JMBzine.com

by James M. Branum

Discussion re: T-shirts sold by War Paint Clothing Co. of Oklahoma City

with 29 comments

Updated May 17, 2010: I just got off the phone with Travis Pickett, the owner of War Paint Clothing Co. of Oklahoma City. He objected to my use of a picture of the shirt taken from the facebook profile of War Paint Clothing Co.. While I think my use of the image was within the “fair use” exception of the copyright laws, I have decided to remove it because he said that the model would be upset that her image was tied to my calling the shirt racist. I have no desire to shame anyone except the makers of this shirt and those who sell them.

Updated again on May 17, 2010: In light of this response written by the owners of the store, I’ve changed the headline of this article. I still find the shirts to be deeply troubling, but I want to make it clear the shirtmakers have no racist intent and that they believe they are  honoring native culture with these shirts. I am, however, leaving this post up. I think it is still an open question whether the shirts communicate honor or not.


I did some research and discovered there are two different companies called War Paint Clothing Co. This essay is about the one located in Oklahoma City. (the other one is from Lansing, MI, and is a native-owned company that has been in business since 2006)

OK, this evening I went down to meet some friends in the Plaza District of Oklahoma City for the “Live on the Plaza” Art Walk. I had a good time for most of the evening (in particular I got to hear an awesome local band, The Sugarfree All-Stars for the first time), but towards the end of the evening I went in a store called War Paint Clothing Co.

I had heard about them before. They’ve been covered in the Oklahoma Gazette and the OU Student Newspaper. I had concerns about them based on the press coverage (namely that I was afraid they were planning to profit off of native culture in an exploitative way), but I was hoping I would be wrong.

It was far worse than I feared. The store was packed with folks (they just had a burlesque show and folks were stilling milling around) but I did get a chance to look at their merchandise. Two shirts shocked me.

The first one was a picture of a skull wearing a plains Indian headdress, with the words “War Paint Clothing Co.” in the bottom corner written in script lettering.

Racist T-shirt Design of War Paint Clothing Co.

The second one showed a sacred ceremonial pipe (often called a calumet) with the word “Smokelahoma” written above it in script lettering. (sorry I didn’t get a picture of this one, and I can’t find it on the web)

I was pretty upset when I saw these shirts, but I left the store. I thought I could just push it out of my head and catch up with my friends. So I started to walk away but something told me, I had to say something.

(from here on out, I’m going to do the best I can to recount what was said in the conversation, but I could have the order of the conversation wrong… it was pretty heated conversation)

So I went back into the store and asked the clerk behind the counter “I have a question. I see your shirt that has the dead Indian wearing a headdress. What does that mean?” A man next to her (who later identified himself as an owner) said, “we’re just honoring our native american heritage.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that was all he could say, so my response was less than articulate. I said, “well it’s f***ing offensive if you ask me.” He said “how was it offensive?” and I said that there is thing called genocide and it looks to me like your shirts are celebrating dead Indians.

He said that it was not and looked offended. He asked me again what was so offensive about it? I don’t recall my response, except I reiterated my being upset about a celebration of a dead Indians in a “hipster cliche” kind of manner that dehumanized real live Indians of today.

He came around the counter and said that I had to leave. I said, “well what does the shirt mean?” And he said, “you need to leave or we’re going to escort you out for causing a scene in here.” I started walking towards the door but said, “well what does it mean? That shirt is so offensive. Why won’t you explain what it means? Are you afraid to engage in dialogue about it?”

At this point one of his friends (a much bigger guy) walked up, and the owner-guy (sorry I didn’t catch his name) was getting out his cellphone to call the police, so I figured it was best to leave.

Out on the sidewalk, the conversation continued.

