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arts and culture | indigenous issues

White Christian visual artist defends his cultural appropriation of native imagery.

First their land is stolen. Then their culture.

I was recently in Albina Press Coffee Shop (SE Hawthorn and 50th Ave) and was surprised to discover a highly offensive art exhibition named "Alliance is Rebellion" by visual artist Scott Erickson. The paintings consist of a merging of Pacific Northwest native design and Star Wars icons.
You can see the images yourself at his website:


...where he defends his cultural appropriation on three different pages...

about / statement / faq

His self-defense is a bunch of gibberish and gobbledygook, employing words like "imagineering" and "art-versation".

On the faq page he claims that "select local members of Indigenous Tribes considered the show's purpose and images . . . and anticipate the exhibition will generate greater appreciation and support of Indigenous Tribal art, culture, and people." So it's all OK, because a few indigenous people he found said it's OK! And some unspecified percentage of the profits will go to "to support Indigenous youth arts education." So it's all OK! Get out your checkbooks! (Sorry, Walking Lodge is already SOLD at $1,500.00)

One of the most offensive things about this exhibition are the formulaic names for the pieces: Great Sun Bear ($975), Grey Eagle Horse ($975), Howling Crow ($850).

Go here to see a video by Scott Erickson describing his art residency at a church in Texas:


One more thing. Please be sure not to use any of the images from Scott's "Alliance Rebellion" website, because these images now belong to Scott Erickson. They've been copyrighted under the English common law violently imposed by the invaders.

"All images are copyrighted by Scott Erickson. The use of any image from this site is prohibited unless prior written permission from the artist is obtained."

so who are you? 02.May.2015 20:06


Are you native american? are you some white guy who is deciding to be offended on other's behalf? Maybe people from some indigenous communities DID give the green light. Who the fuck are you to call this into question?

show me some actual native americans who have a problem with this artwork, and then we'll have an issue. Otherwise, you're another privileged white person who is absolutely desperate for outrage of any kind.

Four Questions for Scott Erickson 02.May.2015 20:45


1. What are the names of the indigenous people who you claim approved of this project?

2. Who selected this "select" group to review this project?

3. What percentage of the sale proceeds are going to indigenous youth art eduction?

4. What is the name of the school or project that will be receiving these funds?

art. it's ART. 02.May.2015 21:15

an artist

I'm as offended by your attempt to put political proscriptions around what is or is not acceptable in art as you are by the alleged cultural appropriation. I'll grant, you do make a good point with regard to the way he justifies the work by reference to "select" people and native institutions... but only if he's lying about that and really only because he's playing the other side of your game by trying to justify himself in that framework. Really, the work didn't need such justification. In the end, art lies outside of your outraged political perspective, and taking offense at it is irrelevant.

The only thing I really agree with you on is that it's ironic and ridiculous that he borrowed all those images and then copyrighted them. But in fairness, his work isn't a copy of native symbols, nor of star wars icons. He's combined them in an original way, making it his own work. All artists take elements that strike a chord with them from the world around themselves, process them through personal alchemy, and spit them back out into the world as something new, their own flavor. I don't really know what he's trying to say with these, nor do I find them terribly inspired, but they're art and your "outrage" comes off pompous, domineering, and offensive to art itself. Go find something to do with yourself that doesn't involve telling artists what they can and can't do.

@ an artist 02.May.2015 21:24


corrections 02.May.2015 23:17


I have not described the artwork as outrageous, only offensive.

Nowhere do I tell artists what they can and can't do. I only express the offense I take from this collection.

"... and offensive to art itself." Although it can offend, art itself cannot be offended as it is a process or product, itself non-sentient, and itself without emotions. Perhaps you should say "artists themselves" instead, if that is what you mean.

Great Criticism 03.May.2015 19:37


Artist must face criticism.
It means recognition. Love
your Constitution. Speech vs
religion Vs race. Is this all
a red herring promotion?

Give me a break 06.May.2015 08:59


As someone who is part native american I'm not going to speak for everyone but for myself I have no problem with someone of any race being influenced by native American art. Are you going to say that black people can't be influenced by classical music or they're stealing white culture? Whites can't play jazz music? No other race or culture can do art in the style of any other culture? That sort of cross cultural pollination has been going on for ages, there's no reason for native americans to be exempt from that. The only issue I would have is if this person "claimed" he was native american and wasn't. That would be fraudulent. As far as I can tell he's not doing that so ease up.

my view 06.May.2015 21:59


"Are you going to say that black people can't be influenced by classical music . . . ?"

Black people did not brutally exterminate 1000s of Europeans in a violent process of land expropriation.

"No other race or culture can do art in the style of any other culture?"

When members of a race or culture have benefited from the suppression and conquest of another people, it is offensive when they then adopt the artistic style of the murdered and victimized people.

thank you erasmus 07.May.2015 15:37


People are too uptight. Art is art. Art has always borrowed, stolen, and been influenced. Art has always had a proud history of offending someone, so just move on already.

And comment about "Black people did not .... " I have a question for you? Does that mean that the Hutu and Tutsi people no longer can have any cultural exchanges? Would you be offended by a Hutu performing a Tutsi song or vice versa? Do we have to count up the bodies before we can decide who can become aware of other cultures?

Culture is one of the bright spots where people who were enemies can learn to appreciate each other. Let's not tie up ourselves in fake cultural uber sensitivity.

my view 07.May.2015 21:36


"Would you be offended by a Hutu performing a Tutsi song . . . ?"

If that particular Hutu were living in the house or on the plot of a Tutsi who had been murdered by that Hutu or one of his forebears, I would find the singing of a Tutsi song by that Hutu to be offensive.

lame comment 14.May.2015 17:34


Unless you're immortal, someone has always lived before on the land you now live. I live in Multnomah County where the Multnomah tribe lived for a long time, and before them who knows, and my ancestors came from Europe. I have some Native American art on the wall and I've done drum circles and sung some songs with people of native culture.

Sue me. Or just be offended, that's fine too.

FSC 24.May.2015 12:27


"I have some Native American art on the wall and I've done drum circles and sung some songs with people of native culture."

Presumably you purchased your authentic Native American art from Native American artists, supporting them and their culture. So that's cool. It's also pretty cool that you collaborate with Native Americans in making music, rather than just appropriating their style and selling it yourself solo for profit.

One thing that is particularly interesting about the "Alliance is Rebellion" artwork is that Scott Erickson has mixed indigenous artistic style with images of an evil empire: Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Imperial Walkers, TIE Fighters... (Yes there are rebel images too.)

George Lucas intended the Empire to be an analogy for US imperialism in Vietnam.
 link to nypost.com

Scott Erickson's indigenously-styled Empire icons bring to mind Full Spectrum Conquest: You've been fully appropriated by the Empire. Thank you for your land, thank you for your culture, thank you for everything, and we do mean everything.