“Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.117 Comments

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Remember back in June when it was announced that the new Harry Potter prequel-of-sorts had an American Wizarding school? Remember how I was concerned? If you don’t, here’s a link to that post. Basics of my argument were:

The problem, Jo (can I call you Jo? I hope so), is that we as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures. Think about Peter Pan, where Neverland has mermaids, pirates…and Indians. Or on Halloween, children dress up as monsters, zombies, princesses, disney characters…and Indians. Beyond the positioning as “not real,” there is also a pervasive and problematic narrative wherein Native peoples are always “mystical” and “magical” and “spiritual”–able to talk to animals, conjure spirits, perform magic, heal with “medicine” and destroy with “curses.” Think about Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas, or Tonto talking to his bird and horse in The Lone Ranger, or the wolfpack in Twilight…or any other number of examples.

But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as badass as that wizarding world is). In a fact I quote often on this blog, it wasn’t until 1978 that we as Native peoples were even legally allowed to practice our religious beliefs or possess sacred objects like eagle feathers. Up until that point, there was a coordinated effort through assimilation policies, missionary systems, and cultural genocide to stamp out these traditions, and with them, our existence as Indigenous peoples. We’ve fought and worked incredibly hard to maintain these practices and pass them on.

So I get worried thinking about the message it sends to have “indigenous magic” suddenly be associated with the Harry Potter brand and world. Because the other piece I deal with on this blog is the constant commodification of our spiritual practices too. There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner, I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece. American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include Native-inspired anything.

I acknowledged in the post that it was pure speculation based off a few tweets, and then the name of the American wizarding school was announced as Ilvermorny, and I relaxed a little bit, because (from what I understand) it’s totally made up and not a direct reference to anything Indigenous. But then, today. Oh today. Entertainment Weekly posted a trailer for a new series of short stories written by JK Rowling, in conjunction with the release of Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them in November. It’s called “Magic in North America.” Immediate reaction when I saw the clip? Actual audible cussing in my office. Ready?

The narration of the video is as follows:

“The wizarding world you thought you knew is much larger than you imagined. History has many secrets. The official story is never the full story. Look beyond the surface, and you will find another world parallel to our own. A secret world, where magic is real. Ilvermorny, skinwalkers, witch trials, and the magic congress of the United States of America. These aren’t myths. for the history of America is more amazing than you ever could imagine. Everything you know is about to change. Magic in North America. A series of original stories by writer JK rowling. Read them exclusively at Pottermore.com.”

It actually makes me kind of want to cry. Harry Potter was such a formative series for me, and holds such a deep place in my heart–and to see and hear this feels like such a slap in the face to me and other Native Potter nerds. It’s exactly what I worried would happen in my original letter to Jo.

Accompanying the narration are images of a Native man in a breech cloth who transforms into an Eagle:

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And screaming girls being burned alive.

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I don’t really know what to say beyond my original letter, but I’ll reiterate it again. Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards. These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected. The fact that the trailer even mentions the Navajo concept of skinwalkers sends red flags all over the place, and that it’s mentioned next to the Salem witch trials? Disaster. Even the visual imagery of the only humans shown in the trailer being a Native man and burning girls places the two too close for comfort.

We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors. Colonization erases our humanity, tells us that we are less than, that our beliefs and religions are “uncivilized”, that our existence is incongruent with modernity. This is not ancient history, this is not “the past.” The ongoing oppression of Native peoples is reinscribed everyday through texts and images like this trailer. How in the world could a young person watch this and not make a logical leap that Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter?

We are also fighting everyday for the protection of our sacred sites from being destroyed by mining, fracking, and other forms of “development.” These sites are sacred. Meaning they have deep roots in our spiritual beliefs, hold sacred power, and connect us to our ancestors. If Indigenous spirituality becomes conflated with fantasy “magic”–how can we expect lawmakers and the public to be allies in the protection of these spaces?

This isn’t a joke, this isn’t something that can be laughed off and just enjoyed at face value. As I often say, when you’re invisible, every representation matters. And the weight and impact of the Harry Potter brand can’t be ignored.

ETA: I want to address what I already see as the flipside of this argument: Would I rather see Indigenous peoples erased? Is there a way they can be represented in this that is not harmful?

I want Native peoples to be able to represent ourselves. I love the idea of Indigenous science fiction, of indigenous futurisms, of indigenous fanfiction, and indigenous characters in things comics and superhero storylines. I know it can be done, and it can be done right and done well. But it has to be done carefully, with boundaries respected (ie not throwing around Skinwalkers casually in a trailer), and frankly, I want Native peoples to write it. We’ve been misrepresented by outsiders every which-way, and it’s time for us to reclaim our stories and images, and push them into the future, ourselves. 

If there are any Native people that worked with Rowling on this, feel free to reach out. I’d truly be happy to be proven wrong.

UPDATE: I read the first installment. You can read my thoughts here: “Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh.”

Read the earlier post: Dear JK Rowling, I’m concerned about the American Wizarding School (June 2015)

The twitter convo is using the #MagicinNorthAmerica hashtag if you’d like to join

PS: Lots of comments and emails this time around reminding me that the other books have many highly problematic aspects as well. I know. To quote Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, “remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.” I can have love for Harry Potter and simultaneously be critical of the colonial values the original series puts forth in its portrayals of other ethnic groups, as well as this recent development. Don’t worry.

  • herthoughts

    Yes! I’m always ragging about how Americans romanticize Native American cultures, when in reality our ancestors and many of our current members lead very challenging lives. Here we go again . . . .

  • Ms. Pris

    Adrienne, I have one question for you: you say that you love the HP books. Why? It seems that you are ok with looking past the way that Rowling essentially stereotypes the hell out of anyone who is not English. I personally found it colonial and unpleasant.

    Ethnic stereotyping is not ok with me, regardless of who is the target. It’s not ok with me that the HP books stereotype Asian people, French people, Eastern Europeans, Catholics (to use a comparison you use often) etc.

    Are those groups in the same unique position as we ndns? No. But the same attitudes are there in the HP books, and I honestly think it’s strange that you are okay with it.

    • Adrienne_K

      I have a critical lens that can’t be turned off–it’s actually how I enjoy consuming media, and drives my friends and family crazy. I can’t watch/read anything without breaking down all the ways it’s racist and problematic. But I tend to follow the words of Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency when she says, “remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.” I have plenty of criticisms of other aspects of the HP books, but I still can enjoy them. Since this blog is focused on Native representations, that’s what I wrote about here, but it doesn’t mean a tacit cosign of the rest of her series. The last post I got called out on my own ignorance of celtic/druid traditions in the books, and addressed that in an edit. There’s plenty of thinking to do on the other representations, and I’d encourage others to dive in.

      • keef

        “I can’t watch/read anything without breaking down all the ways it’s racist and problematic.”

        So in other words, you can’t watch/read something without trying to find something to be offended about.

      • http://bandia.net Kathryn NicDhàna

        Her books aren’t about real Celtic spirituality or druids. So there’s really no need to apologize.


      • Ms. Pris

        Ok, thanks for your response. There really are almost no celtic or druid traditions in the books, that person was wildly incorrect.

        I just think that if we’re going to combat racial stereotypes, we have to be ok with combating them wherever they are, not only when they are applied to us.

    • starrystarfish

      Okay, fill me in. I have read the books and seen the movies. My family is (mostly) from France. Where did JK stereotype the French? Or Asians for that matter? Or Catholics? I must have missed it.

      • Liz Nolan

        I’m not certain about the French stereotyping, but with the Asian stereotyping there are huuuuuuuuge conversations around Cho Chang’s name and representation as a weaker counterpoint of Ginny Weasley – honestly, I don’t know where the discussion ends and begins there. As for the catholic stereotyping, I’m assuming that it’s the Irish character (given that the Republic of Ireland is a catholic state) Seamus Finnegan being alluded to there, given that he has a tendency for blowing stuff up – however, I see that as more of an Irish stereotype, rather than a catholic one

        • starrystarfish

          I googled the Cup Chang thing and mainly just found conversations regarding the fact that “Chang” is Chinese while “Cho” is Korean (I think; I googled it 2 days ago and now I don’t remember). While this could indicate a ignorance of Asian countries’ naming conventions, it might just be intentionally vague. Cho doesn’t have an accent in the movies; maybe she has relatives from more than one country. Anyway that’s the main controversy I found re: Cho.

          I only read HP for the first time a few months ago. I don’t remember Cho having anything much to do with Ginny…?

          I thought maybe the Irish stereotype could be the Weasleys having a whole bunch of kids. Like maybe they’re Catholic? I dunno.

          I think if you go looking for it you can find stereotyping in pretty much any piece of literature. Complicating matters is that some stereotypes have some roots in reality (am I allowed to say that? Lol).

          • starrystarfish

            Wait are the Weasley’s even Irish? Maybe I am just assumming because they have red hair. Ha ha!

      • ILoveLunaLoveGood

        French stereotypes Madame Maxine and Fleur in GoF…

        • starrystarfish

          I remember the characters…I just don’t remember any blatant French stereotyping. Like, do they eat a lot of wine and cheese or something?

          • ILoveLunaLoveGood

            they are portrayed as snobbish, and posh and condescending. It feeds alot of English stereotypes against French people (which has a long history).
            There are also negative stereotypes of Bulgaria and broader Eastern European people as cold and bad guys etc..

  • Salvita Arce

    All movies are make belief. In films and stories Asians fly jumping from one roof top to another while doing karate, in the middle east babies are born throught virgins, in Africa the dead come alive, in Europe mermaids lived in the water and in the Americas two twins fought in the Xibalba cave and ant people lived underground

    • Cpt_Justice

      Of course, the movies with the “flying Asians”? Those are MADE BY ASIANS.

    • BeccaRiley

      Unless she is planning to see how this goes and then do “Magic in South America” and “Magic in Central America” as well as other parts of the world.

      It isn’t about Native populations, so I’m not understanding why you are upset that it is set in North America.

      The original post expresses concerns about how Native religious issues may be portrayed. It is unclear if anyone could write these stories, including aboriginal ‘magic’, without actually being aboriginal. The same problem will come up if she does a “Magic in Africa” story or Australia.

  • President of Magic

    I am reserving judgement until the full story is posted on Pottermore. Will she make the distinction between the Indigenous Wizarding community and the No-Maj Indigenous community?

    If I understand correctly the lore of Skinwalkers, they are people with the literal ability to transform into animals, and are actually considered witches within the community. Justifying this transformation as a form of magic seems reasonable, because obviously in this world the ability exists in the form of Animagi.

    You already brought up the flip side. Would it be better to include an existing legend that naturally extends itself into witchcraft or to exclude the mention of it entirely unless written by a Native author? Again, I withhold judgement until its release.

    If Skinwalkers are the only representation of Indigenous peoples in the WW of North America then I think Jo will have made a very grave mistake. I think it was just one aspect that the video, unfortunately, focused on in order to gin up excitement. I’m sure the Indigenous Wizarding community likely extends much wider than this tale.

    At any rate, I’m thankful that they are included because their portrayal, whether it turns out to be positive or negative, will continue the dialogue. We might not be able to solely restrict these tales to Native authors, but we can hold authors accountable for their depictions.

    • scaredofpandas

      Ditto – the tone of the trailer feels very “there’s been magic here the whole time.” It *is* problematic that the only examples in the trailer are: a native man, the Salem witch trials, a scene of pilgrims, and a looming bear; it establishes the height of conflict between magic-users and muggles as coincident to the conflicts between indigenous peoples and Europeans.
      I’ll also reserve judgment until I read the stories; hopefully this is just a (terrible) oversight from the marketing team.

      • President of Magic

        Yeah. I think they are limited no matter what. Even today’s story focused on a general overview, speaking on what all Native Wizards had in common (that they didn’t use wands.) JKR has mentioned, when talking about Ilvermorny, that certain tribes were fundamental in the founding of the school and that she couldn’t name which tribes or else it would give away the location (which indicates she knows and intends to communicate that Indigenous people are not monolithic.)

        There’s more to come, but the Potterverse is built on the idea that “Muggles” have their version of events and wizards/witches have theirs. Wizards work to convince Muggles that the Loch Ness Monster isn’t real, the Dodo is extinct, and that the Liondragon of China is actually a breed called the “Chinese Fireball.” Wizarding history parallels the Muggle versions as Grindelwald/Hitler coincide at the same time.

        There is apparently a greater partnership between the Wizarding communities of Indigenous America and those of Europe and Africa. This obviously didn’t extend into the No-Maj world and doesn’t erase the tragedies of their interactions, but the two worlds strive to be separate and where they intersect tends to be where greater problems occur. If Jo created new myths, she’d be getting the traditions wrong. If she reinterprets existing myths (like she has for all others) she’s erasing traditions.

        I’d like to hear SPECIFIC examples or ideas of what Wizarding Indigenous could look like in her stories in a way that is sensitive to Native people. I say that not out of animosity, but out of a way to further the discussion of how these portrayals can be made positive to those who find offense.

