Hoop Appropriation

Pitzer College in California was the recent victim of cultural appropriation shaming.  A group of Latino students was responsible for graffiti painted on the wall of a campus dormitory that made it clear how they felt about what they felt was cultural appropriation.


The Latino students believe that hoop earrings are part of their heritage and as such, white students should not be wearing hoop earrings.  Ever.

I guess no one told these outraged students that hoops have been around for hundreds of years.  Even William Shakespeare wrote of hoops of steel in Act 1, Scene 3 of “Hamlet.”  I suppose the argument could be made that Shakespeare heard about hoops of steel from explorers to the New World upon their return to England if someone cares to make that argument.

Except that even with excluding Shakespeare from the discussion, there are going to be problems justifying how hoops – and most specifically hoop earrings – are the sole property of the Latino culture.

Hoop earrings are found in ancient Rome and ancient Greece.   The earliest archaeological evidence that exists when it comes to hoop earrings date back to Sumeria and 2500 B.C.

It’s doubtful that Sumerians traveled to this continent, saw hoop earrings on women over here, then journeyed back to Sumeria just so they could appropriate culture in the name of being fashionable.

NOTE 1:  According to archaeologists, Sumeria is the name given the historical region of southern Mesopotamia which is now modern-day southern Iraq.

NOTE 2:  Sumerians also were among the first to brew beer so technically speaking, brewers in Europe and North America might be guilty of cultural appropriation as well.

Native American Indians also had a sport with varying rules that incorporated a hoop.  A hoop three inches to a foot in diameter was rolled along the ground and players tried to knock it over with spears or arrows.  Points were scored by how the hoop fell when it was struck down.

And in many cultures, circles – or hoops – have been a part of their identity outside of the concept of jewelry.   You see, the sacred hoop (sometimes referred to as the circle of life) is something that many cultures have at the center of their teachings.

But more importantly, the world is one great big hoop.  So are the other planets.  These planets travel in hoops be they round or oval or elliptical.  The wind whirls about in hoop shapes.  Water drains in hoop shapes.  The seasons form a hoop as they move from one to the other and return to the beginning of the cycle — a never-ending hoop the cycles endlessly through the years.

In the end, hoops belong to us all whether it’s a matter of spirituality or a matter of fashion, don’t you think?

Elyse Bruce

 

SOURCES:

COLLEGE SAYS IT RECEIVED THREATS AFTER EARRINGS DISPUTE
http://www.kctv5.com/story/34789674/college-says-it-has-received-threats-after-earrings-dispute

EARRINGS
http://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-accessories/earrings

NINE THINGS YOU MAY  NOT KNOW ABOUT THE ANCIENT SUMERIANS
http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-ancient-sumerians

TREND IN FASHION: A HISTORY OF THE HOOP EARRING
http://www.finishtheoutfit.com/blog/hoop_earring/

Cultural Appropriation Cuts Both Ways

Last week, the focus was on cultural appropriation and society from the perspective of the majority raiding the non-material culture of minorities.  This week, the shoe is on the other foot as cultural appropriation isn’t a one way street.

The video from “The Midnight Special” from 1974 shows Redbone performing their hit song “Come And Get Your Love.”  It was a song that climbed the charts all the way to #5, and stayed on the charts long enough to be certified Gold (it sold over half a million copies) because it was catchy and fun.  The band members were Native American Indians, and the New York Smithsonian Institution accredited the group as being the first Native American Indian rock group to have an international hit.

https://youtu.be/Dj0drevGOgA

The song made its way back up the Billboard charts in 2014 when it was featured in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie.

https://youtu.be/x_jRQBGKPaA

The year after that, Netflix used the song as the intro theme for the cartoon series, “F is for Family.”

https://youtu.be/x9FocQK9L4Q

The song has legs obviously, with as much audience appeal forty years after its release as the day it first hit the airwaves.  But forty years later, there seems to be some cultural appropriation issues with the song.

Redbone’s song lyrics referenced Cajun and New Orleans culture but the founding brothers, Patrick and Lolly Vasquez-Vegas were a mix of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican heritage.  The band was known for playing rock music, R&B, blue-eyed soul, funk, and country as well as tribal music.  There’s no denying that R&B and blue-eyed soul are definitely not from any Native American Indian culture.  And funk, rock, and country music is associated with cultures other than Indigenous cultures.

