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by Rachel Devitt

November 20, 2012

Songs by Native Americans

by Rachel Devitt  |  November 20, 2012

It should go without saying that American culture has had a very problematic relationship with its Native American members, and the legacy of oppression and annihilation that surrounds that relationship. But this year in particular, from the kids in Indian headdresses at every major music festival to that ill-advised No Doubt video, it seems that this history does, indeed, warrant a retelling. And it seems, in fact, that American pop culture in general needs some gentle reminders (or perhaps sharp pokes) about how to behave in relation to it. And what better time to poke ourselves than at Thanksgiving, the holiday designed to simultaneously celebrate and erase that history with gut-busting amounts of turkey, gravy, pie and stuffing (mmm ... stuffing)?

So here's how we're celebrating. First, we made a playlist of really awesome music by Native American artists working in everything from classic rock to powwow music, from meditative flute songs to hip-hop. Because while we're revisiting our own history lessons, let's make sure to leave room for the voices of actual Native Americans, who have way more interesting things to say than some dumb hipster headdress by Urban Outfitters or whatever could ever hope to convey. So tune into the playlist and while we're listening, here are some gentle reminders/sharp pokes to ponder.

Gentle Reminder/Sharp Poke No. 1. Hey, Victoria's Secret! Native American headdress + lingerie in your fashion show? Not really a sexy decision. Please stick to the dumb angel puns you usually go with, and just let us have our socially acceptable peep show in peace, would ya? Same goes for you, No Doubt. We love you, Gwen, but you're already on shaky ground because of "your" Harajuku Girls. You were a little late to the game, but thank you for pulling that cowboys-and-Indians video for "Looking Hot." (Ke$ha, take note.)

GR/SP No. 2. On a related note. Stores catering to hipsters, may we please have your attention: Stop making clothes with vaguely "tribal" motifs. "Indian" is not a viable sartorial choice. You cannot make it work.

GR/SP No. 3. Hey, all of the rest of us! If we stop buying that crap, they will stop making it! Also, while we're at it? We can stop this whole neo-"Native" electro-hipster look with the face paint, headdresses and so forth. (We're looking at you, tUnE-yArDs). And while we're at it, can we puh-leeze stop going as "Indians" for Halloween? We can go as monsters, we can go as vampires, we can even go as "sexy" monsters and vampires. But going as Someone Else's Ethnicity is pretty much the lamest costume idea ever.

Now, let's go eat deliciously disgusting amounts of mashed potatoes, yes?

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