Nicole Richie, star of The Simple Life and fashion designer for her own House of Harlow line, sent out an Instagram photo that has struck many Natives as disrespectful. In the picture, she and a friend, standing in front of a tepee, wear feather headdresses. The caption reads "Another Saturday Night."
Comments on Richie's Instagram page seemed mostly approving of the outfit, with some decrying it as racially insensitive.
One news outlet that picked up the story was the U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail — Native readers in the United States might find the attitudes expressed by British readers to be interesting:
PinkPeony, London: "Does this mean my daughter can't dress up in her Pocahontas costume for fear of offending people?"
me, Reading: "Fancy dress shops sell 'cowboy and Indian' costumes – are we going to have to stop buying and wearing these now?"
icydanger, Switzerland: "Does that mean we cannot dress up children in indians anymore?"
ThePsychologyStudent, Essex: "So all the boys and girls who used to play cowboys and indians when they were little are now also offensive? I think not…"
In addition to this common thread, there were the usual complaints of "political correctness gone mad" and false equivalencies (one commenter imagined a world where "you can't paint yourself blue [because] it's an unfair representation of smurfs"). But Leanne in London offered a more thoughtful viewpoint:
"while I agree that I can't quite see why the Native American community find it so insulting, they have made it very clear that they do find it insulting. and since it is their history and rituals that are being appropriated they do actually get the final say. ignoring their very clear requests is an insult all by itself. (also comparing a very real community to very fictional smurfs and super heroes? i'm thinking the Native Americans might have a point about not using their historical identy as fancy dress cause people are clearly getting confused)"
As the Daily Mail and Huffington Post pointed out, Nicole Richie has courted controversy like this in the past, posting a picture of herself wearing a large feather headdress on her site in 2010: