I recently got this done by my friend Crystal at Matrix in Barrie, ON.. Sorry for the quality (it’s not faded like it appears). Looove love love what your doing and think it would be awesome to get your opinion! Thanks!
I’m glad I finally got one of these to critique. The quality of the tattoo is nice—clean lines, fits the space, and over all just nice looking. (I’m sure the fadedness is just due to low contrast in the photo.)
But holy shit these “pinup-Indian” tattoos are racist.
Here are some great reasons why, if you’re any kind of non-Native American, you should never get Native imagery tattooed on you, much of which is taken from a great blog on cultural appropriation.
- Headdresses promote stereotyping of Native cultures.
- The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has been created and perpetuated by Hollywood and only bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It’s like saying “European culture,” when really the Slavs have only little in common with the British! It also places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. They don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but they still exist and are still Native.
- Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance.
The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Warbonnets in particular are reserved for respected figures of power. The other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the headdresses. I’s not feminism or progress—it’s an act of utter disrespect for the origins of the practice. This tattoo in general is hyper-sexualized! Which brings me to my next point:
- Sexual abuse as part of colonization
The history of American colonization is entirely one of sexual abuse. Rape is used as a tool of war—it’s even publicly taught as part of our history of slavery! Many tribes (although not all) were either matriarchal or matrilineal. They were either run by women or daily tribal life was ran by them! These pin-up, big-boobed Native women are instead part of a history where we took their children to raise as second-class citizens in European-styled schools, then abandoned them. Where rape was used for war, and their family structure was broken up in favor of European-type families which subjugated. Even now, sexual assault and abuse runs rampant on the poverty-stricken existing reservations—more than anywhere else on the continent! If you look at Darfur, the Congo, or any other place in the world that has tons of resources we want, you’ll also see how rape can be used on a mass scale. But you can’t imagine seeing an African blood diamonds pinup, can you?
- It’s no different than black face
Can you imagine getting this tattooed on you? By mimicking an entire race in a single image, you are drawing upon stereotypes to do so. Like my first point said, you’re collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you’re asserting your power over them. Which leads me to the next issue.
- There is a history of genocide and colonialism involved that continues today.
By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land. Taken illegally by Europeans who came to the US could buy it and live off it, gaining valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through the generations to non-Natives today. Have I benefited as well, given I was raised in a white, suburban community? Yes. Absolutely. But by dismissing and minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the US by donning your headdress, you are contributing to the culture of power that continues the cycle today.
Lastly, I want to post this cartoon:
All of these Native-themed sports teams are the other side of the coin. Like the Red Skins—because, you know, Native Americans are animals just like the bengals, lions, bears, or any other mascot they play against. Can you imagine calling a team the “Hartford Jewish Noses,” “Austin Black Faces”, or “Baltimore Yellow Skins”!? Of course not! Because it’s racist!
Lastly, if you really want Native art, support authentic Native craftspeople and artists. Just like you wouldn’t go to some guy “tattooing” out of his kitchen for a real tattoo, don’t go to the mall for factory-made Native knock-offs!