We all know the rules of The Bechdel Test. In recent years, fans of more feminist-friendly films have included their own character tests, like The Mako Mori Test, The Furiosa Test, The Sexy Lamp Test, the list goes on. While these are all helpful (though comical) tools feminists have used to criticize media narratives, very few of them seem to empower or apply when viewing Indigenous and Aboriginal women in media narratives / storytelling.
As a Native woman, I’ve experienced disappointment and heartache from the way Native women were represented on film, television, cartoons, and other forms of media. From stereotypical “Indian princesses” to the distressing amount of physical and sexual violence in live action period pieces, it felt that a Native woman was not a character you were meant to love and root for. She was never a character you were supposed to relate to or want to be. In almost every role she’s in, she cannot exist without being a prop for another character’s story, and if she has a “happy ending,” it’s usually in the arms of a white colonist or settler.
I’ve created the Aila Test to bring my own concerns to the table when feminists criticize media. Not only should these issues be analyzed and addressed, but content creators who write about Indigenous / Aboriginal women should consider writing characters who pass this test. We need them now, more than ever.
To pass the Aila Test, your film / animation / comic book / novel / etc, must abide by these three important rules:
1. Is she an Indigenous / Aboriginal woman who is a main character…
2. Who DOES NOT fall in love with a white man…
3. And DOES NOT end up raped or murdered at any point in the story.
Do you know characters that pass the Aila Test? Please submit them to this page!
“YOU DON’T LOOK NATIVE” - is something that bothers me greatly. I see it happen all the time, especially to Natives in the US & Canada.
Telling any Native person that they aren’t Native because they don’t fit your superficial stereotype is RACIST! Every single person pictured above is a NATIVE.
This is something that all non-Natives need to understand, there is no “Native look”.
- Not all Native women look like Disney’s “Pocahontas”.
- Not all Native men look like a Plains NDN with long flowing hair.
- Not all Natives have high cheekbones.
- Not all Natives have black straight hair. Some have brown hair, some have curly hair, some have light hair and so on.
- Yes Native men CAN grow beards and have facial hair.
- Not all Natives have brown eyes. Some have blue eyes, some have grey eyes, some have green eyes and some have hazel eyes.
- There are tall Natives and there are short Natives.
- There are dark skinned Natives, light skinned Natives and pale skinned Natives.
Please don’t forget that Asian American immigration history exists and is being used as precedent for a lot of gross policies, like directly with Japanese Internment making the Trump Admin think Muslim Internment is an option. Don’t forget that even President Obama erased our immigration history in his farewell address when he compared immigrants of today to the Irish and German and Poles and said nothing of the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, South East Asian, Vietnamese, “waves” of immigrants literally imported to work the fields bc they would take a lower wage. Don’t forget about the refugees that fled the Vietnam and Korean and other wars and regime changes that came here to start from nothing and are now our nail salon jokes. Our history is full of disgusting immigration acts created by the US govt and they have the gall to pat us on the head and call us a model minority.
Don’t let them get away with it. History is supposed to teach us not to do bad things again.
If you’re going to buy “Native American inspired” jewelry or apparel, JUST BUY FROM AN ACTUAL NATIVE AMERICAN!!!
Like there are groups on facebook that you can look through, and a lot of those lead to particular artists who are willing to do business. ACTUAL TRIBAL NATIVE AMERICANS guys!! Not only is the piece you are getting AUTHENTIC, but for sooo many natives, it’s how they pay their bills, buy food, or provide for their family and you are helping them. Yes some things are expensive but that’s literally their job sometimes, and yes some are cheaper but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “poor quality,” they just need a quick buck.
The real artists are out there guys, so many flea markets in the Navajo nation that you can find things, benefit powwows, cultural centers, facebook groups, other social media, they’re really not that hard to find. Some of them have jobs and do beadwork, jewelry, clothes on the side, but you are still getting the real deal. Don’t buy that “Native American inspired” overpriced piece from Becky who lives on a 100 acre ranch, in a 2 story house, and drives a brand new BMW.
National Aboriginal Day is on June 21st. If it doesn’t coincide with another event (I remember a few years back that it did with BlackOut, but was worked around), I think we should celebrate. If you’re Aboriginal / Indigenous, upload your selfies, post art, talk about Aboriginal characters that you know and love, talk about books and films made by and for Indigenous people. We are still here but we are individually unique and have our own experiences and stories to tell.
Use #HappyAboriginalDay and spread the word.
EDIT: The date for BlackOut is June 6th. We’re in the clear!
This post has gained a lot of attention over the last couple of days! Thank you to everybody who has shared and reblogged it. I want to take a moment to address a question that keeps popping up: if you are indigenous/aboriginal, you can participate if you choose to! This is not limited just to Native American / First Nations people. If you are Ainu, Maori, Saami, native Hawaiian, etc, feel free to participate! It’s great opportunity for us to represent ourselves, our cultures, our lives, our heroes, and celebrate both our differences and similarities.
I can’t wait to see you all on June 21st! Keep boosting this post and don’t forget to use the #HappyAboriginalDay tag!
August will be here soon! On August 9th, we’ll be celebrating World Indigenous Peoples Day!
On that day, The Aila Test would love to feature all indigenous / aboriginal people from around the world.
If you are indigenous, submit to us or tag us in selfies, photographs, artwork, poetry, short films, any media project, or any news/events that you’d like us to shine a light on and bring more attention to!
National Aboriginal Day was such a great success and it was really beautiful and healing to see so many Indigenous people. It would be wonderful to see it again. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to celebrate ourselves, our culture, our history, and the things we’ve shared with each other and the world.
As if I wasn’t riled up about Canada’s “birthday” before today???? We all love to throw around the term “reconciliation” when it comes to Canada’s indigenous population but at the end of the damn day, the Canadian government cannot even stand a teepee going up and sharing space with “official” Canada day celebrations on Parliament Hill. Why? Because we aren’t supposed to exist, and any display of agency that indigenous peoples show is a threat.