Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Miss USA's costume offends Native viewers
Posted: June 09, 2004 -- 1:47pm EST
by: Jim Adams / Associate Editor / Indian Country Today
QUITO, Ecuador -- Some calling it "worse than the Grammys," Native viewers are taking offense at Miss USA Shandi Finnessey's war bonnet version of a national costume in the June 1 NBC broadcast of the Miss Universe beauty pageant.
Finnessey, who finished as first runner-up to Miss Australia, paraded in body-length war-bonnet style regalia, furnished with fluffy white plumes. She also wore straps studded with circular metal medallions, and apparently little else.
The imitation headdress particularly offended Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota. "We only use the war bonnet for war or for a chieftain's duties or for spiritual ceremonies," he said. "It is never worn by a woman."
In her pageant presentation, Finnessey invoked the inspiration of her North Dakota grandmother, a connection that provoked Hall. "Indians are seven to eight percent of the population in North Dakota," he said. "You would think that she would have been more understanding and more aware of the traditional importance of the war bonnet."
Finnessey's costume reminded many of the outcry over the performance by the hip-hop duo OutKast at the Grammy Awards earlier this year. Hall said that neither the Grammys nor CBS ever made more than a tepid apology for the scanty green-dyed imitation Indian outfits worn by the backup singers. He said that OutKast members had "made somewhat of an apology" later in a personal conversation with the Native rapper and actor Litefoot, but they had never delivered on a promise to give a performance for Indian youth.
Hall said NCAI would demand an apology from the Miss Universe Organization and the broadcaster NBC.
The Miss Universe broadcast is a partnership of NBC and casino mogul Donald Trump, who owns the contest. It started half a century ago as a local bathing beauty contest in Long Beach, Calif., sponsored by Catalina Swimwear. With its global focus, it now gives a special award to the "delegate who displayed her country's pride and spirit best in costume." Finnessey did not receive it.
A correspondent replies
In this article there is a statement made by Tex Hall.
"It's never worn by a woman"
Well that's not quite true. I have seen in one of my Magazines—either Native Peoples, Wispering Wind, Aboriginal Voices, or maybe it was another one. But needless to say there was a photo of 5 or 6 Indian women all wearing warbonnets. I believe they were reffered to as Women of the Warbonnet Soceity. Take it for what it's worth but the women were all from the plains tribes and the photo was at a large western powwow. If I can find the magazine with the article in it I will pass it on.
Judging from the picture, the Women's War Bonnet Society is a legitimate exception to the rule. But note: The women are members of tribes that traditionally wear such bonnets. They're wearing the bonnets as members of a traditional society, at a traditional event. In short, they're wearing the bonnets appropriately, not inappropriately.
Yeagley proud of half-naked woman in warbonnet
Uh-oh, here comes our favorite right-winger to weigh in on the issue:
By David Yeagley
FrontPageMagazine.com | June 22, 2004
Shandi Finnessey, Miss America entry in the 2004 Miss Universe, contest chose an American Indian image as her theme for the "native costume" competition. No, she's not Indian, and no, her northern plains war bonnet costume was not authentic. But this beautiful blonde, blue-eyed white girl from Florissant, Missouri new what visual image distinguishes her country from all others: the northern plains American Indian war bonnet.
And immediately Indians protest! That is, the professional, liberal Indians. That is, one or two.
Jim Adams, wrote an editorial for Indian Country Today, the largest Indian paper in America. Adams quickly quotes Tex Hall, President of the National Congress of American Indians, and current chairman of the Affiliated Tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, of North Dakota, recalling the blatantly inauthentic costumes the black hip-hop group Outkast wore during their Grammy performance, and how "many" Indians protested all that.
Adams points out that Outkast responded with insincerity and even professional perfidy, not following through on a promised performance for Indian youth as a peace offering. All Adams can say regarding Finnessy's costume is that she didn't win with it, as if that validates the liberal Indian aftermath protest. Finessey came in second, second to Australia's Jennifer Hawkins, whose "national costume" dress, unless made of tanned and dyed wallaby skin, resembled absolutely nothing associated with Australia.
