ASF and “Native”-themed Mascotry
Update March 2023:
This statement was originally written in June of 2022. Since then Natives In Tech wrote a blog post on this topic that was featured in various news outlets.
What ASF has done so far:
- Responded to the Register saying: “We hear the concerns from the Native American people and are listening. As a non-profit run by volunteers, changes will need time to be carefully weighed with members, the board, and our legal team. Our members are exploring alternative ways to address it, but we don’t have anything to share at this time.”
- The Board of Directors supported creation of a committee to explore naming options.
- Removed Trillions and Trillions Served from its YouTube and homepage.
- Announced that the conference formerly known as Apachecon will now be called Community Over Code 2023.
ASF has yet to announce a name change for the organization itself. ASF membership has elected a new board of directors for 2023, and a new VP of Marketing and Publicity has been appointed and updated below.
When the Apache Group named itself and its software “Apache”, they were continuing a long-practiced North American settler tradition of appropriating Native identity as a costume for their own causes. An environment filled with propaganda including everything from Hollywood media to music festivals and children’s summer camps enabled them to feel entitled to play Indian.
ASF has sparked a microgenre of stereotyping for web server projects.
In the decades since its creation ASF’s mascotry has spawned its own niche of digital redface in projects like Apache Geronimo and Apache Arrow and they've no doubt inspired very ugly appropriation and stereotyping in other projects like the Hiawatha, Cherokee, and Tomahawk web server projects. Businesses are also riffing off of ASF’s caricaturing: “Yupiik is an expert team with a solid experience in digital and information technologies, heavily involved in the Apache Software Foundation.”
ASF is far more than a humble web server these days, today it is impossible to go a day working in tech and not be bombarded by examples of ASF's appropriation.
This sort of mascotry has been described and called out by Native writers and academics over the years, from Rayna Green’s essay The Tribe Called Wannabee: Playing Indian in America and Europe to Philip Deloria’s seminal book on the subject Playing Indian. In 2005 in Permission and Possession: The Identity Tightrope Phil Bellfy highlighted ASF’s use of a feather as a stereotype for Indianness:
The “Indian” As Abstraction
This essay introduced a few examples of Indian warriors with full headdress, but what if just one feather is presented—is it sufficient to conjure images of savage warriors? Well, probably not just one feather, unless it can be associated with some other stereotypical image. In this case, what if the feather is paired with the word “Apache”?
It is interesting that the Apache Web site provides a link to a Web site devoted to the Apache people, providing “stereotypical proof” that the feather symbol and the foundation name are designed to evoke images of the Apache people. This is all the more interesting in light of the fact that perhaps history’s most photographed Indigenous warrior—the Apache Geronimo—was not inclined to adorn himself in this fashion. In fact, even Hollywood depictions of Geronimo eschew the feather look. Yet the stereotypical image of the feathered Indian persists.
By its nature, the use of Aboriginal stereotypes by sports teams, corporations, and governments leads to the denigration of Aboriginal culture, not only in North America, where the current mascot controversy rages, but throughout the world, as these stereotypical images can literally be found all over the world from China to South Africa, from Fiji to Finland. Who am I? is a question asked by everyone in our society, be they American, Canadian, Irish, Ukrainian, Indian, Aboriginal, Indigenous, or multi-ethnic; it is not a trivial issue; it comprises the core of each and every person. I am often asked if we don’t have something better to do—fight poverty and unemployment, combat alcoholism and drug abuse—and, of course, the answer is that we, as Indigenous people, fight those fights everyday. But many, if not all, of the problems facing Aboriginal people can be traced back to a question of identity. We all ask—Native and non-Native alike—who am I? How do I fit into this mosaic? What is my role in society? Until the question of stereotypes—be they in sports mascots, corporate logos, or national identities—is addressed, Indigenous people will continue to be pushed to the fringes of the dominant society, viewed as, and often called, chief, or the squaw, not recognized as, for example, Anishnabe, Lakota, Inuit, Métis, or Dene. We have to be careful as we walk this identity tightrope, careful not to falter as we struggle toward our goal: a desire to be recognized simply for who we are, who we know we are, the flesh-and-blood version, not the corporatized cardboard cut-out.
In 2021 ASF’s exploitation was mentioned alongside other examples of commercial appropriation in a Washington Post opinion focused on Jeep’s appropriation of the Cherokee name by Angela R. Riley, Sonia K. Katyal and Rachel Lim.
"I think we're in a day and age in this country where it’s time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general," — Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. of the Cherokee Nation
More recently Adam Recvlohe of Natives in Tech wrote a piece titled Apache® Appropriation highlighting in detail ASF’s disrespect and attempts at erasure as well as the inadequacy of ASF’s About Our Name page.
ASF’s “About Our Name” page is not the sort of page anyone needs to be writing to make a web server, but it’s the extent of ASF’s official response to these issues. One of the key points in Philip Deloria's “Playing Indian” is that these sorts of identity plays are inherently unstable. That the ASF has a need for this page at all is an example of this instability.