The owner-guy said that I was the one who was offensive when I brought up the word “genocide.” I said, “I’m not sure how else to take your shirts, because genocide is a major part of our state’s history, and your shirts send a confusing message.” He went on then to say, “well some of us are native and we wouldn’t offend our own people.” He then went on to challenge my ethnic identity saying “you don’t look Indian at all to me.” I told him, well I am part native but that’s not really the point here. He reiterated his point about “not standing on the graves of his fathers and grandfathers to offend my own people.” (I think he also invoked his privileged status as having a CDIB card, something that many Indians in Oklahoma do not have due to the decision of their native ancestors to not cooperate with government agents who compiled the Dawes Roll and other rolls in the late 1800’s)

At about this point, a friend of the owner-guy joined the conversation. He was also mixed-ancestry but more visibly native. He said that he didn’t find the shirts offensive and that “besides, don’t you know, most of the genocide didn’t happen in Oklahoma.” Another friend, a white guy said, “it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just art.” He also said that “man, they got some really good Native jewelry in there. They respect Indians. You got it wrong.”

The owner-guy went on to say that his store honors Indians and that Native Americans come into his store all of the time to say how much they appreciate his products. (I seriously doubt that)

The owner-guy then proceeded to tell me to not ever come back and I wasn’t welcome because I accused him of celebrating genocide and caused a scene in his store. I told him I would have to think about it and that I would talk to other native folks to see what they thought, but that he could count on a response of some kind.

Things were getting pretty tense by this point (and I had no intention to get in a fight, especially being outnumbered) so I turnedaway  and said, “I’ll think about it and will talk to some people about it, but for tonight this conversation is over.”

Since then I’ve been pondering this whole conversation and those shirts. I talked to one of my friends who I met in the Plaza District (who also is a mixed-blood Indian) to get her perspective on it. We talked at length about it, to see if there is any possible way to see these shirts outside of a racist context. We couldn’t think of any.

Upon reflection, here are the conclusions I’ve come to about it…

First, I think that the folks at War Paint Clothing Co. seem to be sincere in their misguided and asinine belief that they are somehow honoring Native American heritage with their shirts. They seemed visibly upset when I accused them of celebrating genocide, which is certainly a good thing for them to be upset about. These folks certainly weren’t intending to be racist, which I suppose is laudatory.

But, how in the hell can you get past the racist imagery?

Let’s break this down a little bit.

The first shirt has the skull of a dead Indian wearing a plains Indian headdress. What does this shirt bring to mind?

I first think about the famous line, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” (a quote sometimes attributed to General Sheridan, but more likely a paraphrase from a line out of Congressional floor speech of Congressman James M. Cavanaugh from 1868) and the way our society in past generations honored the “noble savage” who either died off or was assimilated into white society, but refused to give any honor to real live Indians in the present day who resisted both death and assimilation .

Or to say it another way, if you want to honor native Americans, why not make a shirt of a hero from our history, or even show the face of someone alive today (who is resisting genocide, simply by living out native values and culture)? Why is it that only dead Indians, and abstract/stereotypical Indians who get celebrated?

The image of the skull also brings to mind the Indian remains held in many museums to this day. There is an ongoing fight to return those remains to their people and to the earth (see Return2theearth.org and the wikipedia article on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act for a bit of this history), but the fight isn’t over. The graves of Native dead have been desecrated for many years, and many remains are still in museums.

Finally, I’m not aware of any Plains Indian tribe that would be comfortable with this imagery (and I’m discussing it in that context, because the stylized image is of a stereotypical plains style headdress — I know Natives in other culture, especially in Mexico have different cultural ideas about skulls). Some plain tribes use animal skulls for ceremonial purposes (i.e. the buffalo skull in the Sun Dance), but those skulls are normally used in a sacred manner. The use of a human skull on a t-shirt would be incomprehensible.

As for the second shirt, I know their intent is probably to poke fun at Oklahoma’s marijuana laws (with the “Smokelahoma” slogan), but to use a calumet for this purpose? This just seems wrong.

Now I understand that these folks may say that I’m taking this to seriously and take offense at my connecting these images to genocide. But I don’t think you can see it in either other way.

Few peoples on earth have been so decimated as have Native Americans. Many tribes lost 99% or more of their members from war and from disease brought from Europe. And the genocide wasn’t just physical deaths, but rather it was an intentional process to kill native culture and language.

