Open Letter to the White Woman Who Tried to Take My Photo Even Though I Asked Her Not To

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I know we’re poppin, but like, yall (non-Native people) need to chill.

Dear Random Settler,

You’re lucky I was dancing jingle this weekend.

Why? Because the jingle dress is a medicine dress. Not that you know this; not that you were listening when the MC explained our dance; not that it occurred to you that our regalia has any sort of meaning.

I say you’re lucky because, had I not been wearing this medicine dress, I would have definitely cussed you out.

You’re not the first white person to run up on me like you did yesterday afternoon, brandishing a phone camera, ready to do a cultural drive-by. You are, however, the first  to try to take my picture after I asked you not to.

Your actions were beyond disrespectful, but they were not surprising. Unfortunately, my people know your colonial gaze all too well. In the paternalistic traditions of Roger Williams and John Eliot, you extended settler violence by objectifying me.

I know exactly what kind of white liberal New Englander you are, showing up at the powwow as if that absolves you of your investment in colonialism. And I’m sure that you “mean well.” Don’t you all? I’m sure you knitted a pink pussy hat when your president got elected; voted for Elizabeth Warren; cheered at Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. But I’m willing to bet that not once at the powwow did you think about consent. And when you accosted me yesterday, you decided your cultural voyeurism was more important than respecting my culture. And me.

Hence I’m tired of white folks who “mean well.” Your people’s “good intentions” are, more often than not, burdensome. And it seems like whenever you come into our spaces, all you want to do is take. Appropriate. Steal.

Here’s the thing, sis. Not only is your patronizing fascination with Indigenous cultures burdensome, it is an extension of settler colonialism. At the core of your forefathers’ lively experiment called genocide was the belief that my people are sub-human. You felt entitled to take a photo of me, without my consent, because at some fundamental level you believe I am sub-human.

Whether or not you actually walked away with a photo is besides the point. I hope at the very least, your interaction with me jarred you out of stereotyping my people as docile, silent, and obedient.

Indigenous people are not attractions. Powwow is not a freak show. We do not exist solely to satisfy your colonial fetishes. That’s not how any of this works, and none of us owe you an explanation for the fact that we’re still here.

Signed,

A Jingle Dress Dancer  Who Refuses to Engage in Your White Nonsense

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Yes, we look presh. No, you can’t take our picture, sit with us, or make us buy into your dehumanizing settler lies about who we are as Indigenous people.