By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
(CNN) - This November, events nationwide celebrated the traditions, fashion and food of the nation's 566 recognized Indian tribes as part of Native American Heritage Month.
But a few high profile missteps surrounding the use of indigenous cultural imagery made bigger national headlines than any heritage month event.
First it was the release of No Doubt's Wild West-themed music video "Looking Hot," featuring teepees, fire dances and singer Gwen Stefani on horseback, a feather crowning her long blond braids. Then, supermodel Karlie Kloss walked the runway in a floor-length feather headdress, skimpy leopard-spotted bikini and turquoise jewelry at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Both instances sparked allegations of "playing Indian" for profit, leading No Doubt and Victoria's Secret to publicly apologize. The gaffes also reignited debate over where to draw the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation and the extent to which non-Natives should represent Natives in mainstream media and pop culture.
Opinion: Just say no to "playing Indian"
The conversation is important, because acts of cultural appropriation are not simply isolated incidents of "hipsters in Navajo panties and pop stars in headdresses," said Sasha Houston Brown, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska. They are byproducts of "systemic racism" that perpetuate the idea that there's no such thing as contemporary Native culture.
No amount of Victoria's Secret Halloween costume is going to bring the mojo back into a frumpy, out-of-shape, overcooked cougar's s-e-x life. Might as well go back to cell-phone yapping and driving around in their SUV's all day...
Yes, if I were a black woman instead of being a white woman, I would secretly thanks the lucky stars that brought my ancestors to endure slavery in America. I would hate and despise what was done to them. At the same time, knowing half of what I know about past and present world history, I would bless the fate that gave me birth in this land.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at email@example.com.
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