The wikipedia article on genocide says:

Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.[1]

While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

When you look at these two defintions, there is no other word for the Native American experience, other than genocide. There were numerous acts committed over the past 5 centuries with the intent to destroy “in whole or in part” an entire race, by means that included all of the methods mentioned under the CPPCG.

And this isn’t just past tense either. And contrary to one of the defenders of War Paint Clothing Co., the genocide DID happen in Oklahoma.

Let’s review a few basic historical facts.

1. More than 30 tribes were marched to what would be come Oklahoma against their will, in genocidal death marches (often called “The Trail of Tears”). So, the very entry of most tribes into Oklahoma was rooted in genocide.

2. The “Battle of the Washita” (more accurately the massacre on the Washita River Massacre) happened in Oklahoma, where Custer slaughtered a Cheyenne village of mostly old men, women and children.

3. Indian children were forced from their parents and into Indian schools where they were punished for speaking their language, where the boys were forced to cut their hair, and every attempt possible was made to force the Indian-ness out of them.

4. Until recent decades, many Indian children were forever taken from their Indian parents and adopted out of the tribe.

5. The US government has continued to disregard its treaty obligations to tribes in Oklahoma, resulting in poverty and despair (which subsequently leads to drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and countless other social ills)

6. Racism against Indians continues to this day in Oklahoma. Two examples from this last month come to mind…

A friend reported to me an incident in Shawnee a few weeks ago where a person was refused service at a bar because the patron “looked too Indian.” And in the month of April, native school children in many Oklahoma schools were forced to participate in Land Run reenactments(essentially a celebration of a mass grab of native lands by non-native peoples).

My point is that genocide (as defined by the UN) is very much part of Okahoma’s history and it is not just something that happened in the distant past. For a Native person in Oklahoma to not understand this is appalling.

I also would like to know if the folks at War Paint Clothing Co. plan to come out with other clothing lines, to “honor” other people who were the victims of genocide? Maybe they can make shirts showing holocaust victims eviscerated by starvation and showing their numbers tattooed on their body. Or maybe they could make shirts showing the skulls of dead Cambodians, or maybe poke fun at machetes (the main weapon used in the Rwandan genocide). Seriously, why is it ok to make shirts that “honor” American Indian dead in this kind of way, but not ok to do that to do this to other ethnic groups?

The only answer is racism. It may be under the surface, but it is still there. Racism says that Indians are different: that we don’t count, that you can display our skulls in museums and put our skulls on funny t-shirts, that you can take our sacred religious objects and use them for satirical purposes. You can even make funny mascots out of us and use them to name your sporting teams.

What other ethnic group can you do this to in modern America? What if you used a racial slur for black or white people to name a shorts team? I don’t think so. (well except in satire, like the Fighting Whities)

Racism is alive and well in America. It certainly is present in the Plaza District at 1710 NW 16th st. in Oklahoma City, but it is present in a lot of other places. It frankly is present in the press, or else the reporters at the Oklahoma Gazette and the OU Daily would have asked some tough questions instead of writing PR puff pieces about War Paint Clothing Company. And it is still present in many of our schools and colleges.

So what are we going to do about it?

I don’t know. I’m too angry to be very creative. I’m hoping others can come up with better ideas. For now though, here are my thoughts on this…

1. For Native folks, please contact your tribal leaders and alert them to these shirts and ask them to condemn them.

2. It goes without saying, but please do not patronize this store. Or better yet, go there and tell them you won’t be buying from them. Their website is currently “under construction” but you can find their contact info on their facebook page.

3. If you see people wearing these shirts, please tell them what the images mean to you, and why it is hurtful that folks are wearing these shirts. Maybe we can look at this as a good education opportunity.

4. We need our native historians to speak up. When a native young adult says, “the genocide mostly didn’t happen in Oklahoma” we have some serious educating to do. I’m not sure how to do it, but it has to be done.

5. We need our native artists to speak up too. We must create art that DOES HAVE MEANING. Else, we are stuck with what gets created by those who share the sentiments of the guy who told me tonight “it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just art.” Art inherently has meaning, and despite the lack of the ability of the folks at War Paint Clothing Co. to explain it, their  t-shirts do have meaning. Art doesn’t have to be obvious or didactic, but meaning-making is part of the point of art. And I think for Native peoples, this is critically important. Because if we don’t provide the meaning, others will.

