I believe the nature of a person or people is revealed in part by their ability to poke fun at themselves and find humor in daily events.
Satire, especially political satire, can be an effective means to make a point – a subtle and humorous vehicle to dramatize and draw attention.
The “Indian store” is a classic example that addresses a serious issue the nations confront – such “stores” can be found in increasing abundance across the country and on the net.
Selling indigenous arts and crafts isn’t something I have an issue with per se. In many instances it is something of an individual cottage industry that can moderate poverty and elevate.
I do though have some serious issues with “stores” as portrayed in the video, the pure hucksterism of them and almost predictable inclusion of the “new age”.
I have a particular disdain for internet storefronts marketing our traditional beliefs operating under the it’s all good guise of indigenous ownership.
Storefronts like those of Crow Dog, Banks, and the late Russell Means.
The Catholic Church is and has been a great one when it comes to commercialization, offering up Masses in what amounts to a purchasable commodity, special dispensations – a sort of get of “hell” free pass, trinkets and beads, and even candles to light.
With our history involving the church I think the last thing we need to do is to mimic anything they do – money doesn’t trump all other considerations, it never has.
If you are a performing artist do you also need to sell pipes, amulets and all that?
If you’re a “spiritual intercessor” do you need to be associated with shot glasses?
Or how about if you’re a “spiritual leader” and the “face of AIM”, do you need to market “traditional” drums?
Inevitably such hucksters associate a spiritual element to their wares, that’s an inducement to separate the rubes from their money – and amazingly it has worked quite well.
I understand the concept of autographing but is it necessary to autograph say a bottle of syrup?
That may work on boxes of mass produced cereal or some other item but the intent clearly is obvious.
Is the value of an article of clothing enhanced, does it fit better or last longer if it has a companies logo stitched on or emblazoned across it?
Ultimately it is a brilliant strategy as it has consumers paying to advertise for them.
How about an embossed feather, or cast acrylic fetish, a faux bear claw or elk tooth – does that make the wearer more or less of who they are?
Are these things some kind of a social statement, a look at me I’m cool, counter culture, wealthy, or I was Geronimo or Pocahontas in a previous life?
The strategy employed by “Indian stores” has been no less brilliant in the approach they have taken, and in doing so tapped into the rube market.
I’m amazed at times by the outcry when a non indigenous persons dons a blanket, feather, or some trinkets and poses for a photo – amazed by the thought such articles may have come from an “Indian store” and those operating them can be numbered among the protesters…..their attempt to be more “Indianer”.
The thing is people need to understand that neither clothes nor shoes make the person – it’s what’s inside that does, and truth of the matter is if it’s a statement of ethnic identity and pride well and good – if not maybe better to save it for Halloween.
You don’t have to be an Inuit to wear muk luks – they’re warm and serve a purpose so why not? You don’t have to be indigenous to appreciate the beauty of indigenous jewelry, they compliment like other such articles, so why not?
You favor indigenous art or music thinking they enhance your home, again why not?
People decorate their homes with things from Japan, China, Africa, and just about any other country you can think of, and why not? It doesn’t make them Japanese, Chinese, African, or anything other than what they are.
Art and an appreciation of it elevate – lacking that appreciation and respect serve only to corrupt whether it be vendor or consumer.
Personally I don’t think there is a grander sight than our people traditionally attired, and our women with a blanket draped about their head and shoulders, not because it’s cold and they haven’t a coat, is a sight to conjure up memories of different times and a sense of pride.
I would encourage people to purchase indigenous arts and crafts for their beauty as a product of a distinct people – but I would also say in and of of themselves they aren’t going to make anyone Indian, they aren’t going to imbue any mystical power for the price of a few bucks, or even a lot of bucks.
Traditionals don’t sell pipes, they don’t sell licenses to conduct ceremonies.
They don’t sell instructional DVDs that will introduce you into the “seven levels”, or additional crap like tarot cards, crystal balls, quartz, sacred stones, or the even more laughable crystal skulls.
If you want to pay to pray go to church, if you want what you believe to be an artifact or relic contact the Catholic church, they’re awash in them.
It’s actually pretty simple…..don’t be gullible, show some respect, and you’ll probably save yourself some money in the process.
A shout out to the sister who sent the links, fights for her people, and understands the issues.