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What Is A Mohawk?

Anen Wolf

Guest Commentary by Anen Wolf
Posted on June 19, 2003

Do you know? Lots of folks are ignorant of the origins and meaning of the word. They think it's a hairstyle to adorn themselves with like some armor of rebellion . Actually a Mohawk is a person--a person from a nation of people that white folks have been trying to, and continue to try to obliterate. The word Mohawk is a racist derogatory label put on us by the invaders. It means "man-eaters", an insulting reference to one of our sacred spiritual stories. We call ourselves Ganyengehaka. In your language it means "people from the place of the crystals."

Oh, and the "haircut"? It's not a haircut actually, and people from several different nations do this practice. We don't do it the wimpy way though, with scissors and buzzers. We pluck each and every hair out of our heads. It's a deeply meaningful practice connected to our hearts, our spirituality, and our culture. Nations of people hold this practice (what you call a hairstyle) close to our hearts. To us it means something very special. For white folks it's cultural appropriation, stealing, cultural thievery. You rip us off and insult us--and the derivative offshoots are even worse.

I've gotten the repeated response "But I wear it out of respect, I like Indians, I think it's really bad what happened to you." My response is then stop stealing the piece of my culture that is palatable to you... your culture dominates, your culture attempts each day to obliterate my people, our languages, our culture, our children, our land, the land that to us is sacred. Sometimes I wonder if white folks have any clue of what sacred is.

"But I do it out of respect, I like your culture, I'm protesting what happened to you." I say "no thanks." I don't see the white punk haircut, or it's derivatives, as respectful of me, or my culture. I see your action as a deep insult, an ignorant, racist insult. And when I get the inevitable question "but what do you want me to do about it?" I say... Scalp it!

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