Repost: Step away from the “Indian” costume!

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.18 Comments


(I know you just want to look as cool as this guy. He’s SO COOL. ::eyeroll::)

Originally posted 10/21/14

Hey. It’s me again. It’s that time of year. You might be saying to yourself, “Hey! What should I wear for Halloween this year?!?!” and some of you might be like, “OMG, I’ll be an INDIAN.”


Don’t know why? I’ve got 8 posts about why. Detailing every angle and possibility of why you might think it’s ok. It’s not. Feel free to peruse/browse/read/repost, and hopefully learn!

Indian costumes



Spirit Halloween-Annotated



TL;DR: Native peoples are a contemporary, LIVING group of people, not a costume. Seriously. Stop putting us in the same category as wizards and clowns. Don’t believe me? come to a Native event dressed like that, and see how many friends you make! Fun for everyone!

  • Kirsten Meyer

    Hi Adrienne- I’ve become a fan of your blog. Question for you. Thoughts on handling stores that carry such merchandise? Personally I believe in not supporting businesses whose practices I don’t agree with, but these crap costumes are everywhere and let’s be real I don’t have time to sew them myself (and it would be sad indeed if I attempted).

    I also fear that boycotting doesn’t offer a serious threat as it won’t be a deep enough cut to their revenue to lose Native customers. Aside from the weekenders who may be the ones creating the demand for them . . . I’m trying to be more realistic about picking my battles to conserve my energy for the things that matter most which right now are my kids. I don’t have time to write thoughtful diatribes to all of the companies that make and sell things that I find offensive; that would be a full-time job.

    But are there certain companies or Native makers that maybe are more thoughtful and show their respect for the Native community(ies) by not carrying such costumes? Is it possible to spotlight or endorse them so that other Native families who are shopping for Halloween costumes can easily find and support such vendors? Do you know of anyone doing anything like that?

  • TrannyMagic

    Seriously won’t get over ‘pocahotties’ anytime soon. Fucking brilliant.

  • Piper

    yeah, I just got back from Burningman and I got to use your advice and examples with the fur bootie and vest, headress wearing uber privileged. Just thanks for the ammo.

  • djmc993150

    Yawn, omg someone commercialized a culture!!! HOLY COW are you kidding its like they didnt do that for a. vikings, b. germans, c. irish, d. greeks / romans, e. egyptians, f. EVERY ONE ELSE>

    get over yourselves.

    • herthoughts

      I kind of agree with you. But just because this practice is not new doesn’t make it OK. I would say that a culture who has had genocidal practices done upon them does have a right to be more sensitive about other people having mindless fun with their cultural symbols.

    • Lisa-Marie

      Thankyou! That needed to be said!’

  • Lisa-Marie

    Okay, I’ve never been a native for Halloween, but I’m a Gypsie and I was wondering if any natives have been a Gypsie for Halloween? Because that is my culture. I went to a native fashion show to support appropriation and let me tell you something. Not only did they have similar patterns and headdresses that we do, but when they did their line that was not native, it was our traditional wear! You should please keep in mind that headdresses with feathers are important in our culture as well! Tribal print too! Feathers in our hair as well. This is a part of who we are! For more then 1.600 years Roma gypsies have had feathered headdresses, and tribal print and long dresses that jingles. It’s apart of our Heritage. We didn’t copy you, how could we ? We didn’t have any contact with you. So if your gonna fight about native appropriation keep in mind that you wore eagle feathers and other birds feathers like that, I don’t think you guys wore all the fancy colours and glitz like we do. So I find it offensive that you would say others can’t with out being culturally aware your self. You offended us by throwing our costumes into your fashion show. Also Halloween is coming, be sure to tell everyone that Gypsie costumes which is more popular by the way would be offensive too. Thing is we don’t care! Also might I add we get just as much if not more discrimination then u do. We don’t get free educations like you, we don’t get status cards saying we don’t have to pay taxes on things, yeah crappy things happened to u, they happened to us too. The holocaust happened to our ancestors, other bad things too. And to this day. I can’t even go to my home country because I’m a Gypsie and it’s not safe!! I had to come here to North America! Then I wear my traditional get up and someone tells me I can’t becUse it offends natives ? I’m from Europe! This is my lifestyle! Respect that please. Please accept that natives are not the only ones who wear headdresses, feathers and tribal print ! Your not. And we didnt copy you because we had no contact with you 1,600 years ago

    • Oh puleeze. Your pity party has no argument here. You are clearly mistaken that a First Nations aboriginal wore anything Gypsy. It may have looked the same but was not. Just stop it.