        • https://www.facebook.com/BryanFieldsAuthor Bryan Fields

          Just because I like the question…

          Recognizing that “Native American Wizardry” is not monolithic. Different groups have different customs, languages, traditions, etc. She could also have done more research. In my tribe, for example, Midewewin ‘medicine bags’ might not look like her wands, but the stories and traditions around them show they were used in a very similar fashion. They are more than her wands, to be sure, but that’s one quick item.

          Neither is/was it hidden. It was part of the people’s daily lives. If she wanted it to be hidden in the modern world, events like the Ghost Dance and the Trail of Tears could have been used to talk about the destruction of the Native traditions, both wizarding and non-.

          Two small examples, and quick ones at that. Hope that at least helps a bit.

          • President of Magic

            I mentioned earlier that Jo hinted that specific tribes were important to the founding of Ilvermorny, which leads me to believe that she doesn’t consider Indigenous Wizards as monolithic (I expect to see more about this tomorrow and when the Ilvermorny info is released) even if she didn’t go out of her way to make that distinction in her first story. I agree, this is an important oversight.

            Those are good examples. My question is, wouldn’t that make it worse? If the worry is appropriating Native heritage and traditions as wizardry wouldn’t making it more specific (i.e. “medicine bags”) just appropriate it to an even stronger degree?

            Jo hasn’t gotten to the 19th century so there’s still an opportunity for those events to be discussed. There is the possibility that the Wizarding side of Indigenous America did not suffer the destruction of their traditions, while, obviously, the No-Maj side did. (The idea being that, just like their non-Native counterparts, in the various Indigenous groups there is a distinct separation between the No-Maj and Magical communities as mandated by the Statute of Secrecy.)

            • https://www.facebook.com/BryanFieldsAuthor Bryan Fields

              We will indeed see how it goes, but I’m not sanguine about things improving. As for the ideas I posted… They were just some quick thoughts, off the top of my head. I have no doubt someone will find something to object to in them, but that’s fine. Opinions vary.

              There’s an interesting, hmm, let’s call it a custom…among some elders, and others who know and keep traditional knowledge. A lot of them refuse to share any of it, even within their own tribe. Some are willing to die rather than pass it to someone who doesn’t meet their standard of worth. The part of my tribe that got shuffled off to Oklahoma lost almost all the old ways and nearly lost our language. One man, late in life, finally got to meet with the Canadian branch of the tribe. They sent him away, telling him they wouldn’t teach him anything until he learned enough Adawa to converse with them. He passed away many years ago, and our branch of the tribe still does not have much of our own history.

              That is what happens when fear of appropriation becomes stronger than fear of extinction. When you ask if using information on an actual item or a teaching would result in more appropriation, sure, it’s a possibility, but that’s where how the material is handled comes in. That applies to any culture, any folklore. Show respect and treat what you use with the same respect you’d demand for your own beliefs.

              • President of Magic

                Thank you for this. Truly.

    • Mixelle

      Why is your name “President of Magic”? What are your credentials?

      Where did you read “the lore of Skinwalkers”? Which community are you refering to?

      And you do know Harry Potter isn’t real?

      • President of Magic

        This is an odd response to what I posted. Yes, I know HP isn’t real. We are discussing it academically and in the context of appropriation. Dr. Keene has made several good points and I’m trying to further the dialogue.

        Is there a level of credential needed to participate in a discussion?

        • Mixelle

          This is not a Harry Potter fansite.

          • President of Magic

            I’m well aware of that. Would you care to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way?

          • Shifu R. Careaga

            you need to chill out

  • Sandra

    Hi Adrienne, I’ve only been following this blog for a little while, so forgive my ignorance (and English).
    I guess I’m not really sure what exactly from this trailer has gotten you upset? You say that it portrays Native Americans as “uncivilized” or that it is mocking the culture, but… how?
    Rowling’s Potter World (and also every piece of fantasy and sci-fi) is built upon incorporating myths, stories, history and legends from all over the world and adapting them into a fictional narrative.
    Rowling has done this with many things in the Potter World, such as adapting Horcruxes from Slavic folklore, fairies and spirits and elves from Scandinavia, Caipora from South America, and other magical practices from African cultures.
    I’m not sure I understand why it would be different for Native American culture? Skinwalkers, as (I think) I understand, are not too dissimilar to African myths of animal transformation, as well as “Transfiguration” as it already exists in Harry Potter (please correct me if I’m wrong).
    As for your concern of people thinking that “Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter”, it would be the same leap in logic for people to think that all Africans belong there because of Uagadou, or all Asians because of Mahoutokoro.
    Besides, isn’t that a good thing? That Rowling is expanding her world to include everyone, not just those from Great Britain, and make anyone from anywhere feel like they can also be apart of this story?

    • Mixelle

      It would be different because the US government tried to commit genocide on indigenous people here. White people literally tried to destroy their cultures so, no white person any where has the right to make money this way.

      • Betty Lou Schwartz

        I have Native American blood, and am very respectfull of my heritage and others….but I do believe at some point it is time to let it go – all races, cultures etc, have had their ups and downs, their being pushed around by others, etc. You need to read a bit more World History – it is what man has done to man from the beginning. Time to let it go and move on to be strong in who we are now.

        • Mixelle

          “There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or
          places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle
          feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner,
          I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar
          enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece.
          American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a
          wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to
          snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include
          Native-inspired anything.” A

        • Deb Krol

          Heck, I have Norwegian blood but that doesn’t make me a Norwegian. When I hear “I have Native American blood,” I always ask, “Are you a member of your tribe? Do you participate in ceremonies? Does the community in which you share some DNA know you as a member of that community?” Harsh words I know, but you would not believe how many people think that because they have some blood that that makes them an expert. And as to world history – we are supposed to be growing in maturity as a species, not continually trying to wipe each other out.

      • Karlos Muchachos

        Racism that was historically practiced by colonizing Europeans is toxic- it would be a shame if you caught the racist bug so many years later. Albeit understandably (especially after the intentional conveyance of smallpox). The point that I’m trying to make is- I don’t understand why this is such a big deal! I have read the trailer. It seems like the stories are told in a respectful way, and the responses that I read are “she is too white to tell the stories”. Why would it matter as long as they are told accurately? And respectfully? This writer never personally committed any atrocity. She’s not even American.

      • Freyja Halmrast

        different how? genocide is EVERYWHERE with MANY different races and reasons behind them (not saying there ever is a good reason) its not exclusive to native Americans. lets take a look shall we?

