CDG - The Costume Designer

Fall 2015

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20 The Costume Designer Fall 2015 THE COSTUME DEPARTMENT IN MY SHOES Harajuku A s a traditionally raised Native American woman (Anishinaabekwe) and member of the Costume Designers Guild, I am often shocked and saddened by the way Native Americans continue to be portrayed in film, television, and other media. I would like to ask CDG members and filmmakers alike to pay special attention when working on projects with Native American subject matter as I feel it has long been a trend to use artistic license when portraying our culture. There is the impression that during a production we don't have time to be culturally sensitive or that it is okay to take artistic liberties. Unfortunately, these conversations are often the beginning and end of trying to lend a voice of truth on projects representing Native Americans, projects that are often missing our input at the initiation. As members of the CDG, we interact directly with pro- ducers and directors at the beginning of the creative pro- cess. We are storytellers in our own craft, taking great pride in our research and ability to be authentic to our characters, leaving no stone unturned in the discovery process. With this in mind, I want to ask every member to support the importance of giving Native Americans an accurate portrayal through clothing. There are many resources that allow this authenticity to come forth. The process begins with getting the Native American perspective. In just the same way you would hire a special- ist on military uniforms or a specific period, please include Native Americans to consult on your projects. You can reach out to local tribes relevant to the Native community you are researching. We hold our elders in high regard and you can also reach out to them, as well as to Native filmmakers. Also imperative is questioning the correctness of the research you find. When referencing books, please keep in mind who the author is. We don't use words like "costumes" to describe our clothing. In fact, doing so is considered disrespectful. Please know that referencing an Edward Curtis pho- tograph does not necessarily give you an accurate repre- sentation. Mr. Curtis, while known to many people as an extraordinary photographer, was also known for staging elements in his photographs to his liking. In our culture, the placement of every feather, bead, and object is sacred and has great significance spiritually. In the same way that you would not use sacred clothing from other cultures impul- sively, please reconsider your appropriation of the different facets of Native American clothing, traditional wear, or rega- lia. The actual result of a cavalier attitude is the perpetuation of stereotypes that further trivialize and undermine Native American culture. In my opinion, it is not appropriate for non-Natives to wear traditional Native American clothing or regalia. A per- son is not honoring or appreciating our culture by making the choice to do this. To the Native American community, participating in this behavior has the same negative impact that blackface has in the African-American community. Furthermore, once captured on screen, these images have had and continue to have a devastating impact on our peo- ple for generations to come. Many cultures have been marginalized by inaccurate portrayals, and I want to respectfully acknowledge this. It is my hope that I can continue to lend a voice in my own community, and we all can come together to make a posi- tive difference. Storytelling is a crucial part of our culture. We have many beautiful stories passed down through the generations, imagine the beautiful stories we could create working together. Miigwech (Thank you), Kristi Hoffman CDG member Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Resources The Southern California Indian Center. /TribalDirectory Federally recognized tribes in the United States and their contact information. Producing new works by Native American, Alaska Native, and First Nations playwrights. A Native American film festival. Information on Native filmmakers. A forum for discussing the representation of Native peoples. Renewing and preserving Native American culture. A Native American Perspective

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