It’s getting to that time of year, pumpkin spice everything, sexy costumes of things that aren’t sexy, I’m lookin’ at you Ketchup Bottle Hottie… and, oh yeah! SUPER RACIST “Native” costumes. Some might think that it’s just a costume, or even that it’s a way of showing respect, but it isn’t. There’s a term for this, it’s “redface” and it’s racist. Wearing costume versions of regalia, the actual word to describe outfits worn in ceremony, is peak disrespectful. With one outfit you’re showing the Natives around you, and they are around you, that not only do you care about the fact that regalia is worn for specific reasons and never as a costume, but that you’re so self absorbed that you didn’t even take the time to learn about this thing that you pretend to be super into. If you think you’re showing respect you had better slow your roll, none of these costumes show respect. The do show a flagrant disregard for a wide array of Indigenous American cultures by conflating them all into one. Sorry to burst your bubble, but just because we have commonalities does not make us the same. We have different languages, ceremonies, songs, religions, AND regalia. In fact some commonalities you see, like frybread, are a direct result of colonization.
Now, I’m writing this as a response to the site Yandy. dot com. They took down a Sexy Handmaid costume for being distasteful after online outrage, but left up THIRTY-FIVE “Native” costumes. WHAT THE HECK. That’s so many! But I went though each page of costumes on their site and took down the names of each one. I’m not including any pictures because I don’t want to see them again.
– Naughty Native Babe
– Deluxe Native Warrior
– Deluxe Native American Cutie
– Native American Babe
– Lust Native American Maiden
– Deluxe Native American Princess
– War Chief Hottie
– Tribal Babe
– Native American Sweetheart
– Sexy Dream Catcher Native American
– Native American Mistress
– Fabulous Feathers
– Tribal Trouble Native American
– Beautiful Native American Babe
– Cherokee Inspired Hottie
– Deluxe Native
– Chief’s Desire
– Native American Seductress
– Native American Feather Headdress
– Courageous Cutie
– Native American Royalty
– Native American Warrior
– Tribal Princess
– Beautiful Native
– Sexy Pocahontas
– Wolf Dancer
– Native American Princess
– Native American Hottie
– Men’s Native American Chief
– Free Spirit Princess Native American
– Native American Beauty
– Native American Medicine Woman
– Pow Wow Adult
– Native Beauty
– Wild at Heart Native
Still think that generically named versions (sexy or not) of our cultures regalias are respectful?
I get that you may have worn something like that in the past, not realizing the racist origins. That these costumes generalize many Indigenous cultures and that these generalizations are steeped in our history of colonization. Regalia means something and it should be respected.
I’m not picking on anyone for ignorantly wearing a racist costume.
I’m sharing this information because it hurts me to see people out there wearing these costumes. It shows me that they don’t care about my culture or any other Indigenous persons culture.
And now, you know that it hurts people to wear these things that you don’t understand. To put on our cultures like it’s a game. Like we aren’t real.
WE ARE REAL
Maybe now, you’ll share this information with friends and if you see someone dressed up as an “Indian” for Halloween or Thanksgiving, you can tell them, “Hey that’s a racist costume.” so they’ll know too and have the opportunity to do better in the future.
If you see this and still choose to treat our cultures like they’re pretend, like they’re ancient history or no longer relevant, then congrats on being a racist jerk. I genuinely hope I never have to meet you, because I will be so disappointed.
And, hey to other Native people. I love seeing us out there in regalia, I wore my grandmothers beaded choker to my university graduation, but this is the one day of the year we shouldn’t. If we dress up as ourselves for Halloween, what does that say about how we feel about our culture? That it’s nothing more than a costume? That can’t be how you feel. Our regalia is important. It has purpose, and that purpose isn’t Halloween.
TLDR; I get angry about seeing people dressed up as “Natives” for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Our cultures are not your costumes. The “Native” costumes are racist depictions of what people think we are and what our regalia looks like. They are redface and you are being racist, whether you mean to be or not, if you wear one.
Dr. Adrienne Keene – Native Appropriations
Twitter thread on this topic https://twitter.com/NativeApprops/status/785829168252497920
Articles linked in thread:
Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween
Halloween Costume Shopping: A sampling of the racism for sale
Open Letter to the Pocahotties: The annotated version
So your friend dressed up as an Indian. Now what?
To the Native people in “Indian” Costumes
Dear Christina Fallin – (specifically about wearing headdresses)