This is an issue to me. If the debate is, "Is the way JK Rowling is depicting Native American culture offensive?" Then automatically, a Native American's opinion is more valid. I'm seeing Gadif's firsthand experience and Blythe's secondhand knowledge being simply dismissed because people are struggling to see this from a Native American perspective.
No, JK Rowling is not singlehandedly responsible for oppressing indigenous peoples, nor is she writing anything intentionally racist.
Yes, Native Americans currently face and have faced before more pressing issues.
Sure, there are other oppressed minorities in the Americas.
But it doesn't make JK Rowling's usage somehow more acceptable. She does not have to be 'evil or cruel' to misuse and appropriate Native American culture. You asked what a fair depiction would be, but then immediately suggested that she could have reached out to actual Native Americans to learn the most sensitive and respectful way to depict their culture in her stories. I too think that would have been the best solution, and I hope she learns from this in future works.
If I have ever given the impression that I was dismissing
the information given by anyone here, then I'm sorry. That was not the impression I wanted to give, and I can assure everyone participating in this debate that I'm not trying to offend or skewer reality to somehow fit my neutral narrative. I'm not J. K. Rowling, I'm not a dedicated follower of her work, and I'm not a Native American. I'm speaking from the perspective of a third party. A spectator, if you will.
I'm not so deeply involved in Native American culture that I can comment on whether or not the outrage is caused by an "Outsider" writing about them, a wrongful depiction, or simply the fact that they weren't invited to take part in the creative process. Maybe it's all three even, I don't know.
I don't subscribe to the idea that anyone is ever entitled
to write about anything, I believe we all have a basic right to express ourselves creatively. I think J. K. Rowling is as "entitled" to write about her own version of Native American culture as any Native American is "entitled" to write about their own version of Norse mythology.
Is Thor and his friends in the Marvel universe appropriated culture? Yes, albeit just not from a population that's ever faced severe oppression. I'm not comparing the two, but I don't think it's healthy for the debate to make it out as though there are, as Beguile put it earlier, scavengers out to pick at the bones of other cultures.
And yes, I think we can all agree that this controversy might never have happened if she had invited someone to advice her, but there is still the option that it would not have been enough. If she had
invited someone to come join her in an attempt to include Native American culture, can we be sure that she wouldn't have faced the exact same allegations by those who weren't
invited to take part? Should it be an unspoken rule that you have to go down this route?
There will always be a lot of maybe's in a situation like this, but ultimately I believe both sides are at fault for different reasons, and both parties could have handled the situation better.
Who says these people don't exist?
I was 10 when I started reading Harry Potter, the same age as Harry in the first book, the same initials and general build/appearance as Harry. I was impressionable, and even though I knew it was fiction, it was still an influence on me as a person. People are impressionable. If you impress on them unfaithful depictions of Native American culture/religion then they'll come away from the experience only more ignorant.
I'm not sure how you meant for this to be taken, but I should hope that you can see how the beliefs of an impressionable 10 year old versus the beliefs of an educated adult are not the same, and how we should have different standards in either case. You cannot possibly mean to blame children for their misconceptions and lack of understanding of other cultures. When you're 10, you most likely barely have an understanding of your own culture.
And even then, it should not be creative writers responsibility
to educate and to make sure that impressionable youths are not given the wrong impressions. It should be the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children do not consume harmful media, be it cultural, political or religious, and the responsibility of educators to ensure that children learn to understand the difference between reality and fiction and how the two should not be considered equal when forming opinions.
And yes, there is a problem with that. We're seeing that more and more these days, using Muslims as an example, because regardless of ones experience with Native Americans, most people on this site will likely have been exposed to anti-Muslim sentiments and controversies. I also strongly believe that most people realize that the majority of negative prejudices are built on a foundation of fiction and people's general lack of understanding. There are a lot of people who will claim to know a lot of things about Muslim culture, but have no experience actually talking to Muslims or studying their history, heritage and religion.
Like I said in an earlier post, racial and cultural harmony is not going to be achieved over night, sad as that might be. I feel like the world was starting to make progress, but that the current (The last decade) global state has had a very regressive effect. I think we're now seeing the culmination of this, and that regardless of what happens, the next few years will in many ways determinate the direction the world is headed in, be it for better or for worse.
I want to see Hollywood make and effort and pour as many resources into making people care about these oppressed and mistreated cultures as they have done in order to try and make us care about tall blue aliens. I want to see Native American authors release massive smash-hits that brings some real enlightenment and genuine interest to those who seem to have largely forgotten about them. I want to see the American government improved and tightened to the point where systemic discrimination can finally become a thing of the past.
But these things take time, and they take the genuine interest of people in positions of power.
And I think J. K. Rowling, misguided as she may have been, wanted this too.