Aura Bogado: Designer behind 'Lone Ranger' items isn't Indian

Aura Bogado discovers that Gabriel Good Buffalo, the man behind a fashion collaboration for The Lone Ranger, isn't Indian even though his goods are marketed as Indian produced:
It might be easy to confuse Good Buffalo for a Native. The last name he uses is not uncommon among certain Natives. And his own website features “Cheyenne War Shield Yell” and “Sioux Turtle Clan” designs. In an email, Good Buffalo claimed that Will Leather Goods, the company that originally marketed him as a “Native American chief” did so without his knowledge. He said the company had informed him it would change that on its website (as of publication, it has not, and a phone call to the company store was answered by a clerk who explained that Good Buffalo is a “prestigious Native American craftsman.”).

Individuals and companies marketing themselves as “Native American craftsmen” often make up clans, tribes, and nations that don’t even exist—further fueling confusion. Journalist Simon Moya-Smith, who is Oglala Lakota, says he spoke with two elders; neither had heard of the “Sioux Turtle Clan” named in Good Buffalo’s marketing. One of them, Maka Black Elk, is the great grandson of Holy Man, Black Elk. Moya-Smith affirmed, “none of us have heard of a Sioux Turtle Clan, and if anyone would know, Maka would.”

What might surprise most readers is that Good Buffalo is in apparent violation of federal law. Congress enacted the Indian Arts and Crafts Act in 1990, which allows for the prosecution of anyone who sells any good in a way that fraudulently suggests it was produced by a Native, when it was not. Just last week, a man who went by the name “Redhorse,” whose real name is Andrew Gene Alvarez, plead guilty to peddling jewelry that he knew was non-Native. Alvarez claimed to belong to different nations throughout his counterfeit career in Santa Fe, and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years probation, with the explicit agreement that he never again sell jewelry he makes as a Native product.

Get the Story:
Aura Bogado: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Marketing ‘The Lone Ranger’ (COLORLINES 7/3)

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