Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber has pulled another move bound to be received with head-scratching in Indian country, getting an image of an Indian head tattooed on his back.
Bieber irked many Natives with ignorant comments he made to Rolling Stone in July about his supposed Indian heritage. "I'm actually part Indian," he said. "I think Inuit or something? I'm enough percent that in Canada I can get free gas."
The issue of Bieber's Native heritage was never settled, but he says his Indian head tattoo is a tribute to his grandfather.
Don't take that the wrong way — Bieber is not saying he researched his genealogy and found that his grandfather is (or was) of Native heritage. That didn't happen. What happened was this: Bieber's grandfather used to take young Justin to Stratford Cullitons hockey games. The logo for the Cullitons — formerly the Warriors — is an Indian head. "This is for u Grampa," Bieber wrote when he sent out a photo of the tattoo via his Instagram feed.
Meanwhile, with the Idle No More movement growing, the Canadian mainstream is taking notice. This has been both a good and a bad thing, with many non-Native Canadians voicing opinions that oddly echo Bieber's remark about "free gas." On message boards and Twitter, we've seen many comments to the effect that First Nations people are spoiled by a lot of government handouts and now want more. A mainstream entertainer with Bieber's influence could do a lot to change minds if he or she were to explain First Nations issues accurately, or at least dispel some myths.
Could Canadian pop star Nelly Furtado take up the cause? Furtado endeared herself to many in Indian country with her respectful use of hoop and fancy shawl dancers in the video for her single "Big Hoops (the Bigger the Better)," and on New Year's Eve she gave Idle No More a nod in the midst of a performance. In the video below, she tells Idle No More protestors in the crowd, "I can't ignore your signs."
It's a tiny gesture, but to at least one audience member, it meant a lot. "Nelly! I love you!" wrote YouTube commenter grahamcrackers8. "I was there holding an #IDLENOMORE sign and when? you said this, me and my friends went wild! It was glorious validation for everything. Thank you for giving us such an incredible night!"