A Dozen Native Americans Walk Off Adam Sandler Movie Set
This Wednesday saw some frustrating news as Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN) reported that a dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s new spaghetti western spoof The Ridiculous Six because the film “repeatedly insulted native women and elders and grossly misrepresented Apache culture.” The actors were promised sensitivity and, at the very least, a lack of racism. Unfortunately, that promise was not acted upon. The script included Native characters named Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, and a portrayal of a Native woman smoking a peace pipe while squatting to pee. And what were the actors (many of whom are a part of the Navajo Nation tribe) and culture consultant, told when they brought up these racist inaccuracies and representations? “If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.” So they did.
This is not the first instance of Native American heritage being appropriated in the cultural lexicon. David Hill, a 74 year old member of the Choctaw tribe, said it himself, "They were bringing up those same old arguments that Dan Snyder uses in defending the Redskins.” Stereotypical, and more importantly, racist depictions of Native Americans have been employed throughout history. From the Redskins team in Washington, to the headdressed, ‘Aztec print’ nature of Coachella garb, the reappropriation of Native culture, and minority cultures in general, is super harmful to the members of each respective culture. Things like wearing Bindis or twerking when you’re not a part of the culture associated with it repackages what was once an integral piece of minority tradition as a cool new trend with no cultural value, or worse, a racist interpretation of that culture attached to it.
It’s tiring to have to watch people in privileged situations, like Adam Sandler, constantly using cultural minorities as the butt of some uninspired joke, and hurts people that are already in underprivileged situations. Native Americans have lost most of their land to white conquest and have been pushed onto tiny reserves with very poor healthcare and low standards of living. Isn’t it about time that we put all of this blatant stereotyping behind us and show the Native American people in an accurate, more human light?
Photo by Brent Stirton