Nike Goes Native

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I waited a couple of days to blog about Nike’s new shoe for Native Americans, thinking some sort of backlash would reveal itself in the form of a few web posts, but alas I’ve seen no scathing critiques. What gives?

Nike this week unveiled what it said is the first shoe designed specifically for American Indians, hoping to promote physical fitness in a population with allegedly high obesity rates. The shoe, the the Air Native N7, is designed with a larger fit (a “taller shoe”) for what Nike says is a distinct foot shape of American Indians, and has a “culturally specific look” to it (They look like shoe designs from the 70s to me). Tribal wellness programs and tribal schools nationwide can purchase the shoe at wholesale price ($42.80) and then pass it along to individuals, often at no cost.

All of the articles I found today (USA Today, Fox News, MSNBC, Boston Globe) were reprints of the original AP story, which essentially reads like a press release promoting the socially-conscious folks at Nike. I did track down some good fodder in the blogosphere. On the Huffington Post, Milwaukee Dan wrote: “Wow, how nice. After stealing their land, destroying their culture and shoving them on to “reservations,” Nike is going to give them a shoe made by slave labor in China. That’s so American.”

Raising awareness about the issue of high obesity levels of folks living on tribal lands sounds like a great idea to me, but I’m not exactly jumping up and down just because Nike came up with an affordable shoe with added toe room. Hopefully by Monday some real dialog will surface.

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