Dakota Access Pipeline Is a Communication Issue

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Yesterday, according to CNN, 83 people were arrested at a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is part of the ongoing crisis in North Dakota between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the company building the pipeline, Dakota …

Tips for Better Macro Photography

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Macro shot of a fly. Photo by Wyatt StanfordThe other day, I was having a conversation with someone in my French class about photography. She told me she was really interested in it but didn’t know what to photograph. I asked her if she had a backyard….

How to Photograph the Night Sky

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Sts. Cyril and Methodius Russian Orthodox Church, Hartshorne, Oklahoma. Photo by Wyatt StanfordIn September, I figured it was time to see if my photography skills were truly any good and posted one of my best night time pictures to KTUL Tulsa’s Channel…

Native American Halloween Costumes Are a Bad Idea

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Dancers during Grand Entry at the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival Powwow in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma. Photo by Wyatt Stanford. 

Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Facebook memories when I found a very pertinent video I had shared last Halloween season. The video ,created by Buzzfeed, dealt with the topic of Native American costumes during Halloween. Native American costumes are a bad idea for a Halloween costume, and I’m not sure if the general public has caught on as to why.

Someone mentions in the video that it’s not like dressing up as a Roman or Viking for Halloween. Native Americans are still very much here, and this is reality for most of us. We are a people and not a costume. 

The costumes worn in the video were very offensive and made me think of what other Native-American-themed costumes exist. In the video, the women were given costumes that were risqué and the men were given costumes that portrayed Native Americans as savages or warriors, as if that is all Native American men are. 

Just out of curiosity, I did a Google image search of “Native American costumes.” The results were not that different from the costumes displayed in the video. The female costumes were highly sexualized and the men were all portrayed as warriors. 

Many of these costumes contained commodified representations of of important items of Native American regalia. As mentioned in the video, bead work on powwow dresses has important significance. War bonnets hold a very special honor in some Native American tribes. To put all of that out there to sell without examining its significance in the cultures from which they originated is just ridiculous.

I’ve been told a thousand times not to worry about Native American Halloween costumes because they are “no big deal.” Let me re-frame the situation. Putting on a Native American costume is like putting on black face. If it isn’t obvious by looking at many of the costumes, they maintain terrible stereotypes and depict Native people as one homogeneous group.

These stereotypes that Native Americans are savages or that we all do something like live in tepees, like stated in the video, are keeping Native Americans in the past. I think it is an archaic notion to believe Native Americans are one huge group. We are a diverse group made up of tribes and tribal nations with distinct cultures, practices and languages.

I wish society would rethink its costume choices and see how racist these costumes really are. I’m not shaming anyone who has worn a Native American Halloween costume. I hope this post shed some light on the subject. 


Something I’ve Learned From PR That Applies to Life: Take Control of the Narrative

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Photo by Wyatt Stanford

At the beginning of each my Introduction to Public Relations class lectures a the University of Oklahoma, my instructor starts with talking about current events and how they relate to public relations. One piece of professional advice that she imparted on us will always stick with me: Take control of the narrative. Never let anyone tell your story.

I’ve been thinking about this piece of wisdom, not only in a PR context, but also in how it relates to real life.

As a society, we value honesty and transparency. We love to discuss rumors but hate them when they pertain to us. We try to get away with lies, but make excuses when we get caught. If we started by taking control of our personal narratives, we could increase the value of our words.

Be transparent about everything you do and prepared to deal with the consequences. If someone asks you about something you did that may not have reflected you in the best light, be honest about it. Don’t make excuses. It’s far better to be honest about what happened.

The reverse is also true. If you hear someone spreading rumors about you, set the record straight. Nobody knows your story like you. Your reputation is on the line. You must get out in front of a rumor and offer proof that it is false.

This truth shouldn’t just apply to you, but to others as well. Pay no attention to rumors you encounter and don’t be the person that spreads rumors. Everything you hear about sources is hearsay until it’s confirmed by the sources themselves. It’s always best to consider how something you hear about people can affect their reputations. 

When you get the opportunity to tell your story, tell it. Give yourself a face and talk about your background. No one can tell your story the same way you can. No one knows your experiences like you.

I’ve been pondering this advice for weeks. I think as a population, we can benefit from a little honesty and transparency, both inwardly and outwardly. We should all do everyone a favor and strive to practise good public relations with each other.

A good place to start is the PRSA Code of Ethics.

If you want to read something about what PR is and is not, read my Odyssey article.