6. Let’s continue the conversation. Maybe there are other appropriate responses – pickets, protests, public boycotts, etc. Let’s brainstorm and come up with some ideas on how to speak out against these shirts. I’m sure I’ll get my fair share of hate email, but if anyone wants to continue the conversation you can find my contact info on this page.

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Written by James M. Branum

May 15, 2010 at 2:18 am

29 Responses

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  1. I think there is another way to take that shirt.

    It reminds me of an anti-war poster showing the skull of a soldier with a helmet on reminding people that war is terrible and men and woman are dying.

    I don’t know if it was the artists intention or not but it could be taken as a reminder of the genocide; a shirt to wear to remind people of something so easily forgotten.

    This also makes that photo with the American flag in the background much more meaningful. It reinforces the message that American did this to the Indians and I’m going to remember it and remind people by wearing this shirt.

    If it said “remember” or “never forget” below the image I might even buy it.

    ajy

    May 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    • Good point Aaron.

      I probably still would have been uncomfortable with it, but probably would have found it more understandable if they had explained the shirt in that way.

      But to leave it in some kind of vague “we’re honoring our native heritage” way doesn’t have the vibe of remembrance or honor. It feels more like they are using the imagery of the past with Indians in the abstract (i.e. the Buffalo head nickel) rather than celebrating specific Indians (i.e. the Sacagewa coin). You can’t tell if they are trying to be ironic or just trying to cash in on their hipster cliche coolness.

      James M. Branum

      May 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

  2. I find it very offensive. The image for me brings to mind the saying, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.

    I also feel they were extremely insensitive in how they handled you. The message was if you don’t agree with me get the hell outa my store.

    I’ll pray for them.

    Mama Sue

    May 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

  3. Good posting, James. I wrote about the incident, and cited your thoughts, here:

    http://newspaperrock.bluecorncomics.com/2010/05/t-shirt-shows-skull-in-headdress.html

    Rob Schmidt

    May 15, 2010 at 11:34 pm

  4. I posted a comment at Oklahoma Citizen, where James cross-posted this.

    Rena

    May 16, 2010 at 1:01 am

  5. Wow … I have to say … you are reading WAY too much into these graphics. You’re trying to create something that evidently is not there, nor would I imagine native people find offensive. Regardless if you have the cliche “1/8th Cherokee” in you or not, there’s nothing in these images you need to take offense to. These guys are just artists creating what they feel is positive artwork and are obviously proud of being Oklahoman and the heritage that comes with it. You’re basically bitching about artists creating clothing for “hipsters” or anyone else who happens to have pride in Oklahoma and wants to express it. Honestly, you’re behaving like a complete extremist. Obviously you’re overlooking the good intentions here. These guys could easily produce some generic “hipster” BS like slapping some inspired 80’s graphics on a shirt and further clouding the marketplace with crap … but they DON’T. They take inspiration from something most people … or “hipsters” … would not deem as “cool.” They take Oklahoma and use it’s heritage to proudly express, “I’m from Oklahoma, and it’s a rad place, and I have pride in that fact, as should most people from Oklahoma.” How can you overlook that?

    Furthermore, they’re exposing Oklahoma-inspired artwork to the nation. Their affiliated band is gaining National popularity and in turn promoting War Paint Clothing and the fact that Oklahoma has talented people in it and we are proud of where we come from.

    There really is nothing offensive about their artwork. To point that out or see it in that light shows how short-minded and narrow your thinking is. Obviously you’re a person who would rather dwell on the negative aspects rather than seeing the overwhelming positivity behind what WPC is doing. Who are you? The Native American Police and Justice League? Do you find our own state flag offensive? This is so amazingly ridiculous I don’t even know how to digest your cynicism. And the fact that you wrote a damn novel to express your views on some stupid blog that no one visits (I don’t even know how my friend saw this) is as astonishing as your behavior inside their store.

