Indigenous students and allies at Fort Lewis College discussed cultural appropriation on Oct. 24 in Jones Hall room 160.
The Latinx, an unofficial student run organization, organized the second annual workshop. The first workshop was hosted in El Centro de Muchos Colores, Shirena Trujillo, El Centro Coordinator said.
Trujillo said that she is very proud of the student body for giving students of any ethnicity the opportunity to ask questions and be educated on cultural appropriation.
Black Student Union and Wanbli Ota helped host the event and explained examples of how their culture is appropriated, as well as their own personal experiences.
Indigenous students and allies came to the agreement that cultural appropriation occurs when a person takes on the persona of a certain culture without education of and respect for the history behind that culture.
Wanbli Ota members spoke on the hyper sexualization of Inigenous women and it’s role in cultural appropriation.
The club used statistics from the Indian Law Resource Center, to shed light on the 1 in 2 American Indian and Alaskan Native women who experience sexual violence. It was also reported that the 96% of non-native offenders, with 57% being white men, were unable to be prosecuted by sovereign nations.
Jadyn Wangaard, member of Wanbli Ota, said it starts at a young age with children watching Disney’s Pocohontas and seeing a portrayal of an indigenous women seen as a romantic interest to John Smith.
Native women are portrayed as sexual beings in the media, not valued as people, said Wangaard.
Wanbli Ota displayed a Powerpoint slide with images of “native american” costumes for women. Costumes that exposed the midriff, thighs, and most of the breast area.
“When people like this wear these costumes. It just adds to that stigma, and you’re contributing to the rapes and the assaults of our women” said Wangaard.
Costumes in the Powerpoint slide also involved a war bonnet.
Noah Shadlow, member of Wanbli Ota, explained the sacredness of each feather found on a war bonnet. Wilson said that a person must earn each feather based on an act of valor.
“When you get turkey or duck feathers and just dye them and paint them, and throw them on a fake buckskin cap, it just trivializes the importance of that war bonnet,” Shadlow said.
Zhaida Wilbanks, FLC student, said when she practices her culture she is honoring her ancestors who have suffered from oppression for their culture.
When people mock a culture, they are disrespecting the spirits of ancestors who have died for wanting to keep their culture alive, Wilbanks said.
Kalina Cross, president of BSU, discussed how white people use African American culture for fun, but African Americans must deal with the struggle their culture brings.
Black people are judged in interviews for having dreadlocks, whereas a white person will be said to look fashionable, Cross said.
Blackface, a practice still relevant in the media today, started with white performers mimicking enslaved Africans, according to the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Iyahna Calton, member of BSU, said “It represents a lack of diversity in media, in theatre, as well as a lack of respect for other people of color.”
Blackface, seen as a joke to those who partake, is a serious issue that humiliates African Americans, Cross said.
People will go out on Halloween with their skin darkened, often, portraying a black character or celebrity. Those who wear blackface as a Hallween costume do not live with the treatment that comes with having dark skin.
“I can’t go home and take my black face off,” Calton said.
Many members of the community are often shot because of their skin color, Cross said. There’s so much going on deeper than a costume.