Elizabeth LaPensee, an Anishinaabe and Metis game developer and designer, snapped the picture and posted it to her Facebook wall.
It showed, reported Indian Country Today, two of several women hired by Glispa, a German company, to dress in faux Native American attire at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, standing in front of a tepee.
LaPensee’s friend, Melissa Bennett, a Umatilla, Nez Perce, Diné and Lakota writer, saw the Facebook post and emailed the company questioning the display. She received a direct response from CEO Gary Lin.
In his defiant email, which can be read at length on Bennett’s website (womanstoryteller.com), Lin, who wrote that he is Chinese-American, declared he understands “the sensitivities around race and culture fully” and that since he founded the company more than a decade ago, Bennett’s complaint is the first he has received concerning his co-opting of Native American cultures.
Lin goes on to declare that he has a bevy of Native American friends, seeing that he was born in the Midwest.
“It felt like another example of a non-Indian person telling an Indian person what should and shouldn’t be offensive about their own cultures,” Bennett wrote.
According to Simon Moya-Smith’s story at ICTMN, LaPensee hoped Lin would be understanding, but instead was “unapologetic.”
LaPensée also wondered what part of the hyper-sexualizing of Native American women falls under his definition of Native American cultural values, ICTMN reported.
- Vince Devlin