    As an artist, Oklahoman and human being, I would ask you to keep your rude and (yes) offensive remarks to yourself. If you find something offensive, find a time to bring it up to them one on one or through a more private setting — with class and an open mind. How dare you so rudely bring it up and create a scene during a busy moment of their business hours! You should feel ashamed and embarrassed.

    Please, people like you need to stay at home and continue hiding behind your extremist rhetorical blogs. Don’t come out and publicly embarrass yourself again, please.

    — from a proud Oklahoman, an artist and cliche 1/8th Cherokee

    Kris

    May 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    • Kris, it doesn’t further your argument to lob insults at the blogger, who, by the way, was one of the very first Oklahoma bloggers, since 2002 or 2003, and is in fact widely read. But why don’t you address the real issue at hand and tell us what the image means to you. I sincerely want to give this image a fair reading, but need help that none of its defenders seem willing or able to provide. You say it honors, but how? Why is the Indian a skull? If you are an artist, I’m sure you have some experience answering such questions. Inform us with facts or well stated analysis, not silly, defensive insults.

      Rena

      May 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      • Widely read? LOL! By who? The Alexa ranking for this blog says it receives hardly any traffic, if at all, on a daily basis. But whatever, I’m not here to debate that.

        Anyway, the image, to me, is simply a skull with a head dress on it. Much like a cow skull would have been decorated by Native Americans. It doesn’t emulate genocide or anything like that, to me. Perhaps it reminds me of the overwhelming amount of disregard for the Native American culture our Oklahoma lives. Sure, we have a lot of Native American ancestry and imagery adorning our capital and state periphinalia, but all of that is much more offensive to me than some artists making shirts for simple viewing pleasure. The state uses N.A. imagery like it’s something they’re proud of when our government are the ones responsible for the oppression of those people. These guys are just creating something that looks cool and in turn resembles where they live and that they have pride in the Oklahoma heritage.

        You’re reading WAY too much into this. And it’s sad to turn a local, independent, albeit “hipster”, clothing company into some negative topic. Seriously, leave the poor guys alone. Go boycott the HUGE “Indian” atop the capital. That’s offensive!

        I hope every single “hipster” buys that shirt and wears it in and outside of the state. And when people ask, what’s the meaning behind that shirt, they say, “I’m from Oklahoma, and I’m proud of it.”

        Drop it. And quit defending this jerk who decided to rudely embarrass himself inside their store.

        Kris

        May 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

  6. Kris,

    I agree with you on two points, and I think it is important for the sake of a good conversation to make this clear.

    1. I think the artists who designed your shirts and the store have good intentions. The fact that they defended themselves on Friday night make it clear the fact that they do not have racist intentions.

    2. I think it was appropriate to confront the store about the shirts, but I think I should have refrained from using the f-word. That was rude and purposefully antagonistic. But I was angry beyond belief and was speaking from that place. I still am angry but am hoping to stay more civil in the future about this subject.

    3. 2800 words does not constitute a novel, but I agree that I was too wordy in my original blog post. But in my defense, this is a pretty loaded subject. I’m not going to give a shoddy explanation of things.

    Moving on to your other points, I find it interesting that you say that native people won’t find this offensive. I’ve thus far talked to 4 native people about the shirts, and all thought they were at the least poorly conceived and carelessly offensive and at the worst straight up racist. None of those folks saw the shirts as being something that honored native culture. And two of those friends say they are contacting their tribal leadership about the shirts.

    I understand there are other native folks (including yourself) who don’t find the shirts offensive. So obviously different people are seeing different things in these shirts. But I don’t think it takes much effort to understand why many native people do find the shirts to be offensive.

    I would argue as well, that if you want the shirts to be seen in a more positive light, you need to reconsider the context. One of my friends who earlier commented on this blog (Aaron) suggested that you add the words “remember” or “never forget” to your shirt, to more closely remind viewers of what it is that you are remembering and honoring about native history.

