OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The daughter of Oklahoma’s governor is defending a photo of herself wearing a Native American headdress, though the picture was removed from social media sites after criticism that it was insensitive.
Christina Fallin, who is not Native American, wears a red-and-white feathered headdress in the picture posted Thursday on her band’s Facebook page along with the words “appropriate culturation.” The photo was later taken down from there and from her Instagram account, and replaced with a statement saying she wore it with the “deepest respect” and asking people to forgive her for wearing beautiful things.
“Growing up in Oklahoma, we have come into contact with Native American culture institutionally our whole lives — something we are eternally grateful for,” Fallin, 26, said in the statement. “With age, we feel a deeper and deeper connection to the Native American culture that has surrounded us. Though it may not have been our own, this aesthetic has affected us emotionally in a very real and very meaningful way.”
Headdresses, historically worn by Native American war chiefs and warriors who received feathers for heroic deeds, are considered sacred items and are still used for some ceremonies. Retailer Victoria’s Secret and the band No Doubt have apologized in recent years for using Native American dress as fashion statements.
A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin had no comment. The photo on Instagram says it was taken at Remington Park, a casino and horse race track owned by the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma City. A Chickasaw Nation spokesman had no immediate comment.
Christina Fallin also made headlines in 2011 after taking part in a photo shoot for a local magazine at the governor’s mansion. Videos from the shoot showing her in avant-garde and revealing fashions strolling around the mansion property were ultimately removed from the magazine’s website after some people said they were distasteful.
The governor’s daughter, who is a marketing consultant for and appears in a local magazine called So6ix and is part of an electric-punk band called Pink Pony, has posted several photos in the past few weeks from events with her mother. She was at the State of the State speech at the state capitol and posted photos from a trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Governor’s Association meeting.
The picture of her in the headdress quickly drew negative comments on Fallin’s social media profiles, many of which were deleted.
“To see someone from Oklahoma who should know about our history and the past — who, not only that, whose own mother is the governor — should know that’s just something you do not do,” said Louis Fowler, 35, who is Choctaw. “The fact that Christina Fallin even titled it ‘appropriate culturation’ means that she kind of knew what she was doing. There’s a big difference between doing it stupidly and doing it knowingly.”
Oklahoma ranks second in the nation in the total number of Native American residents, trailing California. But Native American culture is deeply embedded in the state’s history, politics and economy. The state flag includes Native American symbols and a warrior statue sits atop the Oklahoma capitol dome.
Fowler, a freelance journalist from Oklahoma City, said the headdress photograph is comparable to when Britain’s Prince Harry wore a Nazi uniform at a costume party, and noted other recent examples of businesses and people using Native American dress as a fashion statement.
Victoria’s Secret apologized in 2012 for putting a headdress on a model during its annual fashion show. Paul Frank Industries Inc. and the band No Doubt have also apologized after being criticized for using headdresses in clothing and parties, and in a cowboys-and-Indians-themed video, respectively.
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