        The Genocide of Greco-Roman Polytheists by the Christian Roman Empire was one of the most “successful” Genocides in history. It is also one of the most overlooked. The true number of victims may never be known, but regardless the facts remain that the methods used were successful in stamping out Polytheistic Culture throughout the Greco-Roman World.
        Estimated killed: Unknown

        The Circassian Genocide was the extermination of the indigenous Circassian people by Imperial Russia.
        Estimated killed: 1,500,000

        The privately owned “Congo Free State” was controlled by Leopold II of Belgium. It is said that during his control of the region he committed numerous crimes against humanity upon the indigenous Africans of Central Africa.
        Estimated killed: 10,000,000

        The Assyrian Genocide was the extermination of the indigenous Assyrian people. It took place alongside the Armenian and Greek Genocides. It was perpetrated by the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti), commonly referred to as the Young Turks.
        Estimated killed: 750,000

        The Armenian Genocide was the systematic extermination of the Armenian people by the Ittihadist Ottoman Empire. It was perpetrated by Young Turks and led to the COMPLETE annihilation of the Armenian people from Western Armenia, present-day Eastern Turkey.
        Estimated killed: 1,500,000

        The Holodomor was the extermination of Ukrainians by famine. It was perpetrated by the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.
        Estimated killed: 7,500,000

        The Rwandan Genocide was the extermination of the Tutsi people. It was perpetrated by the Akazu, a Hutu extremist organization within the ruling political party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development.
        Estimated killed: 1,000,000

        The Cambodian Genocide was perpetrated by the Communist Party of Kampuchea, commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime. The KR’s goal was the “purification of the populace”, in order to create an agrarian socialist society.
        Estimated killed: 1,000,000-3,000,000

        The Ottoman Greek Genocide was the systematic extermination of the indigenous Ottoman Greek (Rūm) inhabitants of Eastern Thrace and Asia Minor. It was perpetrated by the Ittihadist and Kemalist governments of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey.
        Estimated killed: 1,400,000-1,700,000

        Now i will tell you a little about my self and my family’s background in native american politics before i continue so i wont be yelled at later. My grandfather Leonard Halmrast was a provincial politician from Alberta, Canada. He served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1945 to 1967 sitting with the Social Credit caucus in government. During his time in office he served as a member of the Executive Council of Alberta holding various cabinet portfolios in the government of Ernest Manning from 1953 to 1967. one of the portfolios he held was Aboriginal Relations part of Alberta welfare before becoming its own section in 2008. I my self have taken much from this and grew up with the storied of the Siksika people and i also know stories are something that are held close and in high regard, and cannot be told to anyone unless you know the whole story and can tell it properly. in all honesty you should not be upset at “white person make money this way.” and thinking more will she respect the story and tell it properly. if you are only angry because she is a Caucasian and will without a doubt make money on it then you need to take off you’re blinders that you put on this morning and you should be mad at Della Gould Emmons and Winston Miller Edmund H. North for their total bastardization of the story of Sacajawea in The Far Horizons and made $1.6 million domestic. How about Brian Moore and his story Black Robe about a Jesuit missionary’s quest to save the souls of the Hurons (known today as the Hurons-Wendat), as typical of the one-sided historical accounts that upset Aboriginal people and made $8,211,952 domestic. I could go one for days but i do believe i made my point if you are going to criticize one writer then you MUST do it to all. maybe you should be more concerned about wiping out the stigma portrayed in movies and have more people hear the stories and legends bringing focus to native Americans true ways and not just Hollywood’s take on it. i think she will do a great job respecting the culture and the legends as she has done with the other legends that she has written so well

      • Honeymaid

        But she’s not american…

      • starrystarfish

        What has JK Rowling got to do with the US government? She is not even from the US. You are lumping all “white people” together. Lumping people together based solely on race really isn’t cool no matter who does it.

  • Troy Wahlmeier

    I am reminded of Charles De Lint’s Moonheart which mixes Celtic Bards with Native American lore. Or his book Svaha, which has Indians in the future in a Cyberpunk world. Or Alan Dean Foster’s Cyberway which goes BIG into sand painting and sci-fi. This isn’t the first time or probably the last this will happen.

  • http://philosophical-pagan.blogspot.com/ Allec

    I am gonna comment that the Witch Trials in Salem didn’t have any real “witches” in them and to continue to push that myth is extremely ignorant and hurtful to the people who died claiming they weren’t witches. This entire movie is gonna be based on pop-culture surrounding North America, which means it’s just going to continue to spit out misconceptions and stereotypes.

    Major UGH.

    • AJ

      Why does the video show two girls burning?

      • Ravensinger

        Considering that nobody was burned in the Salem Witch Trials (all hanged, with one notable exception who was pressed to death under large rocks), that is an excellent question.

        • starrystarfish

          Witch trials happened in multiple places within the colonies. Not just Salem.

  • John Davidson

    also reserving judgment (partly because I can’t get my computer to play the
    trailer). The Potter universe postulates that the wizarding world runs
    parallel to the human world across the globe. To omit the magical and
    shamanic traditions from around the world would seem outright racist, as
    well as a regrettable neglect of a critical part of our shared human

    I agree, however, that it needs to be done sensitively, and ideally
    with consultation. The appropriate extent of the consultation and
    identity of the consultants will necessarily be arguable; someone’s
    always going to disagree with the result.

    glad that this blog was written, and that the criticism is relatively
    congenial as these things go. Rowling’s given most of her profits to
    charity. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could be persuaded to commit
    some portion of the revenue stream to indigenous cultural preservation
    programs. That would be an excellent outcome for everyone, and I hope
    some of the energy generated by this cultural friction can be directed
    into that sort of project.

  • McK l

    Uhhhh… nobody in the wiccan/pagan religion throws a fit when people write about witches in a fictional setting and usually make us evil. I would’ve been more offended if she had written it as if magic didn’t exist in North America until the white people came… but it sounds like you prefer to cry a fucking river over any little thing you feel you have the right to.

    Shut your blubbering hole.
    Nobody has insulted you in any way or form.
    Grow a spine and stop acting like a spoiled child.

    • McK l

      And on top of that, if you knew anything about English history you’d know that the original HP books weren’t based on anything real either. For fucks sake the “spells” they have are in fucking Latin instead of any sort of britonic.
      If you’re wanting a history book that kisses up to your poor whiny sensitive ass then I think you’re looking in the wrong place.


      • Gabriele Bianchetti

        You shouldn’t be this harsh, you know?
        First of all, when witches are talked about in fantasy literature, is perfectly clear from the contexy that they aren’t talking about Wiccan witches. It’s like I’m writing about an imaginary evil religion with evil priests, I’m not offending any Catholic.
        Secondly, Wiccan witches have not been sistematically persecuted and repressed across the history. I don’t say that there haven’t been any form of discrimination towards them, but it can be eqauted to the persecutions faced by Native people (persecutions still faced today).
        If you had read carefully the post you would have understood that her concern is perfectly legitimate.

