Good hearted? It would appear so. Bad delivery? Quite.
A 65-year-old retiree from England has pledged to devote his remaining days to debunking sundry stereotypes of Native Americans.
But there is a problem – the man is a perpetuator of cultural appropriation.
Photographed in what he refers to as his “costume” – a faux feather headdress, breastplate, choker and a pipe, Les Atkins of Walsall, England, retired from his job as a mayonnaise factory manager on July 31 to become a full-fledged Native American, according to the British tabloid Mirror.
Atkins said he now plans to tour the country teaching students and museum-goers all about Native Americans.
“Obviously putting on bits of dance display, talks, and basically just letting people know the truth,” Atkins said in a British brogue. “Their [Native American] way of life is not all about rain dances and scalping people’s heads. I want to teach people how they helped the first wave of settlers by giving them gifts, like food.”
Atkins admitted he became obsessed with Native Americans after watching 1950s Spaghetti Westerns and even claims to have visited several reservations in Arizona and Utah.
“On one of my visits I was lucky enough to dance with one of the tribes – they called it to ‘shake a feather’.”
As soon as the story on Atkins broke Monday, social media responded as expected, with cheers and jeers:
“If his intentions are truly innocent, then all I see is hateful people hating on someone at least trying to do some good…typical,” Edmond Harjo wrote in response to attacks on Atkins. “I also see native youth either trying to be white, black, or even Mexican and no one says anything.”
Facebook user Steven Hu wrote: “Mayonnaise Man wants to eradicate misconceptions about native culture, while wearing his ‘costumes’. I hope some kid tells him it’s called regalia…we’ll (sic) at least he knows enough to be holding the [pipe] with his left hand…mayonnaise lol.”
Regardless of approbation or condemnation, Atkins remains devoted to his interest in Native America.
Atkins, who allegedly learned traditional sign language (of which specific nation was not mentioned), boasts he has spent more than £5,000 ($8,440 U.S.) over the years on his obsession. He spent more than $7,500 on his headdress alone, which he made himself. He plans to display it on the road to his fellow Englanders.
“It’s not something a lot of people know about and the homemade costumes and artefacts (sic) will grab their eye.”
Amid all the comments about Atkins, one Facebook user’s pithy words would appear to put the situation into perspective:
“His heart is in the right place, even though his brain hasn’t joined the party,” Charlotte Anderson wrote.