But wait a minute!  Guitars – acoustic or electric — aren’t traditional Native American Indian instruments!

The first acoustic guitar as we know it was built in 1850 by Spanish guitarist and luthier Antonio de Torres Jurado (13 June 1817 – 19 November 1892), based on a design by note Spanish guitar maker Joséf Pagés (1740 – 1822) and Spanish luthier Josef Sebastián Benedid Díaz (10 February 1760 – 20 October 1836).  The guitar had a body that was now able to hold its own with an orchestra without being lost in the other instruments.  Europeans went wild for guitars!

Electric guitars had their humble beginnings at the heart of electromagnetic induction which was discovered by English scientist Michael Faraday (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) on August 29, 1831.

By 1919, magazine ads began to appear, offering devices that would amplify instruments, and then came American jazz, country, and blues guitarist and songwriter Lester William Polsfuss, better known as Les Paul (9 June 1915 – 12 August 2009) and American inventor Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender (10 August 1909 – 21 March 1991) who created the electric guitar as we know it today.

Now Les Paul’s ancestry is German thanks to both parents, and Leo Fender’s family is American going back to his great-great-great-great-grandparents.  That being said, the generation before that was from Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany) and Cumberland (England) and Bethnal Green, Stepney, County Middlesex (England).

The argument can be made that Redbone’s success was due in part to the cultural appropriation of guitars which are obviously part of the English, Spanish, and German cultures.

Some will argue that fiddles were instruments of the Inuit and the Apache however fiddles only appeared after Indigenous peoples had contact with Europeans so it would seem that this may be a case of cultural appropriation.  But even if it’s argued that fiddles are Indigenous instruments, they aren’t guitars, and they aren’t played the way guitars are played.  This means that guitars are definitely not Native American Indian instruments.

Since we know from last weeks’ essay that cultural appropriation happens when one culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, and more are used without permission of the culture from which it is taken, is it not fair to say that Native American Indians have also engaged in cultural appropriation?

And then there’s the Aboriginal rappers to consider.  Have they engaged in cultural appropriation?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Elyse Bruce

The Conflict of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the use of elements from one culture by members of a different culture.  According to law professors and psychologists, social scientists and politicians, cultural appropriation happens when one culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, and more are used without permission of the culture from which it is taken.  It’s especially hurtful when the culture being appropriated is one that’s been exploited or oppressed by the culture doing the appropriating.

In other words, cultural appropriation promotes the power imbalance of the ruling class over those who have been historically marginalized.

There are two kinds of culture:  Material culture and non-material culture.  Non-material culture is what’s meant when speaking about cultural appropriation since non-material culture deals specifically with intangibles.  Beliefs.  Traditions.  Values.

Of course, within material and non-material cultures are other constructs such as subculture (beliefs or behaviors that are contrary to the majority of the culture’s community) and counterculture (active rejection of aspects that are dominant in the culture’s community).  For the purposes of this essay, the focus is on mainstream non-material culture.

Now psychologists will tell you that culture and the people of a culture have a symbiotic relationship.  Each culture has its unique societal norms by which to live, and members of each culture live by shared expectations and rules that guide and determine their place in that culture.  To this end, people define and refine what their culture is, and culture defines and refines its people.

These days, there’s a lot being said about cultural appropriation.  Some of it is warranted such as the outcry against sports teams using names that are offensive to Indigenous peoples in the Americas.  But is it possible to create art without any cultural appropriation?

Was it cultural appropriation when the Bangles sang about walking like an Egyptian?

Was it cultural appropriation when Carl Douglas let us know that everyone was kung fu fighting?

Was it cultural appropriation when the Vapors thought they were turning Japanese?

Was it cultural appropriation when Steven Tyler and Aerosmith announced that dude looked like a lady?

How about when Toto decided to take on the entire continent of Africa?

This is where the waters are muddy.  If those songs and other art, literature, music, and more is cultural appropriation, where do we draw the line when it comes to enjoying past creative endeavors?  If we’re told to turn our backs on pop culture that draws on other cultures to exist, is it also time to boycott the classics whether it’s literature, art, or music?

