Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More on Culture

An earlier post was picked up by the Twin Cities Daily Planet. I tried to add a comment there and failed. (I have a lot of trouble with commenting. By the time I jump through all the hoops to prove that I am a human being, my comment has vanished.) Here it is:
I should add that I was writing in the context of an ongoing discussion of cultural appropriation in the science fiction community. When can we use other cultures in our writing? When borrowing shows contempt for other people or supports stereotypes, when we turn people's lives into products, then we into something bad. The example I just ran across was Urban Outfitters selling a hip flask as part of a line of so-called Navajo products aimed at groovy young white people. This kind of thing is pretty obviously offensive. The Navajo Nation sent its lawyers after the company.
On the other hand, I just learned that Pendleton robes were aimed at the Native market and the Pendleton Mill consulted with Native people and worked to produce a product that Native people would like. The article I read said 50% of Pendleton robes are still bought by Native Americans.
I should also add that Navajo silversmithing can apparently be traced back to a specific Mexican called Nakai Tsosi or "Thin Mexican," who taught the first Navajo silversmith. So I was in error saying silversmithing was learned from the Spanish. The Pueblo people apparently learned it from the Navajo.


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