I grew up in a small community where 70% of the population was Native American. Meaning out of 674 people in my town 472 were Native American and majority were a part of my tribe. I almost never had to explain that I am Native American, nor did I recognize the association(s) that came along with my identity. Contrary to what many believe, exoticism of Native American women is real. While we (Native women) are not to blame for this in any way, I believe that the exoticism stems from being us being a rarity if you will. 9 times out of 10, no one knows “what we are” without us telling them. From personal experiences, people always assume that I am bi-racial, usually Black & White, or of Hispanic descent.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I experienced exoticism. In some instances when I’ve shared my racial identity, I was treated like I was a limited edition of some sort. People couldn’t believe that I was Native and would even ask if I was “real” or “certified.” Thanks to mainstream media, we are depicted as Pocahontas and Poca-Hotties, wearing only skimpy buckskin clothing and feathers. Not only are these depictions culturally
inaccurate, but they also contribute to oppression and the rates of rape and sexual assault. These depictions continuously build upon systematic oppression, by falsely portraying the image that sexual advances are always wanted and welcomed, particularly among women of younger ages. Additionally, the exoticism and sexual advances also result in:
- 1 in 3 American Indian women being raped in their lifetime
- Native American/American Indian women being “more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.”
- 86% of reported cases of rape/sexual assault against Native American/American Indian women survivors were perpetrated by non-Native men
I am more than just a face, I am more than just a figure. I am a descendant of warriors who survived genocide. I am a Native American woman who is fighting against the exoticism of her people. I am NOT your fantasy.
What can you do to help decrease these statistics? Educate yourself and educate others. Click here to learn more about Native American culture. Let’s remove the Pocahontas stereotype. Join me in sharing knowledge and creating awareness of Native American women.
“Don’t build around me your fetish, fantasy, your lustful profanity to cage me in. Clip my wings, I don’t want to be your exotic.” ~Suheir Hammad