There is no respectful way to appropriate. Even the most well-intentioned developers who are trying to avoid any redface will still stumble into it with such activities. Terms like “Apache People” and “Apache Speakers” are terms that have real meanings outside ASF and get completely misappropriated by people who seemingly aren’t even trying to lean into the mascotry that other volunteers used in the past.
The film Trillions and Trillions Served featured on ASF’s website, uses music and scenery suggestive of the American Southwest to set a tone of “Americanness” despite much of the film having been recorded at an Apachecon in Europe. There is no other well for ASF's marketing to draw from other than redface.
It's long past the time for ASF to change its name.
In response to decades of campaigning and the greater attentions placed on racial awareness there have been many high-profile examples of Native-themed mascots and corporate logos that have undergone rebranding.
The ASF isn't a faceless opaque organization, it's a non-profit supported by some of the largest companies in the world such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. Those responsible for making the decisions about this brand include:
- Apache Software Foundation Board of Directors (email@example.com)
- Apache Software Foundation Trademarks (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- President of the Apache Software Foundation: David Nalley (email@example.com)
- Executive Vice President of the Apache Software Foundation: Ruth Suehle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Vice President, Marketing & Publicity: Brian Proffitt (email@example.com)
- Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion: Katia Rojas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Walter Cameron, citizen of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
- Adam Recvlohe, Muscogee Nation
- Leo Vicenti, Jicarilla Apache Nation
- Thomas Itsa-Bdah Red-Cloud, Shash-Chi'in.
Proud Apache and Solution Architect
- Matt Ngamurarri Heffernan, Luritja/Pintupi - Australia
- Jay Castro, CHamoru
- Nicola Saunders, Front End Lead Developer from the U.K.
- Josh Simmons, Foundations Advocate and former Chair of Open Source Initiative
- John Burnham, Yatima Inc
- Phoebe Burnham, Shinnecock Nation
- Jamie McClelland, on behalf of May First Movement Technology
- Kagan MacTane, front-end web developer in Brooklyn and San Francisco
- Marcin Tustin
- Yehuda Rothschild
Muscogee Nation citizen, and retired Unix/Linux admin
- Margaret Wu, United States
- Leah Wasser, Executive Director, pyOpenSci, United States
- Ariadne Conill, Cherokee Nation
- Alice Aguilar, on behalf of Progressive Technology Project
- Laurel Davis-Delano
- Mary Branscombe, technology journalist, UK
- Eric Schultz, Software Engineer and FOSS advocate
- Scott McGerik
- Christina Dunbar-Hester, author of Hacking Diversity
- Lynne Whitehorn, Programmer and Cybersecurity Architect
- Dan Phiffer
- Emma C Humphries
- Bob Rudis, V.P. Data Science, Security Research, & Detection Engineering, GreyNoise Intelligence
- Matthew Orres, Senior Software Developer and FOSS advocate
- Rick Innis, back-end developer, Tkaranto, Canada
- Kevin Wittek, OSS Engineer, Germany
- Jeremiah Lee, software engineer, Sverige
- Kelly Shortridge, Senior Principal Engineer and Author, United States
- Thena Seer, Software Engineer, US
- Erin Stein, Head of Operations for a Data and Tech for Good organization
- Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, Caddo, author
- Robert Rothenberg
- Denver Gingerich, Director of Compliance, Software Freedom Conservancy
- Bradley M. Kuhn, Policy Fellow, Software Freedom Conservancy
- Travis Briggs, Software Developer, United States
- Josiah J Mannion
- Sydney Noh, Internal Developer Advocate, United States
- Sage Sharp, Outreachy and Software Freedom Conservancy
- Andy Tudhope, Kernel
- Julie Rivera, citizen Diné (Navajo)
- Jessica Ferry, Software & Web Developer, Turtle Island
- Russell Neches, Microbiologist & bioinformatics software developer
- Gregory Day, Ho Chunk Nation
- Liaizon Wakest, Bulbancha
- Elana Hashman, Free/Open Source Software Developer
- Jill Rouleau, Principal Software Engineer - Ansible Project
- Jonathan Stegall, user experience designer and web developer, Minneapolis
- Jack 'jrabbit' Laxson, FOSS developer
- Aloysious Todd, Life-giver, PNW Land Steward, Engineer, Peacekeeper
- Jackson Scheerer
- Christopher Swenson, software engineer
- Thursday Bram, Editor of the Responsible Communication Style Guide
- Jeff Doctor, Cayuga
- Violet Blue, Author, Journalist
- Mike Farrell
- Ben Hutchings, software engineer
- Emily Gladstone Cole, security engineer
- Stefan Sperling, former Subversion PMC chair, emeritus ASF Member, Europe
- Philippe Torres
- Kenneth Knowles, Beam PMC chair, ASF Member, United States
- Claude N. Warren, Jr., ASF Member, Ireland
- Hector Correa, Software Developer, Princeton University Library
- Nick Ruest, York University, Canada
- Bess Sadler, Software Developer, Princeton University Library
- Amer Neely
- Travis Jupp, FSAT
To add your name submit a PR on Github or send an email.