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Lumbee Miss North Carolina 2013 Getting Flack for Pocahontas Photoshoot

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown March 21st, 2014 Last Updated on: September 25th, 2018

A lot of us usually freak out when we see someone wearing a “Pocahottie” costume and start to break out our cultural appropriation speech. So then what happens when a Native American woman decides she wants to dress in a Pocahontas inspired outfit? Recently, Johna Edmonds, Miss North Carolina 2013, came under fire after she posted pictures from a recent photo shoot in which she posed as one of her favorite Disney princesses, Pocahontas. She had plenty of supporters who thought the pictures were lovely, but also those who thought the pictures were in poor taste and hyper-sexualized. One commenter by the name of Danette said, “While I appreciate what you aspire to be, Johna, let's please, as Native Women, uphold our image and culture in a way to honour our ancestors.”

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

So what do you think? Were these pictures in poor taste?

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

Via Miss North Carolina Facebook page

On March 18th, Johna Edmonds took to her Facebook page an offered an explanation for the photo shoot and defended herself with the following post:

I would like to redirect your attention for just a moment so that I might address, all at once, the concerns that were expressed by some of the followers of this Facebook page and a few of my own personal supporters, regarding my recently posted Disney Princess-themed photos.

For the purpose of helping an incredible artistic team who have been unbelievably generous to the Miss North Carolina Scholarship Program, capture the essence of their creative vision for this year's Disney Princess-themed Miss NC program book ad-page, I portrayed my childhood favorite Disney Princess, “Pocahontas.” And what should have remained a proud moment for me as well as others excited to see the outcome of this photo shoot, quickly devolved.

Within a matter of minutes, I had been unfairly accused of “misappropriating Native American culture” and of perpetuating society's “hyper-sexualization of Native American women.” Given that these assertions couldn't be farther from the truth, I'd like to take this opportunity to dispel any and all such ideas that have clearly been confused with and conflated as “misappropriating,” when they are actually “celebrating” the beautiful marriage of an artist's creative vision with my personal interpretation of a modern-day “Pocahontas.”

Without a doubt, beauty and art are political issues. Growing up, I was assaulted with media images that looked nothing like me, and for a long time was convinced that little girls, like myself, without blonde hair and blue eyes could be deemed “beautiful.” My seven-year-old self would have been thrilled to know that someone like me could one day be crowned Miss North Carolina and have the opportunity to even take part in such a photo shoot that would reach so many people. So the suggestion that I have in some way “misappropriated” Native American culture doesn't hold up, especially against the bevy of well-documented experiences that I have worked tirelessly to amass since I was a little girl as a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

Furthermore, for a person to “misappropriate” a culture, it is implied that they must have a history completely separate from that culture. As such, I clearly cannot be guilty of “misappropriating” a culture with which I have such strong ties. Again, there is a difference between “misappropriation” and “appreciation,” and I have always worked to ensure that my actions epitomize the latter.

Of course it’s wrong to objectify a group’s behavior or history and consume it for entertainment and capital. But it's so important to understand and consider the context in which actions occur. For example, this photo shoot was based on the photographer's artistic vision of “Pocahontas,” rather than a real world depiction of a Native American woman. This small but crucial distinction is a testament to the importance of always taking context into account.

So to those who feel that I have distastefully used my sexuality or femininity–which are mine to use–I do sincerely apologize. However, I'd like to also suggest that if all you see is a “hyper-sexualized” Native American woman when looking at these beautifully captured photographs, I would suggest that problem isn't me, as I never aimed to convey “hyper-sexiness” at any point during this photo shoot. Instead, I really wanted to epitomize and portray the beauty and regal nature of the “Pocahontas” I fondly remember, and with whom I spent the entirety of my childhood captivated by.

So thank you, commenters, for opening up this very necessary dialogue. Your respective comments have only served as a reminder for me how the bodies of minority women continue to be a battleground for so many oppressive forces. And I believe that it is only by naming these forces, and recognizing their ugly reflections in our own lives, that we can begin to see all of our own true beauty.

