I see you are confused about what constitutes cultural appropriation. I would like to provide you with resources and information on the subject so that you can better understand what our concerns are. However, I also want you to have a brief summary of some of the more salient points so that you do not assume you are merely being called a racist, and so that I do not become frustrated with your defensive refusal to discuss the topic on those grounds.
If any of those have started whirling through your head, please lock them in a box while you read this article. They tend to interfere with the ability to have a respectful conversation. Examples from Canada and the United States would be: These items cannot be legitimately possessed or imitated by just anyone, as they represent achievements earned according to a specific criteria.
Yes, some people will mock these symbols. However in order to do this, they have to understand what the symbols represent, and then purposefully desecrate or alter them in order to make a statement.
They cannot then claim to be honouring the symbol. Some people will pretend to have earned these symbols, but there can be serious sanctions within a culture for doing this. Flags, most clothing, food etc. Accessing these things does not signal that you have reached some special achievement, and you are generally free to use these.
If you do not use these items to mock, denigrate or perpetuate stereotypes about other people, then you can legitimately claim to be honouring those items. In particular, the headdress worn by most non-natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations. These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.
So unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one sort of like being presented with an honorary degree , then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things.
If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this. It is okay to admire our cultures. However I think it is reasonable to ask that if you admire a culture, you learn more about it. Particularly when the details are so much more fascinating than say, out-dated stereotypes of Pan-Indian culture. You do not have to be an expert on our cultures to access aspects of them.
If you really, really want to wear beaded moccasins or mukluks or buy beautiful native art, then please do!
There are legitimate and unrestricted items crafted and sold by aboriginal peoples that we would be more than happy to see you with. Then all the nasty disrespectful stereotyping and denigration of restricted symbols can be avoided, while still allowing you to be decked out in beautiful native-created fashion.
If you are an artist who just loves working with aboriginal images, then please try to ensure your work is authentic and does not incorporate restricted symbols or perpetuate stereotypes. For example, painting a non-native woman in a Plains culture warbonnet is just as disrespectful as wearing one of these headdresses in real life. Acknowledging from which specific nation the images you are using come from is even better.
Maybe you had no idea about any of this stuff. A simple acknowledgement of the situation is pure gold, in my opinion. It diffuses tension and makes people feel that they have been heard, respected, and understood. The fact is, this issue does get people very upset. My hope is that once you cool down, you will accept that you are not being asked to do something unreasonable.
It demonstrates how not to go about the issue. You and I both know this issue is not the end of the world. But it is an obstacle on the path to mutual respect and understanding. It can be inobvious even for natives. As a native male from a Plains nation, my father left me his headdress which he earned and told me I could wear it when he passed.
Eventually during a visit to the reservation I asked about it among many other things and of course it turns out the rule in our nation is the headdress is only to be worn by warriors, which generally means veteran status, or other notable service.