Adams' report is an opinionated inflation based on a conversation with Tex Hall. On this basis, Adams can say, "Some are calling it worse than the Grammys," and "Native viewers are taking offense." Adams plus Tex, that's two, and two requires the plural. Why, it sounds like every Indian in America is upset with Shandi. Standard slop for Indian Country Today reporting.
Hall promises to "demand an apology" from both broadcaster NBC and the Miss Universe Organization—owned by Donald Trump, a major casino mogul as well.
Hall and liberal northern plains Indians have long been protesting the use of the Indian imagery their tribes dominate. They have been particularly miffed at the "Fighting Sioux" image of the University of North Dakota. Of course, much of that is simply tribal envy, and in the case of the war bonnet, Hall may again be out of place. The tribes over which he is chairman are not known for wearing the war bonnet. The Hidatsa, a branch of the Crow, do in fact speak a Siouan language, but the earliest descriptions and depictions of them are without the war bonnet. Such a distinct piece of attire is also absent among the Arikara and the Mandan. All three of these tribes are historical enemies of the Sioux.
I'm afraid the war bonnet is associated principally with the fighting Sioux, and also the Blackfeet, the Cheyenne, and later other plains tribes, even southern tribes, like the Comanche. But the Sioux are really the image makers of the American Indian. They are the Ralph Lauren of Indian clothing. When Tex Hall puts on a war bonnet, in a very real way, he is simply putting on a "costume" himself.
Hall nonetheless rebukes Shandi's grandmother, who is from North Dakota, for not being sensitive to Indian culture and tradition. "The war bonnet is never worn by a woman." he says. Well, Hall should have been around in 1940, when Miss Oklahoma wore the high plains bonnet herself. Martyne Woods was of Choctaw descent—an eastern woodland tribe.
So why don't liberals like Adams and Hall protest the use of Indian girl models for soft porn? Are they unaware of Keith DeHaas, of Norman, Oklahoma? DeHaas is a successful Indian entrepreneur, originally from North Dakota, in fact—Standing Rock Lakota Sioux. He created the famous Rez Dog Clothing company, operating out of Norman.
DeHaas has created yearly calendars, with hot shots of Indian girls modeling bikinis. This is as far from Indian tradition as possible. This is completely outrageous, and brings no honor to Indian people, no respect for tradition, nor does it encourage Indian young people to follow the traditions. This is the ultimate assimilation—adopting the modes of sexual attraction of the foreign, conquering race.
I don't hear any Indian protest against DeHaas, except my own. Where are the great liberal Indians, the sanctimonious guardians of Indian tradition? Where is the outrage, the demand for an apology, the legal suit?
The hypocrisy of these whining, racist Indians is more obvious and egregious than anything Jesse Jackson could conjure up.
At least Shandi's heart was in the right place.
Dr. David A. Yeagley is a published scholar, professionally recorded composer, and an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Liberal Studies. He's on the speakers list of Young America's Foundation. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his website at http://www.badeagle.com.
Some Native replies to Yeagley and the Miss USA costume:
Native Legacy: What Do U Guys Think
As usual, Yeagley pops up to put his extremist spin on the news. He could find a liberal conspiracy in a child's crossing the street or a cat's licking itself. Let's see what nonsense he has to offer this time:
>> No, she's not Indian, and no, her northern plains war bonnet costume was not authentic. <<
Yeagley should've stopped right there. That's all we need to know for the purposes of this contest. The costume was stereotypical, not authentic.
>> And immediately Indians protest! That is, the professional, liberal Indians. That is, one or two. <<
Admittedly there wasn't a groundswell of protest over this event as there was over the Grammys show. That's probably because few people watched the Miss Universe broadcast.
