Name of student-owned boutique at the center of controversy


Photo courtesy of Brooke Adams

Brooke Adams posing in her boutiques clothes.

Joseph Kamin, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: Last spring, The JTAC published a story from a Tarleton student, Brooke Adams, in an attempt to highlight the work she is doing as an entrepreneur as owner of The Spunky Squaw. During the editorial process, The JTAC staff was unaware of the racist origin of the word “squaw.” At no point in the editorial process did The JTAC staff intend to use or publish a racial slur. The JTAC staff does not promote or endorse the use of the term “squaw” or the name of Adams boutique. The JTAC staff apologizes for the use of the word which we now understand is used to discriminate and marginalize the Native American community.

Tarleton State University senior Brooke Adams, has recently been surrounded by controversy over the name of her online boutique, The Spunky Squaw, which was featured in the Feb. 8. issue of The JTAC and later published on The JTAC website. This story can be found here. Within the past week however, both The JTAC and the university have been inundated with requests to have the article removed based on the derogatory and racial connotations of the term “squaw.”

“We are not a character, we are not a mascot,” said Yolanda Blue Horse, a Rosebud Sioux Tribal member and the co-founder of the Society of Native Nations. “Don’t use words like redskin, squaw, or brave. Don’t refer to us as those words. Those are belittling words to us, and when you use them to reference us.”

Adams said she has received thousands of messages regarding the name of her business. An online petition was also created urging her to change the name. As of Wednesday, there were more than 9,400 signatures. According to Adams, her choice of name for the store was never meant to offend people.

“When considering a name for my business I wanted something catchy but also strong and empowering. I considered several options and ultimately decided on the Spunky Squaw,” said Adams “I don’t really think of the name of the business being dissected into individual parts but more as a whole. Maybe even more like a feeling of strength like that of a female Native American.  Not a specific origin or anything just a beautiful presence. I guess I have always been fascinated by the strength of the Native American people as a whole.  The hardships they endured and still have such a strong culture despite that.”

Dakota Brant, the founder and CEO of Sapling & Flint, a clothing and accessory company tagged as an “indigenous brand designed for everyone” recognizes that the intent wasn’t malicious.

“(Adams) got up in the crossfire of something that’s already existing within the native American community in terms of a name change for years and years,” Brant said. “Unfortunately she’s been the recipient of backlash for something she didn’t really understand because she’s not a member of the indigenous community and because she doesn’t have people around her that are indigenous people who are helping her formulate an opinion.”

Brant however, does want Adams to listen to the concerns of others and change the name of her boutique.

“To me its tacky. She looks at Native American culture through a lens of a person who has no connection that culture whatsoever,” Brant said. “There’s a way you can incorporate native American culture in a good way. But using this word which does not represent what American Indian people are like is not one of those ways.”

On Oct. 15, Adams and her family began to receive a flood of messages through their social media accounts. According to Adams, most of these quotes were filled with insults and threats.

A comment which was submitted on The JTAC website.
A comment which was submitted on The JTAC website.

“I received death threats, extortion attempts, threats of violence like being raped, beaten, skinned from hundreds of people that stated the Indigenous Native American community,” said Adams. “Anyone that is associated with me has received the same types of vile tactics. All the while, these people continue to state they did this in the name of their views of how the name of my business offended them and defiled their women.”

Adams said this experience has made her think differently about the name of her business and confirmed she does plan to make some changes.

“I am currently in the process of planning the next steps for my business,” Adams said. “As stated before, I never intended to hurt anyone with my business name.  Even though I know there was no ill intentions and do not agree with some people’s thoughts on The Spunky Squaw, I do recognize it is offensive to a significant amount of people. When going through thousands of messages there has been about 1 percent of the people expressing their concern and educating me which is why I am taking actions to turn this situation around.  I do plan on coming up with another name for my business, however, it is not as quick of a process as most people assume that it is.  I will continue to run my business as efficiently as possible through this difficult time.”

However, a name change is not the only change which advocates wish to change. On her website, Adams has a section called ‘Little Papoose’ which is a term used to identify Native American children and has used a Native American headdress in her advertisements.

Photo courtesy of Brooke Adams
The original logo of The Spunky Squaw.

“A headdress, to us, is like a purple heart,” said Blue Horse. “Only those individuals which have been given that right are allowed to wear a headdress. The headdress is equivalent to a purple heart and it is not to be worn for costume purposes or in her case, advertisement. To use any of what is important to us, represents our cultural, represents us in our culture, is wrong.”