The Theft of Cultural Identification or Cultural appropriation

The Theft of Cultural Identification or Cultural appropriation always seems to start with someone saying “My Great Grandmother was a Cherokee Princess”, Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. Cultural appropriation is often controversial, as the use of elements of a minority culture by a cultural majority are often seen as wrongfully oppressing the minority culture or stripping it of its group identity or intellectual property rights. This view of cultural appropriation is sometimes termed “cultural misappropriation.” According to proponents of the concept, cultural misappropriation differs from acculturation or assimilation in that the “appropriation” or “misappropriation” refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner: elements are copied from a minority culture by members of the dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressed, stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture.

Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, which means that these uses can be viewed as disrespectful by members of the originating culture, or even as a form of desecration. Cultural elements which may have deep meaning to the original culture can be reduced to “exotic” fashion by those from the dominant culture. When this is done, the imitator, “who does not experience that oppression is able to ‘play,’ temporarily, an ‘exotic’ other, without experiencing any of the daily discriminations faced by other cultures

A great example of just one of the many barriers faced by the American Indian community is non natives making a claim of minority preference by claiming they are American Indian in an extremely competitive field such as construction, because of the confusion in State contracting and Federal contracting (both have the same guidelines but both interpret those guidelines differently), lineage, blood quantum, etc. there are a number of people that swoop in and take advantage of this confusion. You would think that this sort of person does not exist and most businesses would shun these people as they are found out BUT this goes on far more often than people know. 

In just one year American Indians competed for well over two hundred and fifty Minority and Disadvantaged contracts (MBE, DBE) with the city, of that amount only twenty five (25) of those contracts went to eighteen (18) American Indian owned companies, of those 25 contracts nine (9) went to eight companies that claimed American Indian status that were at best “questionable” in their status

This Company below is registered under one name but several races and genders.

WBE Caucasian Female  $40,876.76
MBE Native American Male  $130,000.00
WBE Caucasian Female  $15,600.00

This company below was not registered either in Missouri or Kansas at the time it was disclosed to us and we looked into it:

MBE Native American Female  $3,500.00

This company below showed that the owner works full time at a Union job across town:

MBE Native American Male  $48,864.62

These companies are NOT American Indian owned at all:

MBE Native American Male  $10,291.82
MBE Native American Male  $22,395.00
MBE Native American Male  $6,720.85
MBE Native American Male  $144,300.00

One very legitimate point and argument we make is economic. In general, when American Indians create something that is later adopted by another culture, those people tend to make a lot more money from it. Certainly, one can see why that’s both annoying and disheartening with American Indians being the most impoverished race in the United States. Through everything from access to loans to education, systemic racism has created a smoother path to economic success for other races who exploit what American Indians have created. It feels an awful lot like slavery to have others profit from your efforts.

When you choose to allow people to hijack this race, to abuse the spirit of the law meant to protect the American Indian, the very Sons and Daughters of this country, the person doing so is essentially ripping a shred of hope from a community already devastated by the lack of acknowledgement, poverty and disparity of equal treatment and what does that say about the persons moral character that pilfers from another’s opportunity?

Make no mistake about it, I will not go away, I will continue to come back and ask for our inclusion and call on you to uphold the law, again and again and again and until this is done I will not be silenced, I will not give up and I will not be ignored.

If you have taken control of the contracting that takes place on Res and If you are going to contract outside the Reservation or to a non American Indian owned business then there are several things you should be looking at, not just are they qualified to do the job but is the business addressing the needs of your community as closely and as equally as they do others? Just as importantly, as an Indigenous People you should call upon the corporate sector to adopt something similar to, if not to just simply adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

i. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous people before proceeding with economic development projects.

ii. Ensure that Indigenous people have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Indigenous communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

iii. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Indigenous people, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Indigenous rights, and Indigenous law. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.