In love and light,
Johna

So her point is that the photo shoot was not looking for authenticity, rather it was living in the fantasy world of a Disney Pocahontas. Johna Edmonds is a former Junior Miss Lumbee 2001, so she knows a thing or two about traditional regalia. However, that was not the intent of this photo shoot.

Photo via Native Pulse blog

Photo via Native Pulse blog

So after hearing her side of the story, should we still be upset with her photos? Or is this a part of a larger issue we need to address?


Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Lumbee Miss North Carolina 2013 Getting Flack for Pocahontas Photoshoot

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.



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goldfeather

LOSS OF IDENTITY IN VIRGINIA- history is written by the conquerers- read and weep for our ansestors

Walter Plecker’s racist crusade against Virginia’s Native Americans.

“Some of these mongrels, finding that they have been able to sneak in their birth certificates
unchallenged as Indians, are now making a rush to register as white.” — W.A. Plecker

“By (Pleckers) standards, codified by the General Assembly in the 1924 Racial Integrity Act, one drop of Negro blood would cause a person to be categorized as black. That was designed to stop light-skinned people with black ansestry from “passing” as white people and thus avoiding the Jim Crow discrimination laws.

“Dr. Plecker sought to categorize many of the “Indians” in Virginia as black. He was forced to finesse the equivalent of one drop of Indian blood, however. Many of the so-called “First Families of Virginia” traced their ancestry back to the son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and were proud of their connection to what they considered to be Native American royalty.”

Trying to locate documentation regarding Native Americans is very difficult. An outrageous example of this difficulty is the goings-on in Virginia in the early-to-mid 1900’s, an era when the eugenics movement was in its heyday.

Plecker was the “vital records czar” for the state of Virginia during the era of the “one drop law.” W.A. Plecker, acting as Virginia’s first Registrar of Vital Statistics, was determined to designate all so-called Melungeons as other than white.

In 1924, the Racial Integrity Law institutionalized the “one drop rule”, under which any person, including Indians, who was believed to have “one drop” or more of “Negro blood” was designated as Black. A person with no “non-Caucasian blood” was classified as white, as well as persons who claimed 1/16th or less “Indian blood”.

This exemption was to protect prominent white persons who claimed to be descended from Pocahantas. To be anything but white in Virginia meant exclusion from employment, education, and basic services. The “ancestral registration” provisions of the law were strictly enforced by Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, a small-town doctor who became registrar of the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1912.

In 1925, he began a campaign to force the U.S. Census Bureau to report no Indians in Virginia in 1930. The Census Bureau conceded to mark Virginia Indians with a footnote: “Includes a number of persons whose classification as Indians has been questioned.” Plecker believed that all Indians had ‘polluted’ their blood by mingling it with free African-Americans.

My family was one of the families that Walter Plecker took an interest in to the point that he took one of my aunts and cousins when they were little less than teenagers and had them declaired feebled minded and had them put into a home for the feebled minded in Lynchburg,VA. Had them sterlized and then experimented on each of them. Some were left almost blind and other things too numerous to mention.

The last of my aunts who Plecker did this to, died just this past month and until the day that she died she was still cursing Plecker’s name for what he had done to her. She was 71 and had lived all these years in the torment that he made for her. May the Great Spirit finally give her the peace she so richly deserves.

Only in the past two years were we finally given permission to regain our true race of Monacan Indian the state of VA. made it possible for all native people to submit the change of race forms who had been so disposed of. I am now listed as a True Indian as is my mother her mother and her mother before her.

Colette Brayboy

I am a Brayboy, aka Lumbee ‘Indian’ but my DNA came back 0% Native. I am proud to be mixed Black/White and do not see the need to pretend to be Native American, albeit a wonderful culture. I just wish Lumbees were proud of their African ancestry.