      No one is saying that other cultures wore or observed similar things. Heck even Mayans wore similar headdresses for certain rituals. As do Zulus.

      As for free education??? Aboriginal schools were anything but freeing. Ask anyone who every attended one. You are conspicuously ignorant of the marginalization of North American aboriginals.

      And if you didnt care, whats this foolish rant all about? Hmmm?

      • Danny

        How insensitive can you be Micaylah? Lisa-Marie is right! She is bang on with the truth. Maybe people need to read it and open their eyes to what she is saying . She’s saying she doesn’t care that people copy her traditional wear yes, what she is seemingly caring about is the hypocrisy just flowing through this joke of a webpage. She says that what offends her is how native appropriation fights to ban people from wearing their traditional wear, yet at a fashion show the natives wore her traditional wear. She’s seeing hypocrisy. She goes on to say “then I wear my traditional headdress and someone tells me I can’t”…. How would you feel if someone told you that you couldn’t drink a pumpkin spiced latte because white man created it and only white people should drink it, they made it first anyway so all rights should be for them. Oh and they should get discounts too or even be free because white man started it first. Screw all these outsiders trying to get in our our precious white girl latte! Yall better not be any kinds of culture for Halloween then…not a nun, not a priest, not a Gypsie , not an East Indian, you better not wear kimonos. Or kilts… Your fighting for people to stop wearing your cultural wears you better make damn sure you don’t wear other people’s . And also Micaylah, Lisa-Marie is right about education. At least for sure in bc…. University is free ….. And there is status cards that allow u to not have to pay taxes. She is right when she says her ancestors went through terrible things and they still do. But you don’t see them saying they should get land and settlements and you don’t see them getting all this publicity to fight against discrimation. It’s not a pitty party when your ancestors were raped beat, murdered, tortured, and many wiped out in the holocaust, I’m sure all that’s beats a good ass raping though right?? I didn’t think so….you think this costume shit for Halloween is discrimation? You think Disney movies are discriminating ? Or the native boy getting set home for having a Mohawk! What about the White boy who got sent home for a Mohawk , what about Asmarelda? What about Halloween Gypsie costumes ?? Do u wear those? What about the gypsies and how they still are discriminated and against and killed ?? So she ain’t throwing a pity party she’s standing up for herself and everyone else when she says , your being hypocrites . This site should be shut down. It’s ironically racist saying who’re people can’t wear your style. I hope you lose your rights to wear regular clothes

        • Firstly assuming that anyone copied anyone else is arrogant. I am a Historian so lets “look” at Gypsies whom originated in Northern India and were itinerant (nomads). Over time they finally came to Europe in the middle ages. Did they bring their culture with them or did they adapt their own as history unfolded? They did what every other nomadic culture did, they evolved.

          So, should they get their aboriginal Punjab land back or the Romani European lands they eventually settled into before spreading out all over the world? Did they do something to have genocide perpetrated on them? No, but they did have their failings.

          Lisa-Marie does not identify which ethnic identity she belongs to. There are many many “groups” of Gypsies. Their reception in Europe was not pleasant. There were reasons for this, NONE of which can be identified with North American First Nations. I am not saying this was right, but to compare the two are like apples and oranges.

          Europeans came to the New World with one thing in mind. Land and religious freedom from the eras oppressive culture. No matter what got in the way they took what they wanted. Genocide was also ok.

          It was assumed that NA aboriginals came from across the Bering Strait, there is very little proof. In a book by Elaine Dewar called Bones, it is mostly disproved that this was indeed the case. DNA and blood factors uniquely identify NA Indigenous people as specifically from NA. Not nomadic and not gathering other cultures to call their own.

