Why Native American 'Costumes' Are Harmful, So Just Don't

Why Native American 'Costumes' Are Harmful, So Just Don't

Culture is not a costume.

106
views

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.

Popular Right Now

Stop Yelling At Me For Being Conservative

What you shouldn't say to millennial Republicans.
10040
views

Society today has a funny way of making Republicans seem like the scum of the Earth. The funniest thing is that it's actually not funny at all — it's an ignorant, rude way to treat people. See, America these days seems to be all about treating everyone fairly. That is, until differing opinions come about. How dare we Republicans view economics and politics differently? How dare we have our own opinions? How dare we identify as Conservative people, even as young adults?

So, without further ado, here are some things that I, a millennial Republican, am beyond tired of hearing.


"You're just a college girl, what do you know about politics?"

Yeah, I'm a basic white girl. I wear Converse to class and my sorority's letters are on my rear windshield. Guess what, though — I do my research. I've been following the presidential campaigns for months now. I've watched the debates, read the articles, visited the websites and studied the polls. I may be in a sorority and I may wear Converse, but I know what I'm talking about when it comes to this stuff. So, if you ask for my opinion, be prepared to hear a well-thought-out, educated answer.

"You only believe what your parents raised you to believe."

No, actually. My parents raised me to understand the value of hard work. They made me get a job when I was 16 years old so I could learn how to budget, save and provide for myself. My parents did not teach me to rely on other people to get what I want. My parents did not teach me to accept handouts. Therefore, I believe that success comes from hard work and dedication. I believe that each individual is responsible for his or her own success (along with his or her own property and obligations), hence why I identify as a Conservative.

"You're voting for him?!"

Yeah! I am! Funny, I thought we were all entitled to our own opinion. It turns out this is my opinion, and [insert candidate] has my vote. Cool how that works, huh?

"The GOP candidates this time around are horrible."

It doesn't take an idiot to see that none of the Republican candidates are the ideal presidential candidate. It also doesn't take an idiot to see that the same thing can be said of the Democratic candidates. Here's the reality: There never has been a perfect president, there never has been a perfect presidential candidate, there is no perfect president, there is no perfect presidential candidate, there never will be a perfect president and there never will be a perfect presidential candidate.

"You're so selfish."

Define selfish. I want my money to be my money and I want my rights to be my rights; I was unaware that that labels me as "selfish." I am confident that I can survive without the government's help.

"But don't you care about the old people/the kids/the environment/the homeless people/etc?"

Yes, I do. What I don't like is that my hard-earned money gets taken from me and used for other things. I'm not against helping out, don't get me wrong. I would love to donate to charities to help children and homeless people and the planet, that is if I had enough money to do so. Sadly, that money gets taken from me through taxes (Which could be considered forced donation, if you ask me. How is that fair?).

"But what about the minorities? You're just racist."

No, I'm not racist and yes, I do care about the minorities. I believe diversity is one of America's greatest qualities. What bothers me, though, is that society changes the meaning of "fair" when it comes to minorities. Yeah, it would be fair for us to all be able to pay our own medical bills and whatnot. Do you know what else would be fair? For even the members of minorities to get jobs and earn their way to success just like I'm trying to do. If illegal immigrants want to come to America, then they can go through the citizenship process, get a job and contribute to society. If they want to be treated equally, they need to start viewing themselves and treating themselves as working American citizens who pay the same taxes, get the same jobs and fight the same daily battles that we fight.

"You're hateful and/or heartless."

Nah. What I am is honest, self-sufficient and confident that other people can be honest and self-sufficient.

"You're ignorant."

Again, no, I'm not. As I've said several other times throughout this article, I know what I'm talking about and I can justify what I'm talking about. If anything, you're ignorant for accusing me of such things.

"You're crazy if you'd vote Trump over Sanders or Clinton if he's the chosen GOP candidate."

Please enlighten me on how this makes me "crazy." In this upcoming election, I will be voting for the candidate chosen by my political affiliation. The Republican Party's only strong opposing candidates include a self-proclaimed Socialist and a woman under FBI investigation. What I would consider "crazy" is if I voted for Sanders or Clinton over Donald Trump, just because Trump has offended some people before. (And no, this is not me saying I'm a loud and proud Trump supporter. In fact, Cruz has my vote either until he's elected into office or until Trump is chosen as the GOP candidate.)

Side note: I've heard the people, who hate Trump for being mean, say meaner things than that man ever has. A very wise man (Jesus, in John 8:7) once said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."


What you should be saying to me is "Thank you," because I'm voting for freedom. I'm voting for civil liberties. I'm voting for constitutional rights. I'm voting for the will to succeed. I'm voting for the reward for hard work. I'm voting for the things that will actually help America keep prospering.

So, here's what I'll say to you: You're welcome.

Cover Image Credit: Kristi Russell

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

The Disrespectful Nature Of My Generation Needs To Stop

Why choosing phone games over a Holocaust survivor was my breaking point.

5
views

While many students that attended Holocaust survivor Hershel Greenblat's talk were rightfully attentive, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a few outlier students tapping away on their phones. They were minute movements, but inappropriate nonetheless.

Immediately I became infuriated. How, I thought, fuming, did my generation become so blithely unaware to the point where we could not proffer basic respect to a survivor of one of the most horrific events in human history?

Perhaps the students were just texting their parents, telling them that the event would run a bit long. 10 minutes later, my eyes diverted from Greenblat back to the students. They were still on their phones. This time, I could see the screens being held horizontally—indicating a game or a show was being played. I wanted to get up, smack the distractions out of their hands, and ask them why they thought what they were doing was more important than a Holocaust speaker.

I will not waste any more time writing about the disrespectful few. Because they could not give Greenblat the time of their day, I will not give them mine. Instead, I want to focus on a massive trend my generation has mistakenly indulged ourselves in.

The Greenblat incident is only an example of this phenomenon I find so confusing. From young, it was instilled in me, probably via Chinese tradition, that elders should be respected. It is a title only revoked when unacceptable behavior allows it to be, and is otherwise maintained. I understand that not everybody comes from a background where respect is automatically granted to people. And I see that side of the story.

Why does age automatically warrant respect? It is the fact that they have made it this far, and have interesting stories to tell. There are exceptions, perhaps more than there are inclusions.

But this fact can be determined by the simple act of offering an elderly person your seat on public transportation. Sure, it can be for their health, but within that simple act is a meaningful sacrifice for somebody who has experienced more than you.

Age aside, at Greenblat's talk, majority of the disrespect shown might not have been agist. Instead, it could have been the behavior students just there for the check-in check-out extra credit that multiple classes and clubs were offering. While my teachers who advertised the event stressed the importance of attendance not just for the academic boost, but for the experience, I knew that some of the more distracted students there must have been those selfish, ignorant, solely academic driven cockalorums.

I stay hopeful because majority of my classmates were attentive. We knew to put aside our Chromebooks, regardless of note-taking, and simply listen to what Greenblat had to offer.

It would be wrong to label my generation as entitled— that's a misnomer for the generation before. We are still wavering between the line of automatic respect and earned respect, but we need to set a line for people whom we know the stories of. Especially a Holocaust survivor.

Related Content

Facebook Comments