The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

Everyone's familiar with the common steampunk tropes. Air Pirate, Engineer, Saloon Girl, etc. etc.

So what occupations and costumes can you think of that are outside the norm? Either speculative, or an actual costume you've photographed?

For the first, I would like to suggest an itinerant agricultural laborer. A Spalpeen, if you will.

Due to the nature of crop farming, extra workers were needed during the Spring ( plowing, planting ), and especially the Fall harvest. The day-to-day needs of animal care were done by the farmer and his family, so they didn't need help with that.

Someone that owned a steam traction engine was very busy during both seasons. But they had to do something different the rest of the year.

Itinerant laborers were desperately needed in the Fall, but during the rest of the year they were "free" to find other work. Or starve ( a very popular option ). So the spalpeen is not tied down to one location. This would give your character the excuse to be almost anywhere during the rest of the year, in the lower levels of society.

Farming was (and is) a very dangerous business. I can imagine someone having a specialized arm to harvest corn (maize) or other grain. Their task might be to harvest the outer 8' of a field, because a machine or animal powered harvester would trample down this part of the crop.

What else????

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"Native Americans are so connected to the earth"

This is a really problematic statement - a stereotypical statement. A statement that borders really, painfully closely with poisonous trope of Magical Native Americans ( ) . I'm not accusing you of anything when I point this out; I don't believe that you intended offense. I just think that this is one of those 'teachable moments' where all parties could benefit from further education.

I'm Monique, and I'm an enrolled member o the Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe, and I'm a steampunk.
This year for Templecon Providence and The Steampunk World's Fair, I've decided to incorporate a whole lot more NDN-specific detail into my steam punk wardrobe. Last year and the year before my costumes were pretty much cobbled together from thrift store finds, my renfaire costume chest, and self-made corsetry and goggles thrown on top. It did not occur to me to include Regalia pieces into steampunk until I became a reader of - having a full-time job for the first time in a couple of years to pay for supplies doesn't hurt either (buckskin is SO EXPENSIVE don't even get me started....)

So this year I plan to be visibly NDN Steampunk. And I would ADORE seeing other people do it too! It would be incredibly awesome to see someone rocking some steampunk wampum jewelry, or steaming up a Trade Shirt. But the caveat here is that anyone who wants to undertake this really needs to take the time to not do it in an insulting, hurtful way. That means becoming apprised of what stereotypes exist and are hurtful and not using them. Things like NOT wearing warbonnets ( or face paint ( and recognizing cultural appropriation ( It means doing your research. If you're still interested: Go for it! As far as I am aware, me and Michael Red Turtle are the ONLY steampunks active in the blogosphere who also identify as NDN. I'd LOVE to hear more voices and see more NDN costuming.

If you're looking for research sources, I highly recommend and - I'm also willing to take questions from anyone who's interested in knowing more about how to do this kind of thing right; my e-mail is dreadfulmoqui(at)hotmail(dot)com.
I think you're being over-defensive, and reading into this too much. While the Magical Tribesman is a cliched trope, and the Noble Savage a stereotypical one, most of the belief systems of Native American tribes tied in heavily with reverence towards natural phenomena (I know mine does). In addition, Native Americans (as well as any forager, hunter and farmer even today) needed to be aware and intuitive of their environment to support themselves. The phrase "connected to the Earth" can easily refer to this.

As much as it might upset people, culture borrowing is a heavily popular trend. (Otaku in Europe and Americas, and hippies being notable examples) BUT I agree that these trends need to be guided, so that people are properly educated on the culture they want to emulate. Still, if I see somebody in a warbonnet and paint, I'm not going to be upset; I'm going to laugh at them, instead.

I'm half-Cherokee, and while I'm not registered to the tribe, I have been taught the culture, and at sparse times, participate in events.
You're free to think and say what you like what you like, but you do not speak for me.

Also, it may behoove you to review if you see fit.

Thank you for your input.
I would think, Clockwork, that if Monique was being overly sensitive, she would have said that no non-natives should ever do a native impression. What she said was that people have to do their homework.

If I put on a rosary without ever checking to see what implications it might have, I am risking offense to a whole culture and representing myself as a character that I really did not intend. It is the same thing as if I wear a medicine bag or pa wau ka without really knowing what it means. Unthinking people sometimes treat native peoples as being something that lived way back when, like dinosaurs. Who cares if we offend the dinosaurs... they're all dead, right? Fill up that gas tank with 'em and live your life.

My wife was raised Shawnee, but her blood is a mix of Cherokee, Blackfoot, Iroquois, Shawnee, and Irish. Each tribe has specific traditions, languages, stories, and beliefs, and as such it is necessary that anyone wishing to portray one of these nations do his or her research so that they can make sure that they are presenting not only their character but the culture from which their character descends in the right light.

