Native Americans to protest burlesque show

Tonight Native Americans will gather at Ground Zero in Minneapolis to protest burlesque performer “Tomahawk Tassels,” a.k.a Amanda Riley.

For the last five years Riley has performed a burlesque number featuring her portraying a stereotyped Native woman, with long braids and a revealing outfit. Over the course of her act, she gradually takes off most of her clothing.


Image source: Facebook

This week she announced that due to protests she’s retiring her act, but is still keeping the name Tomahawk Tassels. And it’s under that name she’s scheduled to perform tonight and tomorrow in two Twin Cities burlesque shows.

Shannon Edberg is the organizer of tonight’s protest. In her call to action she writes “We’ve told her that her actions contribute to rape culture, yet she continues. Amanda has been asked for years to retire her racist burlesque character, but she’s still scheduling shows.”

“One in three Indigenous women is raped or subjected to sexual violence during her lifetime,” Edberg continues. “It’s time for us to stand up and we’re not going to stop until “Tomahawk Tassels” is retired.”

For her part, Riley says she was told her father was part Cherokee, but she was raised by her mother’s Irish Catholic family. She told Vita.MN that she gravitated to burlesque because she needed “a healthy avenue of sexual exploration and healing,” and that in her native Oklahoma “everybody’s Native. Native appropriation is everywhere. It’s not in a negative way, it’s supportive, whether or not we have tribal cards.” She has said she feels bullied by Native Americans asking her stop her act.

  • MattOKC

    Oh good grief. Native appropriation IS everywhere, but not positive or even remotely accepted. Frankly, here in Oklahoma, we Native people are sick of everyone claiming the right to take more and more of our ways on the basis of “my great-grandmother was Cherokee” or some other nonsense. And there’s no way she is “half Cherokee” (as she claims elsewhere) if her father was “part Cherokee”–someone apparently failed math class. She’s bogus, and thankfully she’s agreed to retire this racist schtick.

  • onewhoknows

    She has no intention of retiring the name or the routine.. she’s gonna milk it for all it’s worth.. “someone told her” she’s part Native. I call BS! What she’s doing is disgusting. People like her used to dress like nuns for their routine for the shock effect, now they appropriate our sacred items and perform. If you were raised Native, you would have been beaten with a switch by your parents long ago. Clean up your act and find another minority to mock!

  • Bob Fong

    Censorship sucks and that’s all this is! Rape culture? Do you think that someone is going to see this performer who is part native and actively seek out a Native American woman to rape?

    Where I am from, there is an 85% unemployment rate among Native Americans and people in reservations live in third world poverty conditions. Total genocide has been practiced against the Native peoples here in the US and all over the world.

    And this is the battle you choose? Promoting censorship? Trying to limit freedoms of performance artists? This sort of sensationalism, makes activists look stupid.

  • RealCherokee

    Actually, Bob Fong, YES. Someone very well may seek out a Native woman to rape. Do you have clue one as to how often Native American women (and women of any other race) are FETISHIZED? There are entire websites devoted to the fetish of Native American women. I think you need a lesson on what real censorship is. This is cultural misappropriation by someone who makes a claim she cannot back up. No one in the Cherokee Nations has heard of her, and she may be receiving a ‘cease and desist’ order for her claims of being Cherokee, and calling herself ‘The Cherokee Seductress’. What part of ‘Native women are three times more likely to be raped’ did you miss? This perpetuates a stereotype of Native women. You’re not Native, you’re not a woman, so of course you miss the point by miles. We have a LOT of battles going on simultaneously, so don’t even condescend to us about what we, in YOUR OPINION, “should” be doing!

    By the way, in 88% of instances, the perpetrators of sex crimes against Native women are NOT native, and get away with it. You want statistics, there you are. Native women are 3 times more likely to be raped in their lifetime, and twice as likely to be seriously injured or MURDERED in the commission of the crime. 88% of perpetrators are NON-NATIVE and never prosecuted. There’s some STATISTICS.

  • jimm blue thunder