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Saturday, June 10, 2023
native scholar

Dr. Adrienne Keene explains stereotyping and cultural appropriation during Native November at the Multicultural Student Center. 

‘Native Appropriations’ researcher, activist exposes problems of stereotyping

Native scholar Dr. Adrienne Keene educated attendees about stereotyping and cultural appropriation of Native people at the Multicultural Student Center Wednesday.

Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, studied in the department of Culture, Communities and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and now researches college access for Native students at Brown University. She used examples from her blog, “Native Appropriations,” including portrayals of Native people in fashion, film, music and other forms of pop culture.

“[Stereotyping] shrinks the diversity into this stock set of stereotypes that doesn’t represent the vast diversity of Native Americans at all,” Keene said.

She proceeded to give examples of inaccurate images shown in logos, movies like “The Lone Ranger” and “Peter Pan” and more.

Cultural appropriation, according to Keene, is related to stereotyping, but is its own issue. She explained appropriating cultures results in economic, moral and cultural harms that can lead to great problems with power.

“It was good to hear about different ways that online presence has motivated tangible change,” said an intern for MSC who wished not to be named. “I appreciated the way that Dr. Keene came at it from all different angles … just fostering the respect for Native American communities.”

Keene explained that the misrepresentation of Native peoples’ culture in fashion marketing puts Native designers and makers at a disadvantage.

Through her blog posts and work with a non-profit, Keene has advised multiple companies on how to avoid appropriation. She inspired the Paul Frank company to work with Native designers to have genuine designs in their products. She also was in contact with Netflix to change the description of the movie “Pocahontas” to a more empowering statement.

The MSC welcomed Keene as part of its Native November celebration.

“Most of us on this campus have so little exposure to Native American issues and people have maybe vague ideas of cultural appropriation,” said another MSC intern. “It was cool to have Dr. Keene to talk in a really accessible way about how to identify appropriation. It was important for us to hear from someone who could talk about her own people.”

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