    I also think the same image (of the skull wearing a headdress) would be seen very differently on a canvas or on print hanging on the wall. I admit this might seem insignificant, but a t-shirt generally is seen as being either a way to get out a quick message, to advertise something, to show the wearer’s pride in something (i.e. a sports team shirt), to make the viewer laugh, or sometimes even to make the viewer scratch their head or be offended. In all of those cases, the shirt must communicate quickly (because the person wearing the shirt is mobile and could be in and out of the viewer’s field of vision pretty quickly).

    A picture on a wall tends to have a different effect, it is an invitation to think, to mull something over. It isn’t just a quick image in and out of your mind in seconds.

    I would argue that if the skull design is meant to provoke thought (which as of yet, no one from War Paint Clothing has said is the case), then a shirt is a bad venue for it, unless of course you add some words to make it super-clear what you are trying to do.

    As for “smokelahoma,” I can’t think of any way to rehabilitate that image. If you want to make a funny statement about pot legalization, show a picture of a joint or a bong with the word Smokelahoma, but don’t show a sacred pipe.

    James M. Branum

    May 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

  7. Well, I agree that “Smokelahoma” can be seen as offensive. But lets face it … it’s a joke. And a funny one at that. Considering our state has some of the harshest penalties against marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs in the nation, but yet we proudly display “drug paraphernalia” on our flag. It makes no sense and all WPC is trying to do is point out the irony and silliness behind it. I’ve spoke about this with many Native Americans and the joke has been there before I was even born, so let’s just (again) focus on the lighter side of everything instead of trying to turn a local independent small business into some demonized racist entity.

    Seriously, quit acting like such a jerk.

    Kris

    May 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

  8. Honestly genocide is not the feeling i get from this piece but more of an avenging spirit kind of vibe. obviously it is an effective piece of art to create such a reaction. also, it seems very appropriate for natives to reinterpret their own iconography, breath fresh life into the ancient symbols for them to have meaning in current day.

    Brad

    May 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

  9. ATTN ALL ARTISTS:

    From now on, all artwork must be reviewed by James Matthew
    Branum before being sold. J.M. Branum is able to interpret your art and find ‘hidden meanings and symbols’ which he will then rant about for his 5 daily readers. This particularly applies to local artists, small stores, and community venues.

    ted

    May 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm

  10. I found the shirt celebrating the holocaust you warned us about! It was a plain black short sleeved v-neck, but you could tell what they meant by that black color. And short sleeves celebrating how their lives were cut short! I was so infuriated I said the f-word really loud in front of families and kids just like you!! And then I ran home to blog about it >:l

    Jack

    May 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    • Just to clarify, there were no kids around on Friday night when the original conversation took place. They just finished the Burlesque show (or so I assume, as there was still one of the dancers still there in costume), so it really wasn’t a family-friendly occasion.

      James M. Branum

      May 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

  11. This link is to a response written by the owners of War Paint Clothing Co. on the cross-posting of this at OklahomaCitizen.org

    http://oklahomacitizen.org/2010/05/15/call-action-response-racist-shirts-sold-war-paint-clothing-co-oklahoma-city#comment-325

    James M. Branum

    May 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    • Here is the reply I wrote to the owners of WPC on OklahomaCitizen.org:

      Derek & Travis,

      I just want to thank you for your thoughtful response.

      I still don’t like the shirts, for the reasons I have already stated. And I am convinced that many native people would share my concern.

      But it is also clear to me that there was no racist intent whatsoever on your parts. And this understanding certainly makes me less upset than I was.

      In the future, when I talk about your shirts, I will make it clear that your store feels that it is honoring native heritage, and that I believe this desire to honor is truly genuine, even if it is, in my opinion, misguided.

      James

      James M. Branum

      May 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm

  12. If you Google “war paint clothing t-shirt,” you’ll find three of the top 10 postings are on the skull shirt’s offensiveness. I presume there was no discussion of the shirt until James Branum initiated one.

    So James seems to be doing a good job of getting the word out. If War Paint Clothing doesn’t mind the bad publicity and Kris thinks no one cares, I guess everyone is happy.

    The “avenging spirit” interpretation is about as stereotypical as the “dead Indian” interpretation. And the store isn’t honoring Oklahoma’s Indian heritage. It’s “honoring” the same homogenized Plains Indian “heritage” seen in countless stereotypical images.