Do we turn our backs on Béla Bartók’s Romanian Dances seeing he was from Hungary and not Romania?  Is it time to refuse to attend concerts where Brahm’s “Ballade Edward” is performed because it was based on a Scottish ballad and Johannes wasn’t Scottish?  How about Beethoven’s music based on Welsh, Irish, and Scottish folk songs?  After all Ludwig was German, was he not?

How about all those musicians who aren’t English but who have recorded “Scarborough Fair” or “Greensleeves?”   Should they be forced to make reparations for daring to sing something they obviously appropriated from another culture?

Should “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” be sung only by those of African-American heritage?  And next New Year’s Eve, should the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” only be sung only by those who can prove their Scottish ancestry?

Do we stop children and their grandparents from enjoying a rousing rendition of “Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?” if they haven’t an ounce of English blood anywhere in their background — or going back at least eight generations?

Where no offense is meant, is any harm done?  Some say yes while others say no.  But if we are to say harm is done, where does this leave the English language which is an amalgam of several languages?  Is it time to dismantle the language to create a language that English-language speakers can safely call their own that doesn’t steal from other languages and cultures?

There’s no easy solution, and this is why we need to speak openly about what is, and is not, harmful cultural appropriation.  Certainly there are ways to draw upon cultures that are not our own without causing insult and injury.  It begins with mutual respect, and this means both sides must be willing to hear each other out before jumping to conclusions.  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Elyse Bruce

Idle No More: Reverse Racism Recoil

In the U.S. the one-drop rule has been around since 1662. Back then, every individual had to be classified as either black or white.  Anyone with a black ancestor, regardless of how many generations one had to go back to find that black ancestor, was automatically disqualified from being white.

How this affected the way people were listed in the American census even into the 1940s — including those who were of Native American Indian descent — was that a great many Indigenous peoples found themselves listed as black with complete disregard for any other culture or heritage that were part of who they were.

Many mistakenly believe that the law has long since disappeared into the mist of days gone by, but not that long ago, the one-drop rule was used in a legal proceeding in Louisiana.  In 1985, a Louisiana court ruled that a woman could not identify herself as “white” on her passport because her great-great-great-great-grandmother was black.

But surely in the thirty years that have passed, no one subscribes to the one-drop rule anymore.  Or do they?

Research has proven that both whites and non-whites perceive biracial individuals as being members of the lower-status group of the two races.  In other words, if someone has an African-American parent and a white parent, the child is perceived as being African-American with no acknowledgement of the child’s white heritage.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about white privilege — what it is and what it isn’t.  In cases of biracial individuals, it would seem that white privilege is disregarded by those categorizing those of mixed heritage.

And in Canada, among some First Nations peoples, it would seem that not only is the one-drop rule applied to the Métis, but the white heritage is considered to be the lower-status, and there’s nothing the Métis can do about it.

Over on social media, there’s a nasty situation brewing — one that threatens the well-being of a young mother and her children.  Some Idle No More supporters are saying that her Hallowe’en costume was racist and that she appropriated Indigenous culture.

She’s Métis.  Her children are Treaty. For Hallowe’en, she dressed as a Native.
He’s white.  For Hallowe’en, he dressed as a cowboy.

This blog entry doesn’t address what they chose to wear. This blog entry addresses the nasty comments that have been made about her heritage and her right to claim her Indigenous culture.

In Daniels v  Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development), the Supreme Court of Canada determined that Métis, non-status Indians, and Inuit are equal to Treaty Indians in the eyes of the law.

This means we are considered full status as distinctive rights-bearing peoples, and our integral practices are entitled to constitutional protection under s. 35(1).

definition-per-cdn-government
In 1705 (50 years after the one-drop rule was established), the U.S. established blood quantum law for Native American Indians.  The law wasn’t applied across the U.S. until the Indian Reorganizations Act of 1934 (also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act) when the U.S. government insisted that only persons with a specific blood quantum could be recognized as Native American Indian so they would be eligible for financial and other benefits under the treaty agreements.

