded fashion and culture blog Beyond Buckskin.

"If we are a 'nation of immigrants,' which is false, because it completely excludes Native American people," she continued, "we can always call to the Indian—in movies, in fashion, in patriotic imagery—to make us unique. Kill the Indians, then copy them."

In the advent of the 94th annual Indian Market and the return of the fledgling Indigenous Fine Art Market, SFR reached out to a group of artists, established and emerging, and asked about their reality, inspiration and challenges. We chose to let their words speak for themselves and present this raw view into the minds of a group who not only have risen above clichés, but left them long in the dust. Behold, our spectacular seven.

—Enrique Limón


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