“We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” in Germany: Confronting and Informing the Ignorant

Rainald Grebe (artist/performer/comedian) slowly walks out on-stage in a slow, manner as if lacking intellect, while dressed in a pathetic mish-mash of Indianer (the German word for Native Americans of North America), and the audience immediately begins to laugh.

That’s the intro for one of Rainald Grebe’s stage shows. It is not funny. Upcoming December, beyond just appearing a comical figure, Herr Grebe has decided to go all-out in his Indian “costume” this time, and thousands of posters can be seen across Berlin showing this kind of cultural idiocy.

Cultural Stupidity With Grebe by Red Haircrow

Cultural Stupidity With Grebe by Red Haircrow

For whatever reason he does so, thinks its acceptable, funny or cutting edge, in reality it is culturally ignorant, offensive and without any redeeming merit, and at this time of the year, unfortunately he is not alone.

You’ll always have those, by majority Anglos but even some natives as well, that are dismissive of the topic of Indian costume wearing, and little kids doing so to the approving smiles of their parents which just makes me shake my head and look away as its a non-topic, but people like Grebe take this to a whole different level. Watch his videos, the mockery he makes of Indians even if he doesn’t think/mean to, and he’s doing it for profit.

From the Ohio University website

From the Ohio University website

The campaign “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” was started by students teaching about racism in society, and Rainald Grebe is a huge example of not just the activity, but the promotion of copying other cultures for one’s own benefit.

There is a video created by Noel Altaha for a social psychology course (see below), and some of the people who express their feelings hit right on point: “When Caucasian people dress like our ancestors it really disrespects our culture and ourselves.”

The unfortunate thing is, Caucasians like Rainald Grebe often don’t care. They are dismissive. They begin to verbally spew that list of excuses even supposed admirers of Native Americans are known to say:

  1. “I’m not oppressing anyone.”
  2. “Get over it!”
  3. “You all need to focus on bigger issues.”
  4. “You guys are just too sensitive.”
  5. “It’s just a costume!”

These are just a few, but they are all phrases these ones use to try to excuse the fact they are disrespecting someone else’s culture JUST BECAUSE THEY WANT TO, and since they are Anglo, well, hell, they should be allowed to do whatever they want because they’ve been doing it for centuries, right?


My request is that each and every person that can, please write a note to Mr. Grebe and share the message that we are not costumes, we are a culture, and we do not like his using and making fun of the People by wearing his “costumes” or using the sensationalism of natives. This request is NOT to make any attack but to reinforce a message of education and correction of what is wrong and completely unnecessary.

One can use the “Gästebuch” (Guest book) on his website http://www.rainaldgrebe.de/ to post your message. There is also the option of “kontakt” (contact) using the link at the bottom of the page.


3 thoughts on ““We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” in Germany: Confronting and Informing the Ignorant

  1. Pingback: “A Star Trek Convention For Native Enthusiasts…” My Article at Indian Country Today | Songs of the Universal Vagabond

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