Lumbee Miss North Carolina 2013 Getting Flack for Pocahontas Photoshoot

Lumbee Miss North Carolina 2013 Getting Flack for Pocahontas Photoshoot

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown March 21st, 2014 Blog

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?


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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.



Comments

99 thoughts on “Lumbee Miss North Carolina 2013 Getting Flack for Pocahontas Photoshoot

  1. 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.

  2. Colette Brayboy says:

    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.

  3. 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 says:

      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.

  4. 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 says:

      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? 🙂

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