        I’m obviously not saying J.K. Rowling is racist, but it’s kinda bad these things were included.

        • McK l

          Partially correct.

          “Wiccan” witches only existed since the 60’s.
          Lovely that you completely threw out “pagans”.

          Pagans have been persecuted since Christianity met Briton.
          The near decimation of the native Britonic religion is still celebrated today – St. Patrick’s Day.
          Pagans still mostly practice in the closet because, yes, they are still persecuted today as Christianity is still a major religion in North America.
          You probably don’t realize this because it isn’t shoved in your face every time some fantasy character waves a wand around or anytime some little kid dresses up as a haggard evil old witch on Halloween (amusing considering the holiday’s origin)

          Same thing that happened to native Americans – happened to native Britons. Brush up on your English history concerning the Roman Invasion.
          Native Americans (which I am also, my grandfather coming from a reservation in OK) don’t have a monopoly on persecution and misrepresentation of their culture.
          And I get really tired of seeing/hearing a tantrum comparable with a 3 year old getting their lollipop taken away every time a white person dares to touch on any native topic.

          Had J.K. Rowling been a native, she’d be raised up and honored over it even if she had never been raised in the culture and misrepresented it. Merely because of her race. However she is white and assumptions are being made off of that and a small preview of her book.

          She has pretty much never represented ANY culture or mythology correctly.
          Native Americans don’t deserve anything nobody else has gotten.
          They are fictional novels.

          • Gabriele Bianchetti

            Yeah, I left out pagans… since there isn’t any continuous pagan tradition transmitted to the present day. Notice that I’m not saying that neopaganism isn’t a religion worth respect, ora that it hasn’t any historical value. And I aknowledge that festivals such as Saint Patrick’s Day have pretty bad values.
            I don’t see why dressing up as a witch should have a link with paganism. The ‘modern’ image of the witch was created in Europe during the Sixteenth-Seventeenth century, and it does not have any link with paganism. You could argue that dressing up as a druid or something like that could be problematic, but that’s another thing…
            No one is saying that other cultures in Harry Potter aren’t misrepresented as well, and it’s totally legit to do a rant post (or many) about it. Also, I don’t think Rowling was criticized due to her race. In fact, even if she was a Native American, her portraial of Native American (assumption based only on the video, which may not reflect her actual work), very similar to the sterotypes, she still should be criticized.
            Also, I don’t think pagan people are as discrimined as Native Americans; anyway, it is not a ‘which is the most persecuted’ competition, one can accept the problem of a group and understand that doesn’t diminish his/her own group’s problems.
            After all, this blog is about NATIVE Appropriation, I’m sure you could find something related to Paganism elsewhere.

            • McK l

              Are you seriously disconnecting the stereotype of a witch with it’s historical background?

              In that case.. dressing up as a stereotypical native american with headdress shouldn’t be insulting to any native american tribe that didn’t have war bonnets.

              I’m not saying anybody should rant about any culture or history being misrepresented in the J.K. Rowling fantasy world.

              I’m saying that all cultures and races should be on equal footing.. even when in a fantasy novel.

              Putting demands on a fantasy novel for a specific race while shrugging off the rest is racism.

              Racial equality = equal amounts of nothing.

              • Gabriele Bianchetti

                No, I’m not disconnecting the stereotype from the historical background. The ‘classic’ witch is a concept created shortly after the Middle Ages. It was thought they were devil worshippers. Many innocent women were killed. That’s it. No link with paganism. If someone dresses up as a witch and claim to be dressed as a Wiccan, yeah, it’s problematic.
                A warbonnet is offensive in the sense that it link to the omogenyzed image of Native American. Even if not true, it would still be in the savage (or noble savage) category. And a Romani can be offended by someone dressed as a witch-thief-gypsy, even if the stereotype is false.

              • Ravensinger

                “…dressing up as a stereotypical native american with headdress shouldn’t be insulting to any native american tribe that didn’t have war bonnets”

                It’s actually about as insulting to the Native folks I’ve spoken to as dressing in blackface is to black folks in America – that is to say, enormously so. (Not disagreeing with you at all here.) It reinforces a stereotype while downplaying and mocking the very real – and recent – painful history of both sets of cultures.

            • Claire

              ‘Yeah, I left out pagans… since there isn’t any continuous pagan tradition transmitted to the present day.’

              Wrong. I come from a village in England – one of many places in the UK, in fact – with a long-standing history of hereditary witchcraft. It is not Wicca or Neopaganism, it is passed down through generations. The main reason you don’t know about it is because we’re quite secretive about what we practice and how – something which is in part a vestige of the witch trials and ongoing persecution from the oppressive Christian church. If you had ever read about modern witchcraft, you’d know that the majority of what Neopagans practice is based on things which have been passed down through oral tradition and folklore which has its roots in Paganism.

              Not to mention the fact that many Pagan holy days have been hijacked by Christianity and by Capitalism for profit – May Day (the May Pole? You put a hoop over a pole and then children dance around it holding ribbons tied to the top of it, so it’s a literal representation of penis + vagina = umbilical cord + babies), Easter (fertility celebration – rabbits? eggs? Springtime? What’s Christian about that?), Christmas and Halloween (our new year and death celebration) to name a few – and the fact that many churches in the UK are built on hills is because hills represent the link between earth and air and were therefore sacred to the native Pagans and are still sacred. I could really go on and on.

              This is true throughout Europe e.g. Norse traditions associated with Odinism. They’re literally building an Asatru temple in Iceland right now.

              I’m not trying to discredit your argument of the appropriation of Native American culture, but you’re being offensive yourself in the process with your ignorance.

              • Gabriele Bianchetti

                I have never heard about this continuous tradition of witchcraft. If it’s true, then good to know. I want to know more about this, though. Is there a link or something? Anyway, if your story is true (I trust you, anyway), it’s really believable that you ancestors could have been persecuted as witches, but the image of the witch which lead to the persecution has nothing to do with paganism, since was long gone (excluding secret practices, obviously) at the time.
                Regarding some Christian holidays, it’s a complex topic, as it is syncretism, but I really like this article (note that it’s written by a neopagan person, not sure if it is a witch):
                The building of an Asatru temple in Iceland (which, again, I’m happy to know) doesn’t imply a continuous tradition since ancient times. Cultural revival exists, after all. And I think it is a great thing, in case it wasn’t clear. Although not a neopagan myself, I strongly support religious revival, both here and in other parts of the world (like Mexico, or Hawai’i).

