A Letter to Urban Outfitters - Video 

Frustrated by society’s tendency to degrade and appropriate Native American symbols, a group of Native American students at Dartmouth uploaded a video to Youtube on Sept. 10 titled “A Letter to Urban Outfitters,” in light of the company’s recent release of a “Navajo”-inspired clothing line. In the video, which had over 5,300 views as of press time, students recite a poem written by Autumn White Eyes ’14 that asks viewers to respect Native American heritage.

The Navajo Nation is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters for intellectual property violations, according to Anthony Peterman, Navajo Nation Office of the Speaker policy advisor. The clothing store recently marketed underwear and other items under the description “Navajo,” which is a name trademarked by the Navajo Nation, he said.

 Legally, Urban Outfitters may be at fault under intellectual property law, but White Eyes and others said they view the larger issue to be the company’s disrespect for Native American culture.

 “I’m not your f*cking fashion statement,” the video’s speakers said as they recited the poem. “So take those lies off your body and respect me. And me. And me. And what’s never been yours to have. I am a human being.”

 That a clothing store is selling underwear identified as “Navajo” becomes more offensive when placed in the context of Native American history, according to Native American studies professor Angela Parker.

“You have a centuries-long context of outright theft and cultural assimilation, and people may see that as in the past, but her video is making the point that people also feel its effects in the present,” she said.

Native American symbols are often extracted and used by people with no knowledge of their history and meaning, Native American studies professor Vera Palmer said.

“For Native people it’s yet one more chapter of stealing the land, stealing our children, stealing our culture, stealing our religion and now stealing our symbols,” Palmer said.

Christina Goodson ’14, who appeared in the video, said she is offended when she sees students dress up as Pocahontas or wear headdresses as part of a Halloween costume. Such traditions and symbols represent culture, not “something you can pretend to be,” she said. Headdresses are sacred in Lakota culture and can only be worn by tribe leaders, and eagle feathers have historically been symbols of honor, earned through achievements such as graduating from high school, White Eyes said in an email to The Dartmouth.

“I have three nieces, I don’t want to them to think that their heritage is a Halloween costume,” White Eyes said. White Eyes, Preston Wells ’15 and Taylor Payer ’15 founded the video production group Savage Media during Spring term as a way to spread awareness about Native American cultures. The group chose the word “savage” intentionally in order to reclaim it for their own purposes, Wells said. “We’re taking a savage approach to the way Native peoples have been portrayed and appropriated by the media,” he said. The group’s first video questions the College’s historical use of an Indian as a mascot, Wells said. In the video, a Native American student confronts a man wearing a Dartmouth Indian T-shirt by painting a red “X” through the offensive image.

Wells said that while not all Native American students at the College find the Indian mascot to be offensive, the vast majority see it as a derogatory caricature.

Stereotypical images of Native Americans exist across the country, from the Cleveland Indians to Dartmouth’s Indian, and attempt to project a romanticized ferocity onto indigenous people, Palmer said.

“To be a Native person at a school that depicts you as something you don’t even recognize and does so in a mocking way, that’s something that nobody should have to put up with,” she said.

 Modern use of stereotypical Indian mascots parallels past exploitation and fits into a historical legacy of negative engagement, Palmer said.

Courtesy Sasha Houston Brown-Sasha Houston Brown sent an open letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Glen T. Senk regarding clothing and accessories she found offensive to Native American culture.
 “It’s about power — we can do anything we want with these people and now with these images,” she said. The Dartmouth Review is one student organization that continues to endorse the Indian symbol, Wells said. Although Native American students have contacted

The Dartmouth Review and expressed their disapproval of the paper’s use of the symbol, the publication has not been responsive to their requests, he said. Representatives from Urban Outfitters and members of The Dartmouth Review staff did not respond to requests for comment by press time. (SOURCE)

VIDEO A Letter to Urban Outfitters - a poem by Autumn White Eyes 

VIDEO Urban Outfitters Under Fire for 'Navajo' Collection

Responses to "Native students react to disrespect (Videos)"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I ♥ the youngsters in this piece and their passion for the ethical treatment of their beautiful culture... and I respect the anger they hold against those who steal from their culture and profit. This is a proper, irenic approach to a pandemic issue.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I repect the resentment these young people feel at having misrepresenting their language and culture to make big bucks as a fshion statement without asking and misrepresenting women in general as being half naked in clothing not claiming royalties from the sales of careful research and permission thereof.WE need to turn this around;if you had the money you could come out with native pride clothing carefully monitored ,engineered and celelbrated for years to come.Please bring this out into the forefront it needs to be addressed.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The lack of respect shown Native Americans is appalling and sad. It is great to see young people proud of who they are and where they come from. Thank you for standing up to what is right and sharing your video.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A well crafted video with a strong message. Every culture has evolved overtime from another culture, as we no longer live in an isolated town, land, island or country. So long as there is respect, honor and appreciation, culture is something to be embraced and shared, opened ended not closed, this will encourage open-mindedness. It is not the place of a money making machine to do this, nor is it right to imitiate. If it is to be done, let it be done with honor from the hands who know how to and shared with the world in an ethical manner.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Stand strong!

  6. Unknown says:

    Not to minimize their anger over their cultural dress and clothing being used inappropriately, but the fashion industry and designers have no qualms of abusing all cultures. They used the Asian influence some years back, they tried to sell the East Indian style, the African influence and of course Russian, and even Eskimo.Just to name a few. Some people just have no respect in their minds or hearts. I hope you have great success with your video message I just watched. Of course, I hope you understand that there should always be moccasins and vests and shawls, that we obviously copy from the Indigenous Peoples, but you surely can tell they are copies They should not be copying and misusing your names, or passing off bead-work and items as original work from Natives. I personally would go out of my way to find genuine moccasins or leatherwork. Always with respect, thank you.

Write a comment