Native American Costumes: Appalling or Beautiful?

by margueritetremblay97 on October 17, 2016 - 3:41pm

With Halloween season coming up, many are anxious to decide what they will dress up as this year. Among mythical creatures like fairies and werewolves, we can find some more realistic costumes that represent real groups of people, such as Native Americans. While some may think that it is acceptable to dress as a tribal chief to go trick-or-treating, others believe that it is unacceptable and appalling. Accordingly, the following will discuss a recent issue where a Saskatchewanian woman spoke up after finding Indigenous costumes in her local Spirit Halloween store.

As reported by CBC news, Zoey Roy was costume shopping with her family when she came across a troubling costume. The costume that caught her eye was of a little girl wearing a leather dress with fringes and a headband. Being offended by this costume, Zoey walked over to the store manager and calmly asked if they could remove it from the stores shelves. In return, the manager declined her request and escorted Zoey and her family out of the store, adding that they reminded her of pug owners (because pug owners can get offended by pug masks). Following this incident, she contacted the CEO of Spirit Halloween and shared her concern. And so, she succeeded in making the executives remove the costume from the shelves, and also requested that all indigenous items and accessories be removed before October 25th.

The story described in the article corresponds with what we talked in class regarding inappropriate Halloween costumes. Native Americans are real people, not fictional characters, and making their symbolic clothing into a costume that anyone can wear simply diminishes its significance. As Zoey shared with CBC, a leather dress is what they would typically wear after hunting a buffalo, as they would use the entire animal, and have a relationship with their clothing. On a different note, and as mentioned in class, one should not have the option to dress as a Native American for fun, being that these people have been gravely abused, segregated, as well as harmed in the past, and still face prejudice today.

On a more personal level, this class has helped me open my eyes and realise how things that can seem like “just a costume”, may potentially hurt others. Before, I did not view Native American costumes as problematic but beautiful, as they incorporate appealing fabrics and colors. On a broader scale, the problem remains that many still detach the meaning associated with these clothes and perceive, them as just a costume, placing them in the same category as a clown and a fireman.

Although Zoey got many others on board with her and boycotted her local Spirit Halloween, there are still many other Halloween stores all over the country and world that sell offending costumes. In spite of the fact that many see this as the dehumanizing of Native Americans, there are also critics that argue that she is overly sensitive about the topic. As for you, do you think it is “just a costume”?

 

Word Count: 503

 

Zakreski, D. (2016, October 11). Activist Zoey Roy calls for boycott of Spirit Halloween store over Indigenous costumes. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/saskatoon/spirit-halloween-zoey-roy-i...

Comments

This is a really well-written piece; it is structured well and accessible, as well as being very concise and informative. It communicates the issue clearly, incorporates the concept of scale, and your opinions weave effectively into your own knowledge and what was discussed in class.
You highlight the problematic nature of 'dressing up' as a Native American due to the cultural and historical significance of the headdress to various groups of Native Americans. I am not Native American, and I agree wholeheartedly that the production of these costumes for Halloween or other fancy dress occasions should be stopped. Unfortunately we see a lot of non-Native celebrities, such as Karlie Kloss, Lana del Rey, Harry Styles [1], donning headdresses for modelling shoots, music videos, Coachella and other occasions. Do you believe that these figures perhaps normalise wearing this outfit despite the swift backlash for doing so, therefore promoting the idea that 'dressing up' as another race is a fashion statement or appreciating an aesthetic?

Sources:
[1] http://www.fashionnstyle.com/articles/20593/20140605/14-celebrities-who-...

Thank you for your positive feedback, I really appreciate it. As for the whole issue of non-Native celebrities wearing Indigenous accessories and outfits, I think that there is a difference between getting inspired by a culture as opposed to wearing their symbolic clothing as a halloween costume. And so, I believe that if someone gets inspired by "traditional" Native American clothing, and incorporates it subtly to their outfit for aesthetic purposes, there should be no problem, being that they are appreciating their clothing and not belittling it. However, this is only my personal opinion and it could be flawed and still viewed as hurtful/incorrect, being that i am not Native American and am not experiencing this from their point of view. I hope I have answered your question!