The Dawes Commission Enrollment Records referred to registered Indigenous peoples as “Indians by Blood” and between these two Acts, Native American Indians found themselves forced to abandon their claims to Indigenous heritage.

Native American Indians were registered in the census as black (if they had an African-American ancestor) or white (if they had a white ancestor and no African-American ancestor and were sufficiently light-skinned as to pass), causing them to lose part of their identity due to the Racial Integrity Act.  So did all their descendants.

But in Canada, there were no blood quantum laws.  There was no Racial Integrity Act. There was no Dawes Commission Enrollment Records. There was no Indian Reorganizations Act.

What we do have in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada definition of what a Métis is, and whether the Métis are recognized as Indigenous peoples.

who-are-the-metisBut it would seem that the one-drop rule that exists in the U.S. is also alive and well and living in Canada among some of the First Nations peoples.  To them, someone who is Métis has no right to claim their Indigenous heritage as the are white by virtue of being  half-bloods, half-breeds, mixed bloods, bois brûlés, chicots … Métis.

Thanks to the English and French who ruled what eventually became Canada, the Métis as an identifiable culture sprang up that drew heavily on our First Nations lineage with touches of our European  heritage.  We were not white then even though we had white blood coursing through our veins.  We are still not white even though we have white blood still coursing through our veins.  We are Métis.

Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

                             Daniels v Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Yes, there were attempts to eradicate our Indigenous heritage by such legislation as the Dominion Lands Act of 1879.  Our ancestors were offered scrip which was then written up on the government rolls as an Indigenous person’s agreement to opt out of Treaties.  But those who were lost their status persevered as Métis and raised their children according to their ancestors.

But the Métis existed long before the late 1800s.  When the French explorers arrived in the early 1600s, they took First Nations women as their wives and together they had children. Distinct communities with mixed-blood children of Algonquin women and European men were being raised by the late 1600s.  These communities relied heavily on their Indigenous heritage, history, and culture while blending in European traditions for flavor.

They were neither solely European nor First Nations.  They were Métis, and they were Indigenous peoples.

Heháka Sápa also known as Black Elk (1 December 1863 – 19 August 1950) is oftentimes quoted with regards to what it is to be an Indian.  Black Elk was the second cousin to Crazy Horse.  He witnessed the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, and fought in the Battle at Wounded Knee at 1890.  He traveled to Europe with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in 1887, and created his own Indian show held in the Black Hills to teach tourists about the Lakota culture and traditional rituals in 1934.

When asked, Black Elk said, “If you have one drop of Indian blood in your veins, then you are Indian.”

There are some First Nations peoples in 2016 who berate Métis peoples for being who they are.  They accuse them of cultural appropriation of Indigenous culture for daring to honor what they have a right to lay claim to by way of their birthright.

They tell them that because they have at least one white ancestor (the one-drop rule), they cannot say they are anything other than white.

And that, is a racist comment.

Perhaps in stretching the rubber band of political correctness so much, we are overlooking the fact that at some point that rubber band will snap.  The recoil will smart.

Perhaps it’s time to put an end to comments and beliefs that negate who each of us are as individuals.  Perhaps it’s time to be respectful of each other’s beliefs and realities.

It is definitely time to put the one-drop rule to rest, and to be accepting of who we and others are.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

AN OPEN LETTER TO NON-NATIVES IN HEADDRESSES
http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/

DANIELS v CANADA (INDIAN AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT): SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT
https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/15858/index.do

IS ONE-DROP RULE OVERRULED?
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-09/news/ct-oped-0509-page-20120509_1_indian-heritage-indian-blood-dawes-commission

MEASURING BLOOD: THE AMERICAN INDIAN BLOOD QUANTUM
http://www.native-languages.org/blood.htm

PRESERVING POSITIVE IDENTITIES: PUBLIC AND PRIVATE REGARD FOR ONE’S INGROUP AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO STEREOTYPE THREAT
http://gpi.sagepub.com/content/13/1/55.abstract

REGINA v POWLEY: SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT
http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2076/index.do

REPORT OF THE MINISTER’S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE ON RECONCILIATION WITH MÉTIS: SECTION 35 MÉTIS RIGHTS AND THE MANITOBA MÉTIS FEDERATION DECISION
http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1467641790303/1467641835266

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