                • Claire

                  I don’t have a particular link that describes it satisfactorily, which probably isn’t helped by the fact that many hereditaries don’t really talk about it, which as I said is a product of persecution. However, you could read up about Cunning Folk and Wise People. Many of the people mentioned in these kinds of texts were hereditaries (I know of at least one well-known Cunning Man from my area who was for sure hereditary and whose father was also known among local people for similar abilities and was rumoured to descend from witches going back to at least the days of the Norman Conquest), though the texts don’t really purport this. You have to be careful of some texts though, as some of them are a bit sensationalistic and not totally accurate (basically anything by Liddell). For the record though, Wicca or Wicce is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘wise’, which was another word for magical. So, wise woman = magical woman or witch.

                  The ‘image’ of the witch has changed over time. Nowadays (where I am) the image is that we’re ‘white witches’, psychics, revivalists, Gardnerian or hippies, but they’re not totally accurate. Some are like that, but we’re rather diverse nowadays. In the witch trials, a witch was anyone who was inconvenient to someone else or who was poorly understood by the community. You disobeyed your husband? Witch. Got pregnant by someone who shouldn’t have been with you? You must’ve bewitched the poor man! It was also likely that some of them just had mental health issues, were disabled or had marks from infectious diseases – pock marks were pretty damning in witch trials as they were often seen as scars from where an imp had sucked your blood. Not to mention that many were tortured into giving confessions. However, considering the English tradition of Wise Women and Cunning Men and how common they are/were in villages, it’s not too unfair to say that there were probably a few of them, along with Pellers, herbalists and wart-charmers etc on the witch-hunters hit-list. There are multiple farmers in the area I now live in who still use Pellers to this day.

                  As for the origins of holidays and what-not, we could be talking about this until the cows come home. It is very likely, however, that many world religions (Christianity included) have at least some basis in nature, just like Paganism and Neopaganism. This is because human beings have long relied on the sun for their survival and so mythology, religion and spiritual belief grew and evolved out of that.

                  When it comes to holy sites, it is been proven time and again how the invading Christians deliberately hijacked what were originally Pagan holy sites in an attempt to convert people. That is why they are usually on hills in the UK, because hills represent the link between earth and air, just as trees do. One specific example I know of is Temple Church on Bodmin Moor, but it is by no means the only one. The church itself was originally a blessing site for the Knights Templar, where Knights would be blessed before going to the Crusades (in later cases probably actually to kill Pagans in the Northern Crusades). It was originally round, but fell into ruin and was rebuilt by the Victorians into a more classic church shape. The cross of the Knights Templar is everywhere inside. However, it was definitely a Pagan holy site sometime before the church was built as carved stones were found on the site which pre-date Christianity. As a result, the Church is now visited by both Christians and Pagans. The Christians say that the stones are crosses, but along with the fact that we know they’re older than Christianity, to be honest none of them really look like crosses (in my opinion a couple actually look phallic, which is pretty common in Pagan paraphernalia). They’ve since been built into the wall of an outbuilding behind the church; I’ll attach pictures for you to look at.

                  The same is true for the Stone Circles – they pre-date Christianity (often by thousands of years), but there are Christian stories tacked onto them e.g. the Hurlers (also on Bodmin) were ‘people turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath’, but they’re obviously nothing to do with the Sabbath if they’ve been there long before Christianity was even conceived. St Nectan’s Glen, near Tintagel, is a very sacred place with a history of witchcraft, but a church was built near it and a saint associated with it too. This is such a common story right across the isle.

                  Anyway, I feel like I’ve gone on long enough about this and I don’t want to hijack the conversation any further, so you can take or leave what I’ve said.

    • laurel

      The systematic genocide committed against indigenous peoples by the US government for the express purpose of colonization cannot be compared to persecution faced by Wiccans.

      • McK l

        “Wiccan” pagans no…
        Pagans yes.
        English History – Roman Invasion

        The decimation of the native spirituality of the British people is still celebrated and demonized today – St. Patrick’s Day.
        The same exact thing that happened to Native Americans – happened to the native Britons.
        Learn your history.

        • laurel

          My friend, those are two entirely different kettles of fish. If you want to have a discussion about the persecution ancient European pagans faced or colonization of Europe in general, a blog about the modern appropriation of culture of indigenous peoples of North America is not the place to do it. The racism against Native Americans continues today in both the United States and Canada, costing lives on a daily basis. It’s simply not the same thing, I don’t care how you spin it.

          Additionally, it’s not right to come here and try to silence the author’s voice by insulting her, and just because you as a pagan don’t have a problem with Rowling’s writing doesn’t mean the author can’t. The potential impacts are entirely different.

          Develop some wisdom to frame your knowledge of history. Fact without understanding of context is less than useless, it’s dangerous.

          • McK l

            If you can’t see how the persecution of ancient European spirituality is extremely linked with persecution of pagan spiritualities of today then you have some pretty good blinders on. And that is not limited to European paganism which has been pretty well wiped out.

            Have you not noticed that every time they find a bunch of murdered children or some other shit the news pins it on some “satanic cult”? Sorry.. but that’s an ongoing of millenias of pagan persecution held tight by modern America. It’s just not as “in your face” as the Native american persecution.

            Because when they say it was some “satanic cult” doing horrible stuff not a single person steps up to argue, they just accept it as fact because “satanists are evil right”?

            Imagine this: J.K. Rowling writes about Native American “magic” and all their spells are in English.

            Because that’s basically what she did with the British witches – latin thing.

          • Betty Lou Schwartz

            Wow– you are really saying there is racism against Native Americans today and it is costing lives on a daily basis? Really? Yes, there might still be some problems, but I really don’t think it is ‘costing lives daily’!! SOunds like you are another of the race baiters on the lines of Obama or Al Sharpton…….

            • Boosterseat

              Racism is costing Native lives daily. This is not an exaggeration.

              If you type “Native American hate crime” into any search engine you will get news stories less than a year old of Native Americans being murdered, bodies being found, women going missing, among other gruesome spectacles.

              There was a Native woman whose body was found in 2011 in Kentucky. How do we know that her death was a hate crime? She had marks on her head indicating she was scalped.

              You said in a separate comment that “I do believe at some point it is time to let it go”. People are shooting and scalping Native Americans in the 2010s. It’s not Native Americans that need to let things go.