          This is why Lisa-Marie pushed the button for me. Again, apples and oranges. I recently saw Buffy Saint Marie interviewed at a Writers Festival. After the interview there was a Q&A period. I had a question that didn’t quite fit in with the theme of the evening but I wanted to know how she felt about an issue. I asked her if she saw more prejudice in the west or the east of Canada. She looked down at her hands and then at me and quietly said west. Where you appear to be from.

          As for your comments may I suggest you take a gander at this:

          It should clear up your misbeliefs of Canadian aboriginals.

          Whether I believe in what the blogger suggests or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is when someone wears sacred clothing for a stupid evening or just copies another’s cultural garb is again, apples and oranges.

          And for the record, I am caucasian.

    • Danny

      Girl you tell them! You are be honest and you are pointing out flaws in their argument! All I can say is not every North American will be mean to you like that! I’m sorry you were told you can’t wear your headdress , just know that people need to be culturally aware themselves before they start making assumptions. If you ask me this site seems racist ironically enough. I think it’s especially geared to white people. Welcome to North America btw. I bet your wondering why the hell Christopher Columbus didn’t just ditch this shit hole and go to where the real Indians were in India. They are nicer, and they don’t mind when we where people and natives too wear their traditional wear, including yours as gypsies originated from India! Girl you rock!

    • John Breitenbach

      Please see this website for more information about the various Rom peoples and their struggle for basic human rights.

      I must say that it is very rare to hear of a “Gypsy” who calls themselves by that name, as that is usually seen as a racist slur itself. What fashion show are you referring to by the way? If they have done something insulting I am sure that it should be looked into.

  • Zachary Brown

    No offense, but you’re insane and ignorant.

    Two of my brothers and my mother look like our Cherokee ancestors. I look like the Scottish men who joined them on the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee blood was a mark of pride I carried until people, mostly hard leftists, social justice types, started saying they were 1/26th Cherokee and were ‘going native’.

    Then it just felt embarrassing.

    Then a little someone named Elizabeth Warren popped onto the scene and falsely claimed to be descended, citingh er high cheek bones. Because as we all know, high cheek bones appear nowhere else but among the pre-American tribes! >_>

    I understand that it is inconceivable to you and people like you that culture mixes with eachother, but let me assure you, good doctor, it very much does.

    When I was a Boy Scout, I learned how to conduct and take part in ceremonial dances, donning deerskin, feathers, leather and paint. It made me feel connected, helped me appreciate what was happening. I was not some sterile, removed observer, as you would have had me be. No, I was living it and as a result, respected it.

    And before that, when I was much younger, I played the game Colonization, by Sid Meier. In the game, there are numerous native tribes as factions.

    Now, this may be the dominant strategy effect you see in games, but somehow… SOMEHOW… I managed to suppress down my White Maleness (I know, I know… I was clearly born the *wrong* way and I really should try to fix that) and found that cooperating with the natives was *much* more fruitful than not cooperating. Not only that, it felt better too. Warm fuzzy feeling. Cooperation and understanding rather than land grabbing and genocide. They didn’t care for my overuse of land, but I was always fair in trade and often gave gifts of useful tools and goods in order to maintain lasting peace. When my nation declared independence, the Tories arrived to find the shores filled with colonists and their native allies alike and were wiped out.

    The game also had educational information on the various tribes and it was fun to learn about.

    You seem to believe however that cultures should not interact. That they should stagnate and remain isolated, untouched and kept ‘respectfully’ distant.

    To that I say this…

    What right do you have to tell children and their parents that they should not dress up in native tribal regalia? What right have you to deny what may spark an interest that leads to study, which leads to respect born not of a whinging, limpwristed adulation built on a foundation of oikophobia, but instead to respect born of appreciation of a culture they’ve gotten to see, feel and touch up close and personal? What right do you have to sit on your clumsy-footed steed known as Social Justice and lay down fiat decree from academic credential that your insistence upon cultural isolation is the end-all, be-all of interaction between different kinds of people?

