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”?
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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...