Counting down to counting digital coup at SXSW

In just a few days, our panel “Cultural Appropriation: a fixable cultural crime” will become available at SXSW Online 2021. The conference itself will be digital and our panel will be available to view by attendees on March 16th, from 9:15am to 10:10am CST.

“Counting coup” refers to a practice by some tribes and cultures of achieving valor in the battlefield. For example, one could touch one’s enemy on the battlefield and it could be understood that the enemy was defeated. In this case, digital coup could reference our touching on topics and people who have committed cultural appropriations to highlight the harm and/or violence. This is a more tongue in cheek approach and not so serious, yet at the same time, isn’t it?

The focus of our panel is that cultural appropriation doesn’t have to be something that continues unabated. In recent years, more instances of cultural appropriation have been called out not just in social media, but in mainstream media. People have made changes, learned, and some have apologized. Many have not.

There has also been a spike of acknowledgement regarding the prevalence of fake Natives and how, especially in academia, that non-Natives are taking positions meant for Natives and speaking for and over Natives on issues that only we should be weighing in on.

This also applies to Indigenous issues such as mascots, headdresses and whether or not something is offensive. Non-Natives tend to come out of the woodwork to claim to be Native specifically to override actual Natives who are protesting or speaking about certain issues.

There is a joke among many Natives about how everyone has a great great grandmother who was Native. More often than not, the tribe being claimed is Cherokee. There is an infamous fake Native who is also a U.S. Senator. There is a ‘rock star’ who threatened Ali with punching their teeth out because Ali dared point out that this ‘rocker’ has claimed her great great grandmother to be from four different tribes over the years. There is a fake Apache who was a backup singer for a famous girl group and attempted to position herself as an “ambassador” for Native issues to the Trump administration when she has been unable to prove any Native ancestry (DNA tests are not proof).

If you want to know how difficult it is for us to not only out fake Natives, particularly white women, but have them stop pretending to be Native, try asking Elizabeth Warren, Otep Shamaya, and Kaya Jones -in order from the previous paragraph- to admit that they’re not Native. While Warren has admitted that she’s not enrolled, she’s also said, ‘but I know who I am’, which is the fake Native line meant to excuse and justify family lore of some Native ancestor. Otep has attempted to call herself ‘an awkward ally’, and Kaya pulls out her false claim for clout or to diminish Native opinions on matters meant for us to speak on.

The source of cultural appropriation of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. and Canada come from the U.S. and Canada. Both societies have normalized cultural appropriation to the point that it’s a global phenomenon. There are fake tribes in Germany practicing bastardized cultural practices. Music artists in Kpop and Japanese rock/Visual Kei have used stereotyped designs and imagery, such as dreamcatchers and headdresses, in their aesthetics.

The list goes on and on.

What we hope to address in our panel is that it does not always have to be this way. There are hundreds of tribes in the U.S. and Canada who have specific cultures and practices. Indengeous people may share – and do share – a wealth of knowledge and art with non-Natives. What our four panelists are hoping to highlight is that our cultures are diverse and important and deserve to be respected. Learn enough to know how to respect the culture and people still living today. Become an ally to combat this global problem.

Thank you.

Our panelists are:

Ali Watson, non-binary Oglala Lakota, enrolled on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and is also Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Ali has spent over ten years promoting Japanese rock and Visual Kei in the U.S., and has previously spoken at SXSW on the Japanese music industry. In the last few years, Ali has also dedicated time to Indigenous issues primarily on Twitter and opened a site to share issues affecting Indigenous peoples on the Internet and around the country, where her passion currently remains.

Chelsey Moon, Ojibwe and enrolled in the Bay Mills Indian Community in northern Michigan. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Central Michigan University. Chelsey runs a YouTube channel under her name where she provides a wide range of styles of content, including educational and commentary videos on topics such as cultural appropriation.

Ancynita Small, non-binary Diné, born for the Tłaashchi’i clan. I’m from Wheatfields Arizona a small town on the Navajo Reservation. I enjoy discussing Native Issues, bead working, knitting and listening to Kpop.

Mickey Barrett is Tsalagi & Muskogee, now a retired educator & museum director & working as a full time artist, education consultant & as a writer for for http://www.NTVTWT.com. She also works as a graphic designer with organizations, including Project WIT, NativeCry, and http://NTVTWT.com, that help move the greater Indigenous community forward.

Regina Brave is enrolled Oglala Lakota based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and has been an iconic activist for most of her life. She has been photographed at the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 in an image that is shared to this day amongst Natives.

 Unfortunately, Regina was not able to make our panel filming and Mickey Barrett graciously accepted an offer to complete our panel of four.

If you are able to view our conference panel, please do so. If you are Indigenous and want to be part of the conversation around cultural appropriation to the attendees of our panel, please use the hashtag #EndApprop starting on March 16th and we may share your tweets and resources with attendees during our live discussion when the panel airs.

SXSW is a U.S. based conference, yet the attendees are from all across the globe in every industry that cultural appropriation exists and is a valuable platform to educate and potentially curb the harm that cultural appropriation causes.

Thank you to everyone who has made our reaching this stage a success. Please continue to positively support our efforts. Wopila (translates closest to ‘thank you very much’ in Lakota).

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