              • BingoWasHisName_0

                Alternatively, simply type in “hate crime”. As despicable as your results will be, you’ll find that such atrocities are not exclusive to Native Americans. In fact, the number perpetrated against Native people versus others is indicative that we are in the minority (pun absolutely intended) when attempting to utilize this as a valid argument. Sad fact of the matter is people across all races, classes, religions, sexes, persuasions are victimized and brutalized by others every single day. Using that as an argument against appropriation (I have a whole slew of other opinions about that particular “thing”) is weak. There are two choices that can be made. Claim our heritage is ours, retain our “secrets” rather than educate. Adopt an isolationist paranoia and then be surprised and offended that people who *might* want to make a fair an accurate representation must resort to fantasy and speculation. OR…. OR… educate. Educate and then be self-deprecating enough as a people to embrace and accept the fact that ALL cultures, races, peoples will unquestionably be generalized and fictionalized somewhere at some point by people of both good intent and ill will. ALL of us. Not them… US. And that there is *absolutely* nothing wrong with that.

                • Boosterseat

                  Cool story, but this conversation and blog isn’t about general race hate issues. It’s about Native American issues specifically. The fact that other demographics have statistically more frequent hate crime attacks does not reduce its significance, and responding to “Native Americans get killed, raped, and abused due to racial hatred” with “Hate crimes happen to everyone” is dismissive of the conversation.
                  Also, unless you happen to be interested in addressing those “other hate crimes” at this very moment, it’s a pointless statement.

                  There is no question due to recent news and activist events in the
                  Native American community that hatred is an issue. Ignoring conversation
                  about issues and acting as though acknowledging these issues is somehow
                  radical does nothing to stop racism and hate crimes from happening and
                  creates a permissive environment for people who do wish harm on Native

                  Also, since you seem to be interested in making an argument about appropriation even though I wasn’t interested in talking about that. The issue with appropriation is NOT that Natives are losing cultural secrets to non-Natives. The issue is that non-Natives are defining those secrets for themselves. If you’re dipped into fictional depictions of Native Americans in the past 400 years, non-Natives have been happy with inventing Natives as spirit-worshiping, savage, exotic (weirdly enough), sub-human characters in perfect ignorance. This depiction was fostered by campaigns of genocide and cultural erasure. Today, this depiction is often the dominant, if not the sole depiction of Native Americans in media. People using real Native culture to support this image or disrespect Native culture is appropriation.

                  This does not mean that Native Americans should not share and educate people on Native American culture. This means the exact opposite. But this also does not mean that any depiction of Native Americans in media, especially by non-Natives, should free of criticism. When the dominant image of Native Americans in the public eye is created by colonists, a lot of care has to be taken to avoid perpetuating it.

                  This is why being critical of JK Rowling’s upcoming work is important, because her success with Harry Potter has given her the power to affect a lot of people. It is absolutely understandable to reserve judgement of a book that hasn’t been released yet, but people are allowed to criticize her choice to use her powerful voice to define Native people.
                  And finally, the fact that she is avoiding communication with Native communities is troubling. As I said before, non-Natives are perfectly happy with inventing Native Americans in
                  ignorance. The results are not always good.

                  • NemoTransition

                    Not to mention Natives are killed by cops at a disproportionate rate and incarcerated at a disproportionate rate

                  • herthoughts

                    Yes, it’s like the Black Lives Matter people being upset when the reply is All Lives Matter. They do all matter indeed, but that’s not the point.

                • herthoughts

                  Yes, as one ages, it becomes plain that the human species is both wonderful and horrific. No ethnicity or sovereignty or era is exempt from this. I think we have to just be the best person we can during our time on the planet, and try to influence those around us in a positive way.

            • Pentoth

              Canada has reservations in the north that are at third world level. Yes daily wouldn’t be an unreasonable word. However if it’s not would weekly be alright? Or does losing a person a week due to racism seem okay to you?

              • herthoughts

                Well, there is a whole other conversation about why families stay living on reservations. It is 2016, not 1850. The argument that the reservation is the land of the ancestors is often not accurate. It is scary and risky to fill one’s car with all one’s possessions and move to a region of better opportunity. Leaving is not being a traitor to our heritage. A person can keep the fires burning wherever he or she goes. I’m glad my mother’s family made that decision.

                • Pentoth

                  My fathers family made that decision too. I would say it was a mistake. That’s where we differ. Does it make you a traitor no. However my father was never taught tradition since the family didn’t want trouble and wanted to fit in (They had lighter skin so they were able to lie about their ancestry.). The home fires were kept so well that it was illegal to play the Grandfather drum. It was only in 1951 that Indian Act was modified to allow for the Sun Dance to be done publicly without fear of prosecution. This included on reserve. Why would people voluntarily give up their lives and join the society that persecuted them that way? Residential schools were only stopped in 1996. One of my elders to this day remembers hiding herself and her younger siblings from those who would take them from their homes. All of this then people go “You should be happy we are using your traditions. We are honoring you.” Then are surprised and offended when many (Not all) answer “This isn’t honouring us. Our traditions are all we have left and you want to steal them now too.” This is a big mess that isn’t going to get solved easily. I understand that the common Canadian thought is “just assimilate” but it’s not reasonable or realistic.

                  • herthoughts

                    I don’t think one necessarily has to assimilate when leaving the reservation. My mother was always proud of her heritage, and frankly it made us special in the community in which we lived. Back in South Dakota she and her siblings were discriminated against, and it was held over their heads that if they didn’t behave they’d be sent to the Indian schools. I do respect your viewpoint. Different families take different paths.

            • herthoughts

              If one looks at the statistics, generally the Native Americans on some of the reservations are America’s poorest of the poor. It is a very complicated issue, but racism has to be part of the mix.

    • Tlonist

      It would do you well to sit back and reflect about where this anger is coming from and why. That’s a lot of fire over someone simply voicing worries for their (struggling, persecuted and misunderstood) community.

  • Bee O

    I stand by what ‘President of Magic’ and ‘Sandra’ said to this.
    However, I must add, you are jumping into so much unnecessary concerns, throwing arguments here and there whilst rising hate within your own community for a work that hasn’t even come out yet.

  • laurel

    Thank you very much for this post. I’m a white American casual Harry Potter fan, and I have to say I was concerned about a white UK author trying to write about mythologies or beliefs of indigenous peoples in the US in a fictionalized setting and making money from it. Thank you for offering your perspective and addressing some of the potential issues here. I’ve shared your post on my social media account.

  • https://www.facebook.com/BryanFieldsAuthor Bryan Fields

    As a Native person (Ottawa) and a fantasy author, I see both sides. I won’t dispute your feelings, Adrienne; they’re yours, and true for you. For me, this is much less an issue.

    I see a big difference between inspiration and appropriation. Appropriation is something done without respect or regard to meaning and context. Your example of ‘Peter Pan’ is one I’d agree with. Tiger Lily and her tribe don’t even have the dignity of an authentic identity. I don’t want to see something like that done in new Potter material, either.

