This September 28th is American Indian day. I’ve seen several different accounts of the call for this unofficial holiday – from Arthur C. Parker (Seneca) and Congress of the American Indian Association in 1915, to the Boy Scouts in 1916, the State of New York (1916), the state of California Assembly (1968 and/or 1998). Regardless of the history of this date, some communities, native and non-native, are recognizing it with some sort of event.
How do I know? I’ve had a couple web-hits this week that resulted from google searches for the terms “Native American Day clip art,” and “American Indian Day clip art.” I was puzzled as to how people ended up on my blog with those search terms, but figured out after a few minutes that the search engine (Google) was coming up with those particular words as a combination from different postings. I write about performance art so I have included video “clips” as documentation of those performance art events. My whole blog is about indigenous art and I use American Indian, Native American, First Nations, and indigenous, etc., according the particular preferences of the artists and institutions addressed in my postings. And presto… a few people came looking for clip art.
Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the other search results would be. Below is a screen shot from a section of clip art choices from one typical website. I intentionally blurred the edges (below) so that no one would actually use it as clip art from MY blog. Typically, the representation of an Indian in clip art is male, plains clothing, an abnormally large or small head, or an abnormally puffed-out chest. Also common: canoes and teepees, eagle-feather headdresses.
For anyone genuinely in need of clip art for your American Indian Day event, I suggest finding an actual indigenous artist from YOUR GEOGRAPHICAL/CULTURAL REGION, and PAY THE ARTIST. Looking for suggestions for non-offensive content? Solicit a version of a geometric or floral pattern from beadwork, basketry, weaving, or rock art. If you need a graphic for your celebratory community event, consider that soliciting design work from local tribally-enrolled or tribally-recognized artists and designers helps build community relationships for the longterm. Clip art is all about short-term, shallow appearances.
I complained about the clip art issue on Facebook and was sent the image at the top of this post by artist John Feodorov. He is Navajo and lives in the Seattle, WA area. Annoyed Indian would be a great graphic for an American Indian day event that addresses the history of colonialism or the effects of stereotype (in any community).
Don’t let clip art undermine your institution’s intentions!
Need a laugh? There is a You Tube video about clip art. It is NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Only the first minute or so are relevant http://youtu.be/GTjTXOtff8A