|Pictures of adorable children diffuse every situation- in this case a Plains child.|
I received a lot of feedback on my post about Native American steampunk- both good and bad. What troubled me however, were many of the harsh comments degrading me and my stance on the topic with terms that made me appear to be racist, insensitive, or downright stupid.
What I did instead of retracting my statements, trying to appease, or even erasing my post was quite simple: I reflected.
I thought about what it means to be a person of Native descent and aware of my own culture and past. After all, it was Lakota flute player John Two-Hawks who once told me as an awkward teenager," You are a leaf on the top of a tall, proud tree. You may be far removed from the roots, but you know where you come from, which makes you just as much a part of the tree." I thought about the stories my grams told me about her family when they lived on the reservation in Kansas- all the suffering, the people who cannot be brought back to life. I thought about what it means to me to be Kagashikwe, the crow woman.
What I'm trying to do in these blog posts is not to wipe clean the slate of the past- even that is impossible. I'm Potawatomie. I could tell you all about the horrendous things done to my people during the Age of Steam- how we were pushed from our tribal lands, forced to walk at the points of guns to an unknown and barren territory and expected to survive off of nothing. How the children had their culture beaten out of them. How that culture is now endangered.
But does that make anyone feel any better? It is important to know about the injustices of the past, but if we dwell on them then all that grows is bitterness. Everyone of Native descent doesn't share my view on this, but it needs to be said. It's a controversial topic, an unpleasant one, but talking about it is the only way to ease some of the misunderstanding away.
However, I'm also not giving carte-blanche to people. I'm not telling people to run out and make Native American steamsonas or bedeck themselves in warbonnets, wear feathers in their hair or run out declaring themselves "Awesomefox" or "Jim Stands With a Possum" (that would be a double-whammy of silly AND offensive). If one were to read my article (which seems to be a problem with the internet, I've noticed) one would see that the key element to my belief on Native American steampunk AND multicultural steampunk in general is to DO YOUR RESEARCH and GET IT RIGHT. Do an honor to these people by being inspired instead of slapping them in the face by (horrendously) copying them.
And what's so wrong about being inspired by Native American culture? Or Japanese culture? Or Masaai culture? I know that for every person who 'gets it' that there are ten others in bad warpaint, but I never had the intent of spawning a legion of 'sexy steampunk Sacagaweas' (who continues to be played by non-Native American actresses in films, if you want a real offense). I was thinking something more like a gentleman in a frock coat decorated with Ojibwe-style motifs, or a girl in a Seminole patchwork dress. Perhaps a gunfighter who prefers to wear Comanche leggings, since they're pretty practical for riding and heavy activity.
I will not however, change my opinion that if done correctly, a person can wear the traditional day-to-day clothing of another culture. If you don't agree with this, feel free to launch into a tirade, stop reading, or go harass some kids at an anime convention badly dressed as geisha in halloween store white makeup.
Tomorrow I'll be posting my first of five CYL articles for this month- and I can do so happily knowing that these words are off of my chest.