Ben

We are at a great crossroads in America, right now. Right now, as the richest white men in the world are making their move to completely take over the country, the government, and all the resources. They will imprison 99% of the population in economic poverty, control the food, and the water, and dec8ide who lives and who dies. They do this by continuing to sew dissent and make everybody argue with everybody else. In this way, there is no unified force to resist them, and everyone will be forced to toe the line. As we speak, police routinely kill native Americans, as well as African Americans, at will, and there is NO RESISTANCE against them. And what have we got here? The big deal that Lumbee is not ‘real’ Indians. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to get past this and see the storm clouds coming to wipe out BOTH sides. AND Hispanics. And Muslims. And poor whites. And everybody who does not fit their model of a well behaved servant. You have seen this before. We all have seen it. Why do you ignore it now and instead concern yourselves with whether or not Lumbee have any right to call themselves ‘Indian’? This is foolishness. Drop it, and think of a way to join together to fight off the rich taking complete control. One day soon ther will be no way to stop the pipelines, but fools will still be barking about Lumbee and thinking THAT is an issue which must be settled. Wake up. Attila and the Huns are on the horizon.

Dixie Burge

Police are routinely killing Native Americans and African Americans at will and there is no resistance? Seriously?? What a lie!! These rogue policemen are prosecuted routinely, too. And the demonstrations and riots against these criminal acts get plenty of media coverage. So don’t know what you’re talking about when you say there is no resistance. Not true.

Steven

wILLIAM wRIGHT is a known psycho that gives the same exact bullshit false statements with no real credibility on hundreds of websites across the Internet. 1st of all the list of last names he always gives aren’t even Lumbee last names of Robeson County NC except for just 1 out of a long list. 2nd of all me along with 3 other of my Lumbee friends who are not related to one another unless it’s so distant it wouldn’t even matter have all had dna test come back above the 75% range of North American Native American. My best guess is he’s a pissed off individual who got his heart broken by a Lumbee dime piece or took a nap in his car in Robeson county and got robbed by a couple of prospects LMAO

Dixie Burge

Steven, if I were you I would edit your last comment, because calling a Lumbee woman a “dime piece” or saying someone could get robbed in his car in Robeson county doesn’t say much good about your own Lumbee people. Makes them sound pretty scuzzy and low class. Are they? 🙂

Dixie Burge

Walter Smith, I understand your feelings when you say that anyone who disputes the Lumbee claims is called “racist”. That’s the way some minorities react these days when their claims can’t be proven. Rather than offering rational arguments they resort to accusing the other person of “racism” or being “haters” in an attempt to intimidate them and make them feel guilty. They even commit the sin of racism themselves by hypocritically calling the other person racist names which shows their own hatred, while claiming the other person is a “hater”! It’s simply an irrational, illogical response to their claims being challenged, and having no better response, they show themselves for the hypocrits they are.

J.Chasers

I’m not scared to challenge a fake heritage and the lumbee fit the bill as very fake…fabrication

J.Chasers

Not to say all lbees have zero Dna but most do,everyone who claimed to be Croatan wasn’t ,it was a Mulatto conversion and every mulatto wasn’t an Indian in Robeson county that’s impossible..many who claimed weren’t they wanted to hide the black ancestry obviously. .as for the Peedee or Peri as they were called that’s a different story they are not stealing from HUD every year or abusing funds or looking for a casino like the lumbee invention.the Lumbees ate fake and not tribal…never were tribal they tribe idea was a recent Croatan invention then siouan then cherokee of robeson county invention,the designation by Congress was just that …a name..not feferal acknowledgment…

Jeff chavis

To my friend from the Rez in New Mexico I been there and y’all treat me nice. Well I am PeeDee Indian my relative Chief Ishmael Chavis left South Carolina and hid where the Lumbee are from when Jacksons removal or the trail of tears was happening they say my relative help start that tribe but he only lived there five years and passed. You do have to prove from 1900 to current and only 4 family members back that it showed someone in your family was American Indian to be in that tribe. They say my relative was chief of Cheraw not true my family’s church records and all our family has always been PeeDee Indian from the 1700s on. Many Chavis surname filled Ishmael and they stayed we have been listed as PeeDee American Indian since 1713 Lazarus Chavis was the First to move down from the Virginia North Carolina line. There are nine tribes that have Chavis in their tribes so to say all are Mulatto is not true and no American Indian tribe does DNA testing other than to prove your child in divorce. As for the Pee Dee tribe We are one of the oldest tribes. The reason many of us are mixed well we dealt with the first boats it was 200 to 300 years later til the butchers made it out west. The PeeDee we made mounds just like you guys. DNA testing I am 26.1 percent American Indian 34 percent Spanish then rest Irish. We even had Itzel’s and Mayans that lived around here a thousand years ago. Peyote is our main cerimony rite so of course I am member of the NAC the PeeDee tribe speaks a eastern Dakota Sioux . Please read about Jim and Becky Chavis and Ishmael Chavis. Now we have been the first PeeDee Indian tribe you have to count yourself and three realities back to be in our tribe my granddaddy is listed as American Indian. There since recently South Carolina let three new tribes be started called PeeDee Indians only our PeeDee tribe of South Carolina and the upper state band of PeeDee Indian hold the proof we had our own school until 1970 we have our own churches. The south is really racist you are welcome to come visit stay at my house and I will give you your of four state and show you real tribes that are state recognized and many fakes. So to say all Lumbee are not American Indian is a lie the Chavis family is real because I have census record church records and we know who we are. It’s really hard to fight for and teach about Grandpa and Mother Earth and father sun in the south.