    You would put all different cultures in a box of their own to keep them from mixing, from growing off eachother. Your fanatically oversensitive religion of ‘Cultural appropriation’ disregards humanity’s blend trend.

    You can’t treat people and culture like museum pieces. ‘Look, don’t touch.’ is the basis of your dogma, even though touching rather than just looking brings about a deeper appreciation.

    In closing, doctor, I say that you are in error, telling parents not to let their children dress in native tribal outfits. Most of those children have the blood of one tribe or another in them after all. And parents can teach their curious children about the tribes who lived here and who still do, or better still, the children can learn for themselves by reading books. Ensuring that their respect is cemented before you can sit them down in your classroom and tell them that they have the original sin of being born the wrong way and therefor cannot engage in or drift towards culture they find that speaks to them.

    Shame on you, doctor, for using your position in such an irresponsible and isolationist manner.

    • Adrienne_K

      Dude, if you think honoring culture and ancestors includes dressing up in a chicken feather headdress and/or wearing tribal regalia for Halloween…there’s a bigger issue here.

      • Zachary Brown

        I don’t think you’re seeing the bigger picture here.

        Why do you think kids want to dress as tribal natives in the first place? Because they are interested.

        Instead of thinking of them as children, you’ve been thinking of them as defective adults.

        You want them to digest some seriously huge issues and to absorb everything YOU want them to absorb rather than letting them learn organically and naturally.

        And where adult costumes are concerned, I think you, as an armchair activist, would be delighted by raising awareness…

        It’s really childish to be throwing this big a fit over nonsense like this when true problems such as poverty and joblessness or youth suicide rates plague tribal nations.

        But all you people here are obsessed with the most asinine, banal crap you can manufacture.

        You think playing dress-up is what the tribes give a crap about when they struggle to put food on the table?

        The Cherokee Nation is the best off, which makes it no wonder that SJW types try to say they’ve got some Cherokee in them, because it’s the easiest. No one is part Tupi, Iroqois, Apache, Commanche… It’s almost always Cherokee.

        You lack perspective. If you REALLY want to help, get your rear down to a humanitarian center and find out how to provide PRACTICAL help to one of the tribal nations.

        When the day comes that life in the nations is equal to life in Western America, happy and prosperous, then I will gladly have this discussion of ‘cultural appropriation’ from bloody costumes.

        • Alex Puterschmit

          It’s surprising how there can be some good arguments on both sides, yet there is this awkward need to make things personaly insulting. Maybe breaking out of isolationism is better done with empathy and respect, no?

  • Autumn Venable

    Only 3 or so years ago, I dressed as a Native American caricature for Halloween, one of the ones you buy from Spirit Halloween. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me at all that this was deeply offensive. To think back on this now, it seems impossible I was actually that ignorant or blind, and of course, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to find yourself in the position of causing offense, perpetuating discrimination, or acting in ignorance. It’s embarrassing and difficult to be wrong. But I’m determined to be better, to keep trying and try harder.

  • Lucia

    I was invited by a group of strong beautiful women, to be part of their village people costume this year. First of all I think the village people are a timeless group of fun musicians. My interpretation of their costumes is simple, when we where all kids we wanted to dress up or be the people represented in their costumes. The American indain in the group, felipe rose is first of all an American indain (lakota siox). He is a great advocate for the native American community to this very day. When my freinds asked me who I wanted to dress up as in the group, I without a question picked Felipe. Halloween gives people the chance to be yes, spooky, or fun, or funny, pretty, … but for me it is a chance to be something I can never be. The native American people have been through alot, and the history is rich with so much that many of us don’t know. I would never want to offend someone’s heritage. But truly imitation is not just an ignorant mochorry. It is a little girl at a pow wow, looking with amazement, wishing to be a part of something so beautiful. Halloween was just a chance for the little girl in me, to pretend to be something I always looked up to and can never be. I understand completely where you are coming from, but honestly I’m just bummed that I can’t dress up without offending people. And our interpretaion of the village people won’t really be the village people without me as Felipe.