Hello!
I love your article. I always thought this was an issue that should be addressed and you have done it very well. It is interesting how you told an anecdote about Zoey Roy because it illustrates how people downgrade racist and offensive Halloween costumes. I like how you added your personal thought because I could relate to it. I too did not realize of how offensive the costume was. I also applaud you for integrating course related information into your article.
However, to further your thoughts, I think it would have been efficient to develop your arguments regarding racism. Discussing the controversial word, Privilege, would be appropriate. Why is the costume inappropriate? Because the Native American costume is a method that is used to mock their culture. Those who are disguised as Native Americans would most likely be people who has more privilege than Native Americans because of Intersectionality. Intersectionality is what makes a person less privileged than an other individual. For example, a straight White man is more privileged than a lesbian Latina woman.
Besides that, I truly enjoyed your article :)
Here is a link I find interesting for your article, I hope it is helpful: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/10/is-your-halloween-costume-racist/

Hello! Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it. As for "developing my argument regarding racism", I had so much more information that I wanted to share regarding this topic but couldn't because of my assignments word-count requirements, which is why I did not expand and elaborate on other subjects. With this said, I totally agree with what you are saying, and I will definitely read the article you have linked!

I am very glad to have read this article, especially when the discrimination against indigenous people is a continuous problem in Canada. In fact, they face more discrimination in Canada than black people do in the US. I like that you shared a story in your article since it makes it more personal. It also raises the the message that doing little things can go a long way. It might even inspire other people to do the same. I like that you said indigenous people are real people and not fictional characters, which shows how much of their culture is dismissed and believed to be 'fairy-tale like' especially in the media. This Halloween costume is not only a form of discrimination but also intersectionality. You wouldn't find a 'black' or 'white' woman costume in a Halloween store. This concept proves that all women are not oppressed in the same way. This is especially the case considering the 1200 (roughly) missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada over the past 30 to 40 years and have only been reported recently. While a white woman reported missing would go on the news instantly. This shows how race and gender can overlap one another and create different issues for different people.
If you would like learn more about the missing and murdered indigenous women, here's a link that will explain more in detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_and_Murdered_Indigenous_Women_(Canada)

I would like to start off by saying how much I enjoyed reading your article; I’m glad your teacher allowed you to open your eyes to an issue you were not previously familiar with. I completely agree with you – a Native American dress should not be worn a costume, especially by non-natives!
While the fact that this “costume” was put on shelves is appalling, what bothers me even more is that the costume is designed for young girls. In the last 30 years, approximately 1200 aboriginal women in Canada have officially been declared missing or murdered. This has received minimal to no media coverage at all. This is so scary. Had this been an incident where so many white women went missing, the media would explode. However, because this was about native women, it was barely talked about.
This is due to an issue called “intersectionality.” My professor, S. Waurechen, states that intersectionality describes how “different systems of inequality, discrimination, or oppression (such as racism, sexism, or homophobia) overlap and reinforce one another.” Native women are discriminated against through two counts; they are discriminated because they are Native, and also because they are women. This leads to them being viewed as “below” or “lesser,” and so their value is diminished (this is so evident as we are turning their tradition and culture into a costume). Taking their culture and appropriating it just shows how privileged others (particularity white people as illustrated in their ad) are in comparison.
Turning such oppressed people into a costume for others is so insensitive and disrespectful. I hope to one day never have to see culturally appropriated costumes.

If you want to learn more about intersectionality I would recommend this link: http://www.care2.com/causes/what-is-intersectionality-and-why-is-it-impo...
Also, here is some more info about the missing Aboriginal women: http://www.amnesty.ca/blog/missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-and-gir...

I loved this blog and believe we should persist in confronting controversial topics such as this one to ensure conscience awareness in our society. The title caught my attention, as it does bring to light our attraction and fascination with native american culture. In most situations, dressing up as a native american is not meant to have any negative connotation. Even so, curiosities and fascinations should be directed towards other outlets.