Indian Museum Gets YMCA Record

Celebrity Artifact (WaPo)

Photo: Felipe Rose of the Village People gave a gold record of Felipe Rose, the Indian dude from the singing group the Village People, presented the National Museum of the American Indian with a framed, gold 45-rpm single of the disco group’s 1978 megahit “Y.M.C.A.” on Wednesday afternoon. And the museum happily and ceremoniously accepted it (a Lakota prayer was sung first, then everyone danced to “Y.M.C.A.”), on the precept that sooner or later they might need such an artifact of a bygone era, perhaps to flesh out a future exhibit on the folkloric value of disco, and native cultural responses to it. (No, you shut up. It could happen. Why not? There are only so many ceramic pots, war bonnets and kachina dolls that people can stand to look at, and so when the day comes that someone asks, Hey, what about the Indian dude from the Village People? the Smithsonian, as ever, will be ready.)

Rose, who is part Lakota Sioux, missed the big opening of the museum last September. He said he really wanted to go, but the Village People were on tour with Cher. [What, no Liza Minelli ?! – ed.] So he began to think if there was some other way he could contribute. “It was a stab in the dark, really,” Rose said. He “just called up” the museum and asked if they wanted his gold record. “I didn’t know how they would react. And they were so great. I guess when it went before the board they just instantly voted and agreed it would be a good thing to have.”

Rose, who turned 50 yesterday, was offered a birthday sheet cake and the adoration of dozens of delighted and antsy schoolchildren who happened to be touring the museum’s grand Potomac entry hall on a field trip. He was good-humored, bubbly and bejeweled. He wore a snug turquoise colored buckskin vest with fringe, with fawny buckskin pants, and a plumage of Lakota-style hair weave. He signed a stack of black-and-white glossies of himself as the world knows him: Enormous headdress, teeth bared, war paint.

This strikes me as funnier than it probably is.

Update (1157): Virginia Postrel finds it amusing, too, but sees an interesting point here:

Strange as it is, Rose’s story is a great example of the unpredictable ways in which American culture actually evolves. Any true representation of that culture, including the lives of American Indians, has to include just such quirky stories, and the artifacts that represent them.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kappiy says:

    I haven’t been to the National Museum of the American Indian yet, but it has come under scruitny from historians of Native America as being incrediby vacuous and superficial.

    This seems to give weight to those criticisms.