Phoenix Comicon 2017 is happening this Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28, 2017. I look forward to the Phoenix Comicon every year because it’s an opportunity for me to geek out and have fun with my family – we are Indigenerds (Indigenous Nerds)! I love seeing my teens become creative with their cosplay. And I like meeting and hearing from my favorite artists, comic book creators, and actresses/actors. As you may be able to tell from the photos from Phoenix Comicon 2016 this is our family’s type of fun.
This year, I’m especially excited for the presence of Indigenerds who are representing! If you are attending the Phoenix Comicon please show them some support. Tell these independent artists to keep up the good work and support their business by purchasing their products. These are the Indigenerds I am aware of at the Phoenix Comicon: comic book artists Damon Begay and Tatum Bowie, Boise Esquerra the Director of H.A.M., and the short film Monster Slayer which is a contemporary retelling of the Navajo twin warriors.
Damon Begay & Tatum Bowie – Comic Book Artists
Damon Begay and Tatum Bowie are both Navajo comic book artists. Damon creates Interstellar Comix and Tatum creates The Pretty Okay Adventures of Tatum. Tatum also creates comic strips, one of which, What Can You Learn From Someone Like Me?, appeared in Native American Feminist Musings Vol 2. Empower Yosef Before You Wreck Yoself. They are a power couple and I am impressed with their production as they always seem busy creating the next book in their comic series/strip, tabling at comic book events, or participating in 24-hour comic book day. Their comic books are affordable so go find their booth #AA1522 and ask them about their current project!
About a month ago, I wrote a Dear Torrid Letter about Torrid ripping off Navajo culture by selling a knock-off of the iconic Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace. Within two days Torrid apologized, agreed to stop selling the necklaces, and donated the profits to the Indian Arts and Crafts Association. Almost immediately after publishing the issue on my blog I was notified by friends and strangers of knock-off Navajo Squash Blossom Necklaces being sold at Walmart and other retail stores. Most recently, Target is profiting off stolen Native culture.
A fellow Instagrammer, Marissa Gonzales, notified me about Target selling Squash Blossom Necklaces branded by BaubleBar for Target’s “SugarFix” jewelry partnership.
A couple days ago, on Wednesday March 22, 2017, I wrote a Dear Torrid letter to express my disappointment and discontent with one of my favorite clothing companies for selling a knock-off of the Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace (someone pointed out on Facebook that Torrid actually sold three products that have a Navajo Squash Blossom necklace feel to them). I am happy to report that today, March 24 2017, all three of those Squash Blossom related necklaces have been removed from the Torrid website. [Full statement from Torrid below].
Dear Torrid: Stop #StealingNativeCulture. #NotmyTorrid
In the days immediately following my letter titled, “Dear Torrid: Stop #StealingNativeCulture. #NotMyTorrid“, I noticed Torrid took the following actions:
On Sunday March 19th, Native News Online.net published an article I wrote about the Lost Lake Festival coming to the Steele Indian School Park this October 2017. In the article, I discussed concerns of cultural insensitivity as to the presence of hipster headdresses in an area that has historical significance as to the erasure of American Indian cultures.
UPDATE: On March 23rd, I received a statement from Superfly, the company producing the Lost Lake Festival, that states, “Out of respect for Native American heritage and culture, and with respect to the Native American history of the park, we will not allow headdresses at Lost Lake Festival. Our code of conduct will reflect our commitment to creating a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for all festival-goers to have the best experience possible, and we’re happy to share that [code of conduct] with you once it’s finalized in the coming months.”
Guest Commentary The Lost Lake Festival, a 3-day music festival is coming to the Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix Arizona in October 2017. The Lost Lake Festival was announced on March 15, 2017. The creators of the Lost Lake Festival also created the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands Festivals; these festivals are known for not banning hipster headdresses.
The Steele Indian School Park is the site of the Phoenix Indian School, a boarding school that operated from 1891 to 1990. Indian boarding schools assimilated Native American youth into mainstream American society through forceful tactics such as chopping off hair, physical punishment, restricting youth from speaking their Native language, and living life in a military-like regime. I recall knowing about Indian boarding schools from a very young age… in fact, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know about Indian boarding schools. To this day, in my academic career I write about the consequences of boarding schools and historical trauma on generations of American Indians, particularly the consequences to families, relationships, connections to Tribal communities, and ties to their cultural heritage.
This is why, I became concerned when I learned about the Lost Lake Festival and that it was created by the same founders of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands – festivals unfortunately known for not banning headdresses. In my Lakota culture, the headdress is an important and significant item for the person who has earned it. And yet the appropriation of this cultural and spiritual item represents an act where American Indian culture is quite literally taken from American Indians, reduced to an accessory, and stripped of its cultural significance. This type of action, donning a headdress as a non-American Indian when one has not earned it, minimizes a complex history of assimilative practices that resulted in the culture of American Indians being forcibly taken away from them.
*** March 24, 2017 UPDATE: Torrid has removed the Squash Blossom related products from their website. Click here to read Torrid’s statement and how they are making this situation right. ***
I am completely floored that you have taken an aspect of Navajo culture, the Navajo Squash Blossom necklace, and have turned it into a cheap reproductive jewelry piece. I really am at a lost of words here. The fact that the fashion industry does this – and that the Navajo Squash Blossom necklace has been stolen and appropriated by many other companies – does not make it right.
You see Torrid… You are NOT just another fashion/clothing company. But rather, you are a clothing necessity for many plus-size ladies, namely me. It is embarrassing to think that you, a national and international clothing company (you do have stores in Canada) didn’t have someone in product development who said “This is not right,” which raises concerns about the diversity within the executive levels of your company.