    Rob Schmidt

    May 17, 2010 at 8:45 pm

  13. […] 17 May I’m receiving some threatening emails regarding my prior post regarding the t-shirts sold in Oklahoma City which I would argue are offensive […]

  14. I work at PECHANGA.net, James. I posted the link to your blog there.

    FYI, the site is the best source if you want to follow Native issues. And it’s owned by an individual Pechanga Indian, not by the Pechanga tribe.

    Rob Schmidt

    May 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm

  15. Funny, I saw this shirt in a google images search and immediately related to it meaning to remember all the Native Americans that died before the era. Maybe you only wanted to see what’s in your hard to begin with—anger.

    Passerby

    January 2, 2015 at 4:21 pm

  16. of course I’m sure you won’t allow my previous post to remain on your blog which proves you’re only out to have your say.

    Passerby

    January 2, 2015 at 4:22 pm

  17. I am just reading your article about Warpaint Clothing in OKC. To be honest, I’m blown away at your taking such tremendous offense; especially since I happen to know that Travis, Derek, etc… Spent months and months coming up with designs and looking at designs from Native artists when they did their initial run of shirts. I know this because I worked with Derek, and we had numerous discussions about how much they wanted to ensure that they showed respect to Native cultures and not to cause any offense. They actually turned down far more designs/drawings than they put into production because they wanted to stay on the safe side rather than risk offending Natives by producing shirts with designs that might be construed as demeaning, racist, or that might cause ill will between Native Americans and the store & its owners/employees/customers wearing the objectionable clothing. They did their homework & research over many months, and made sure to get the opinions of a very diverse section of Native Americans before they did the first runs. You are taking it upon yourself to be offended when you’re not carrying the blood of Native trines within your veins. Trust me when I say that the trines do not need some white man to fight their battles for them. Had there been negative response to their ideas for designs by Native Americans, the designs objected to would never have been produced. The idea was to come up with a line of clothing that would be Oklahoman in all aspects. You chose 2 designs out of several times that number, and then got up on a soapbox to proclaim people as racist/genocidal when those people did their due diligence to make sure their product wasn’t seen by the Native community in the horrible light you chose to see their products in, when even the Native peoples they spoke with & showed designs to and accepted designs from didn’t share your views. Nothing is worse than someone who takes offense at something that even the group(s) depicted aren’t offended by. Sure, you probably found one or two people with Native blood who weren’t happy about it, but I’d wager that number was very small. I personally have over a dozen shirts from Warpaint that I have worn all over Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas… And NOT ONE NATIVE AMERICAN SAID ANYTHING ABOUT THEM BUT POSITIVE THINGS. I am proud of my friend Derek & of Travis, and glad that their store is successful. If, as you submit, the designs were seen as racist/genocidal, the store would’ve folded & there would’ve been protests & picketing… There was neither. You obviously need to find something else to do, since your blog obviously doesn’t get much traffic. Anyway, I WILL compliment you on one issue; that you didn’t automatically presume Travis & Derek to be uncaring about how their line of apparel would be taken by the Native peoples that they were trying to pay homage to. I will continue to wear my Warpaint gear proudly, and also to pass out business cards to people on the street who stop me and ask how to get their own. Some of us are extremely proud that Oklahoma is home to such a plethora of Native culture and that the trines are finally receiving their very very long overdue respect, representation, and financial freedom. I personally am of Saxon heritage, but have always been a very proud Oklahoman, and grew up reading & learning as much as possible ( and at 46 yrs old, my thirst for knowledge of Native culture remains unquenched) about America’s native peoples. I am all for anything and everything that furthers interest and learning about their cultures…which Warpaint does with careful consideration. Perhaps it is YOU who needs to rethink things, rather than Travis & the wonderful & caring people at Warpaint.

    Robert Von Reiter

    August 5, 2015 at 3:30 am

    • Count me as one indigenous person who thinks the shirts are racist.

      James M. Branum

      April 23, 2016 at 8:12 am

      • this store closed down a few years ago. all is well that ends well.

        Wesley

        December 13, 2016 at 2:37 am


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