Monique, great links. I'm enjoying Native Tech and D4D quite a lot. :)
My impression of over sensitivity does not extend beyond her reaction to what she deemed the "problematic statement." You should read my previous post again. I said that I agree that people should do their homework if they want to emulate a culture.
Actually, it's rather oversensitive to get defensive when someone points out that there may be a problem with something that seems relatively normal. Exoticising and the like is an element of racism that still plagues us today, so it's very important to be critical of how we use elements of other people's culture.
Indeed, I re-read your post and we do seem to be in agreement on the research issue. My apologies for over-thrashing that particular post-mortem equine.

Dear Ms. Moniquill,


I wish to thank you for the valuable link. I hadn't yet come across this one, and look forward to reading it in depth.


I remain,


Prof. Benj. Thrush



The traditions, clothing and everything of each tribe differs. There are many similarities. Some people say it's the differences that are important, some say it's the similarities. I err on the side of the similarities.

Aside from all the talk of what a Native American believes or does not...there is the fact of research...research research research. If you are not fortunate to have an Elder to talk to and learn from, a good source for info is: From there, you will find sub-pages and links to information about just about anything about any tribe that there is information on.

(these are things I've already said in blog entries of my own here or there)...I did not go and willy-nilly put my outfit together, it is firmly based in traditional Creek clothing. Examples, the moccasins are not Minnetonka mocs..I make mocs, and learned how to make tradtional southeastern mocs. The leggins I wear are the traditional leggins worn by most of the 5 Civilized Tribe in the 1700's. The shirt I wear is a traditional Creek "plain shirt". The coat I wear is a 1700's hunting frock that is standard to the 5 Civilized Tribes. The bandolier bag I wear is an artistic/steampunk version of a bandolier bag and a "utility belt" put together. I sometimes wear a turban...which is traditional headwear for southeastern people.

You will not see me wearing a war bonnet...that is northern plains (and only VERY important people wore that bonnet...and only at specific was not everyday wear). Face paint is something that warriors of the southeastern people wear...but I've no interest in face paint personally (at least not at this point).

Point is, don't just throw a bunch of stereotypical "Indian" things together. Pick a tribe and LEARN. And, if something is questionable...don't do it. Example- I am not a Red Stick is a specific Society of warriors...and I don't belong to to make a Red Stick Warrior steampunk outfit is WAY out of line (same goes for Sioux and Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, etc).

And this comment: "culture borrowing is a heavily popular trend", is so offensive, i don't know where to begin. Popularity does not make an act right. Example...Michael Vick showed us that pro athletes apparently have gotten big into it's popular...does that make it right? Watch what you use for your defenses. Cultural appropriation is why MANY tribes are exclusive (ie- will never talk to you about their ways if you are not one of is why they have exacting requirements for membership into the tribe, big example is the debaucle in recent memory of a man hosting a healing retreat out near the Navajo rez, where he offered a "sweat lodge".. a few people died and most of the rest were rushed to the hospital...this is cultural appropriation at its worst...THIS is the main reason most tribes have become exclusive).

Education is the key. If you can't find anyone to teach you, take it as a hint. Reading a book is not a 'finding a teacher'...anyone can write a book, anyone can say what they want in a book and pass it off as accurate. Being written or being said does not make it valid.

Actually if you are Metis like I am then incorporating that culture into steampunk would probably work well since that culture is a mixture of Aboriginal and European people.

We do historical re-enacting, and when doing mountain men, many of us work in various Native American clothing and jewelry from across many different tribes and I remember being accused once of what I was doing was racist. Upon explaining to them that it wasn't, and I was being true to history, and many mountain men would imitate whatever tribes they came across in their area, for a variety of reasons from their dress being more practical to just showing signs of friendship with that tribe, I was promptly ignored and discarded.

We've also gotten similar attitudes in response to the woman of our group who tries to portray a Dakota Indian woman, but has little or no history of NA at all in her own genealogy.

So how does one represent something without insulting it? Because somewhere someone is going to cry about what you do, no matter how you do it.

Heck, numerous times when representing the Civil War we've had people spit in our face for representing the confederates who apparently only fought for slaves, and not state rights.
"Because somewhere someone is going to cry about what you do, no matter how you do it."

As with all criticism: listen, determine the validity of the criticism, and if said criticism is invalid be willing to explain why. If the person criticizing you is unwilling to enter into a dialog about your portrayal and the choices you've made (there and then or at a later more appropriate time and place) then they're probably not approaching the situation with an intent for discourse anyway.

That's a pretty good starting-point resource for looking into how to and how not to engage in meaningful dialogs and react to criticism and inquiry concerning cultural appropriation. In general, when you choose to utilize something from a culture not your own, you should be prepared to talk about that choice when someone from that culture inquires - and sometimes those people might be angry, even prejudicial, because there is a whole lot of backlog of people doing it wrong that you are choosing to associate yourself with, even when you try to do it right. They are not irrational to be wary, and if you've gone to the trouble of making yourself look and quack like a duck the onus IS on you to prove that you aren't one. That is the mantle you're taking up. I applaud and deeply thank people who are willing to do this, to make Steampunk and other fan spaces more diverse through genuine understanding and sharing of many cultural narratives. It is hard work.


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