But Yeagley's insinuation that "liberals" are making up a problem that doesn't exist is false. I alone say it's a problem, and I'm more of an expert on this subject than Yeagley is. If a leading Native activist and a Native newspaper publisher agree with me, that's all the confirmation a nobody like Yeagley needs.
I'll agree with Yeagley on one point. Tex Hall is an Indian professional and Yeagley isn't.
>> All Adams can say regarding Finnessy's costume is that she didn't win with it, as if that validates the liberal Indian aftermath protest. <<
No, Adams didn't say that to "validate" his protest. See how Yeagley imagines a "liberal" plot when there isn't one? The guy's a paranoid nutcase, if you ask me.
>> Why, it sounds like every Indian in America is upset with Shandi. Standard slop for Indian Country Today reporting. <<
Ideally, Indian Country Today should've rounded up more opinions. But it had many opinions to justify its criticism of the OutKast outrage. So where's the "standard slop" Yeagley refers to?
>> They have been particularly miffed at the "Fighting Sioux" image of the University of North Dakota. Of course, much of that is simply tribal envy, and in the case of the war bonnet, Hall may again be out of place. The tribes over which he is chairman are not known for wearing the war bonnet. <<
Indians have protested the misuse of the warbonnet because they're envious? Ri-i-ght. And I suppose they've protested global warming because they have a secret desire to emit carbon dioxide? They've protested the Israeli occupation of the West Bank because they have a secret desire to be Jewish? Etc.
How ridiculous can you get? Just read one of Yeagley's pieces and you'll find out.
>> Hall nonetheless rebukes Shandi's grandmother, who is from North Dakota, for not being sensitive to Indian culture and tradition. "The war bonnet is never worn by a woman." he says. Well, Hall should have been around in 1940, when Miss Oklahoma wore the high plains bonnet herself. Martyne Woods was of Choctaw descent—an eastern woodland tribe. <<
Yeah, people were really sensitive to Indian concerns in 1940. A Choctaw woman participating in a white man's ceremony exploiting women as sex objects was really going to take a stand on the proper use of feather bonnets. Uh-huh, sure.
Can you say "irrelevant"? Hall's claim was that the warbonnet is never properly worn by a woman. An exception in another beauty contest is no exception at all.
The actions of a non-Plains woman, even if she was Native, carry little or no weight. Whether she meant to or not, Ms. Woods contributed to the stereotyping of her people. That was routine after the Indian Wars (e.g., Sitting Bull in Wild West shows) and it still happens, unfortunately. For instance, whenever Natives sell phony trinkets or perform phony ceremonies for tourists.
>> So why don't liberals like Adams and Hall protest the use of Indian girl models for soft porn?...DeHaas has created yearly calendars, with hot shots of Indian girls modeling bikinis. <<
Uh, because they're two separate and unrelated issues? Because women in bikinis aren't misusing Plains regalia? Because they aren't stereotyping Indians as headdress-wearing spectacles? Take your pick.
>> Where are the great liberal Indians, the sanctimonious guardians of Indian tradition? <<
Not here, apparently. Maybe that's because Yeagley has only imagined a corps of "great liberal Indians" who act as "sanctimonious guardians of Indian tradition." Maybe he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
>> The hypocrisy of these whining, racist Indians is more obvious and egregious than anything Jesse Jackson could conjure up. <<
Wrong. Hall and Adams are protesting the misuse of Native traditions (i.e., the wearing of warbonnets) by non-Indians. They're not protesting the abandonment of Native traditions by Indians. Again, these are two separate and unrelated issues, so no hypocrisy exists.
>> At least Shandi's heart was in the right place. <<
If you consider stereotyping people "the right place," I guess. Too bad Yeagley, with his umpteenth screed against real or imagined liberals, can't say the same.
The big chief
Indian women as sex objects
Tipis, feather bonnets, and other Native American stereotypes
Yeagley the Indian apple
. . .
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