She pointed out that the woman depicted had blue eyes, and continued to list off some reasons why an image of a supposedly Navajo woman w/ blue eyes would be used.
The OP itself had little to no problems. Rather, I felt that Elle even pointed out some things that I didn’t think about, if you follow her links.
What really irked me, though, were the comments.
That’s really appalling. And for the record, as far as I can tell, no part of that image remotely resembles anything Navajo. I grew up in the Southwest (although I am not Navajo or Native American at all), so I can usually recognize the appropriate cultural markers.
That woman has features that look very European, and northern European at that; I doubt she has any Navajo ancestry, and if she has any Native American ancestry it’s not particularly apparent in her phenotype.
She doesn’t look like she’s Native American to me, the only part that kinda makes her look Native American are the generic headdress thing and coils around her neck.
That woman doesn’t look vaguely Navajo to me and I’ve never even been to the Southwest. What she *does* look like, especially with the particular hue of those blue eyes, is an actress from an old Western movie.
Yeah… nothing about her looks even remotely Navajo.
I grew up and currently live in a town that is a “sister city” to the Navajo Reservation. I teach many students from the Navajo Reservation. I assure you, that woman does not look Navajo, either in physical attributes or attire.
Not one of these people commenting are actually Native or speak from the voice of someone inside the Navajo Nation, or any other Native Nation.
Fine, this woman pictured doesn’t look like the stereotypical “Native” or “Navajo” woman. She doesn’t possess the traits that people who admittedly are not Natives themselves deem appropriate to be authentically native. She has blue eyes.
She may or may not be Navajo or even Native at all.
But how many times in the lives of a Native American is that person told, “Huh. You don’t look Native”, or “You’re not Native, you are too white”, or “There is no way a Native has blue eyes” (tell that to my Uncle, who has a higher “blood quantum” than I do, but happens to have blonde hair and blue eyes. I dare you to tell him he isn’t Native)? It makes me simultaneously angry and sad at the same time that people who are not of Native ancestry would have so much gall to tell someone else exactly what a Native looks like.
Never mind that Native tribes from all over North America had their Nations torn apart by settlers. That everyone from the French to the Mormons decided that Natives must be civilized, having their women married off to white men in an effort to make their children look better. That for years European traits meant that you would be allowed to work or wouldn’t be branded a “lazy Injun”. That only w/ the popularity of Casinos has being Native even had the semblance of being acceptable (unless someone wanted fish or tobacco). That even among our own tribes racism has crept in to divide us among ourselves b/c of the governments racist “blood quantum” and “rolls”. Some families having “more Native” looking traits, and some having “better” blood than others. Some tribes have naturally whiter skin than others due to the location of their peoples, and some tribes have people that have stereotypical European features b/c they have been systematically bred throughout the years for Their Own Good.
But leave it to people outside of a particular group to tell the members of that group what is and is not acceptable. How many people have been asked, no, ordered, to prove their heritage b/c they don’t Look The Part? How many people have been asked for some kind of certificate or form of ID to prove that they are in fact of the background they say they are (and don’t give me any white person Mayflower bullshit, I am not interested in more White Privilege)?
The audacity of some to decided what a person of a certain race or background should or should not look like angers me in ways I can’t compare to other feelings I have had. If I hadn’t been in the middle writing a piece on my own experiences being told that I was both too white and just a dirty Native I wouldn’t even have the frame of mind to call this shit out in a reasonable manner. The myths and stereotypes surrounding North American First Nations (b/c I can’t speak to the experiences of First Nations or Aboriginals of other regions) people are damaging, even w/in the tribes themselves, and it is long past time to put it to rest. If this kind of shit can pop up even in a space that is devoted to making sure people have a safe space from sexism and racism and homophobia then I feel like it is hopeless to even bring it up to the rest of the world.
Think about that the next time anyone out there decides that they want to tell this Native and her Native daughter that they are in fact not Native Enough.