With October coming to a close, signifying that Halloween is upon us. Every year I see posts of people dressing up as Pocahontas or a generic "Indian Princess". Besides the obvious facts of that type of costume being inappropriate and insensitive to the Native American people as a whole, there are serious consequences that come along with this "costume".
During assimilation in the 1800s, Native Americans were discouraged or even punished for wearing or attempting to use the items of cultural significance now found commonly in Indian Halloween costumes. Tesia Zientek, tribal member and Citizen Potawatomi Nation Department of Education director said that "It's harmful, and it hurts to know that they are getting to use things that our ancestors were not allowed to use and use them in a way that it is inconsistent with our culture, while I don't think individuals intend to be harmful, their actions are."
The acceptance of this "costume" to be sold online and in stores continue to objectify Native Americans. A culture is a way of life for people and is not something someone should try to "pretend to be" for a night. Many Native "costumes" for sale have adjectives associated with them such as "sexy" or "hot," sexualizing the culture as well. This is the most harmful part of the culture is not a costume discussion. I can begin by referencing statistics about how many Native women are sexually assaulted (one in three). The rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average, stressing the point that dressing up and playing Indian is not a harmless activity.
Native American people are one of the most underrepresented and misunderstood minorities in all of North America. In many situations, the term "Native" is used in the past tense, indicating that Indians no longer exist, but that could not be further from the truth. The best way to bring change, to get rid of Native American stereotypes and racism, is to have discussions and raise awareness. When you see someone at a Halloween party dressed in a Native American "costume" begin a conversation and educate them on why they should not contribute to the further deterioration of the Native culture.