One of the most enduring and ongoing struggles for Native Americans living in a dominant-white society is maintaining cultural identity. A major marker of Native American self-perception is long hair, often braided or knotted, worn by both men and women.
For indigenous peoples, long hair is statement of strength and power.
But young natives in mostly white schools are facing pressure from bullies and the self-appointed “fashion police” among the youth. Native Americans in large numbers report they are being persecuted for maintaining long, braided hair.
It was once U.S. policy that Native American children were not to allowed to speak their own language, dress in traditional style – and that hair must be cropped short. The ruling elites of just a few decades ago realized that when you cut off an Indian’s hair, you force him or her to “fit in” and accept second-class status.
But now, thanks to a Facebook page called “Boys With Braids” a bona fide social movement has caught fire. It supports the right and explains the significance of long, braided hair. The site was established by a member of the Cree Nation, Michael Linklater.
The Boys With Braids movement quickly spread to states with large Native American populations, especially California, Michigan, New Mexico, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. It has also spread across Canada.
Boys With Braids in about far more than hair. The groups conducts meetings, throws parties, conducts seminars and has become a central rallying point for Native youth to accept who they are and wear it with pride, including long hair.Categories: Native American, Native American Youth