Dixie Burge

Jeff Chavis, you stated in your last comment that “the South is really racist”. I have to chuckle at that, because from what I have seen in a few of your comments here, you’re no better, calling white people “crackers”. But obviously, you feel that white people are the only ones who are capable of racism, right? You need to take a long, hard look at your racist self in your mirror and practice what you preach!

Dixie Burge

Yeah, it’s really hard to teach about Mother Earth and Father Sun in the South because Southerners are smart enough not to fall for that silly tree-huggers’ hokum. We white “crackers” left pagan Stone Age practices and beliefs behind a long, long time ago, or haven’t you noticed? But I guess some people are not capable of changing, or stubbornly refuse to change.

Oh, and by the way, you say you will get back everything that has been taken away from you? Dream on, Mr. Chavis, dream on! Somehow I can’t see that happening for a people who can’t even get their own heritage straight, as if you belong to the Native American culture, which you don’t. But I guess it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?

Hawkeye

This discussion may seem trivial, but I think I may understand just how important it is to some people. With a horrible history of destruction and losses in the past, and precious few benefits available in the present, it seems rude and dishonest for people who are not NA to claim portions of those meager benefits for themselves.

In this time of the few billionaires stealing more and more and more out of the economy, it becomes even harder to remain silent when you suspect more bad actions from outsiders.

It is possible, however, but extremely dangerous, to resolve the issue. Begin a DNA bank. Let true Native Americans (Privately, with personal identity protected) donate DNA samples for testing and identifying.

It may help some, such as Lemhi Shoshone and others who are being disenfranchised, and clearly answer the Lumbee issue. The danger is obvious – – Big Brother is watching, and he is a ruthless bastard.

Jeff chavis

Look my family is not from Mexican farmers my family proven has been part of PeeDee Indian tribe since the early 1700 hundreds Chief Ishmael Chavis was documented chief of the PeeDee Indian tribe he did in 1850 I even know we are part of river turtle clan. Lumbees are real Indians from many tribes the started a couple years after trail of tears many different tribes hid out in that area. You whites judge but you do not even know your own history why do you care about American Indian history we are here we are real and we going get back what is ours crackers

Dixie Burge

Mr. Chavis, what was that you said in an earlier comment about white people being haters? Yet in your last comment you called white people “crackers”? NOW who’s the hater? What a hypocrite you are!

You called white people butchers, yet the very Indians your people claim to be part of butchered each other before whites came to America, taking territory away from each other. That’s the reason some tribes fought with whites during the Indian Wars–as retaliation against those tribes they lost their land to. But I guess it’s okay for Indians to do it to each other, but when the white people did the same thing, they were the mean ol’ cracker butchers who dispossessed Indians of “their” land. Oh, and by the way, Native Americans didn’t spring up from the ground in America, you know. They migrated here from Asia. Just another immigrant race who established themselves here just like everyone else did.

So sir, you have now lost any credibility with me that you might have had before your last comment, because you have proven yoursef to be no better than those you point the finger at. Did you notice that I didn’t use one single hateful Native American racial epithet in this comment? You might learn something from this mean ol’ white cracker who obviously has more class than you do.

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