    At the same time, I know that our world’s traditional beliefs and practices are a vast source of ideas and stories. I’ve told stories about ghuls and djinn, golems, Baba Yaga, kitsune – even skinwalkers. :-) When I do, I do my best to be true to the tale’s source. If I tell a story about Coyote, I want my audience to laugh as much as the ancestors did the first time someone told it.

    The difference is in how the author handles the material. Charles de Lint, for example, frequently mixes Native and Celtic traditions. Respectfully. Lovingly. What he creates is brand new, but rooted in the heart of both traditions. To me, he sets the bar for how to work with traditional materials.

    I think you have every right to be concerned about the new Potter material. I have my own, er, reservations about what I’ve seen. My hope, though, is that the stories will honor all the cultures they touch on and inspire the folks who read them to learn more about those cultures. You can’t get someone to respect a thing unless they value it.

    • Kimberley A Shaw

      Hooray, another writer! I’ve had my own fun speculating on what a set of American magical schools might look like in “A handful of spells”, Savvy Press, 2014 (9781939113283), and would love to know what other minority-point-of-view literature is out there.

      • https://www.facebook.com/BryanFieldsAuthor Bryan Fields

        Sounds interesting. :-)

    • Curly Sam

      What have you written? I would love to read some! Especially about Native legends!!

      • https://www.facebook.com/BryanFieldsAuthor Bryan Fields

        I don’t think posting buy links would be appropriate, but I have three books out with MuseItUp Publishing, and some self-published short stories available for the Kindle.

  • Mary Nease

    Have you read the first story that was posted? I think it did ok, but then again I’m also white and not super familiar with the lore and beliefs surrounding skinwalkers. I felt like it strived to add a fictional magical layer overtop the preexisting history (which Rowling does frequently when relating real history to her wizarding world), but I don’t know if she made any faux pas. I really want to hear your perspective on it.

  • Carlton Fisher

    I’m probably not informed enough to be making a comment on this, but that tends to not stop other people on the internet, so here are my (very vague) thoughts: In telling the story of a conflict about magic in North America, how else could it NOT be tied to colonialism, given that the major push of colonials into “the new world” were a group of people so uptight and full of their own piety that England basically asked them to get lost? There has been a consistent struggle within North America since the arrival of Europeans to maintain ownership of anything outside of a Judeo-Christian tradition, and many of those struggles continue on even now. I know people have varying opinions on the “relevance” of Wicca and other forms of Euro-derived modern-Paganism (which attests to part of the trouble in and of itself, when it’s readily acceptable to joke or even believe that someone’s faith isn’t even “real”), but federal recognition of many of those practicing systems of belief were just recognized within the last 15 years, and you weren’t even allowed to list your religion as many of those categories in the armed services until just a few years ago.

    The logical extension would be that a culture based in the concept of magic–“real” magic or “imaginary”–would be received with hostility in a Puritan-dominated society and one in which Puritanical constructs still continue in the modern day. Many practicing Pagans were losing children based solely on their declared faith up until just the past decade. (And Europe, of course, has it’s own history of this is you see what happened in the spread of Judeo-Christian systems into predominately pagan areas and the effects it had on entire cultures there as well.)

    This is not to minimize the potential of there being problematic portrayals within the new stories, but I’m simply saying that there is also the possibility that it may be a better outcome than we are bracing ourselves for. A promo such as this is often developed by the actual publishing company with little (if any) input by the author–it’s a marketing department tool. So the trailer may reflect what the marketing person envisions for the “mood” of the work, but it may not be in line with what Rowling is actually writing, and this especially happens in book trailers, where it’s not like a movie that offers you specific scenes to cut together that are actually (in most cases) a part of the finished product. Instead, the marketing department is tasked with creating a visual impression by which to raise awareness of the product, and, once again, they often are working solely from a premise or a synopsis. A person in a marketing department is very likely to jump to images of “the majestic, mysterious savage” (especially if we’re talking about a UK-based marketer, which is less likely to have even the base cultural sensitivity that US firms pretend to have) and witch burnings because they are the easiest “go to” images to work with, since they carry a certain universality and appeal to a public that may not know much about anything remotely “mystical” about North America.

    That said, if it’s supposed to be “Magic in North America,” then why is all the imagery tied to the US? Where are Canada and Latin America–two regions that get rather testy about the idea that all of North America is just the US, in much the same way that we in Northern NY get tired of explaining that we live no where near The City?

    • Tommy McGuire

      When you say, “…given that the major push of colonials into ‘the new world’ were a group
      of people so uptight and full of their own piety that England basically
      asked them to get lost?” are you referring to the Spanish (and the Portuguese, although to tell you the truth I don’t know much about Brazil), who were really mostly interested in getting rich, although the Roman Catholic church did do a pretty good job on the indigenous culture? Or perhaps the French, although they seem ultimately mostly interested in making war on the English? Or maybe the Virginia, Carolinas, and other colonies who just wanted to grow money?

      Although the Puritans have had a really outsized effect on North American (ahem) culture, they were a very tiny part of the story of even New England. The way they are treated as a proxy for all early new world colonialism is, at best, sloppy. Almost as sloppy as treating the Native cultures as a homogeneous mass.

      • http://curdsandwhey.weebly.com/ Bl82

        “The way they [the Puritans] are treated as a proxy for all early new world colonialism is, at best, sloppy.”

        We’ll just ignore the fact that the New England Puritans never burned witches at the stake, either. All except one were hanged, or died of various causes in prison. The outlier was crushed to death.

        • starrystarfish

          Which makes sense, because burning doesn’t work on real witches or wizards. I am pretty sure one of the HP books says that lol

  • Evelyn Starshine

    research is easy, hiring a consultant is easy, two seconds looking at wikipedia is really easy
    but no, go with hollywood history, erase colonialism and all the implications that brings. because it’s easier to ignore it than admit anything bad ever happened..

  • Urthwyrm

    The Potterverse may incorporate elements of various folklore and mythology but it never incorporated living religions. What Rowling is doing with Native American religion is arguably similar to saying that Jesus was a wizard or that the miracles in the Bible are magic. Even if you’re not Christian, you’d understand why that’s offensive.

    • 2quiet

      Well… they do celebrate Christmas and Easter at Hogwarts, while no other non-magical figures are celebrated as such, so the implication there…

  • Emmett Wald

    As a white Harry Potter fan, I really want to help push back against this appropriative bullshit. I don’t have a Twitter, but I will share this article. What else can I do to help?

  • Ravensinger

    Mrs. Rowling has some serious research to do, and some serious apologizing to do towards the First Nations. Not only are the MANY traditions of the First Nations NOT a single, monolithic identity with absolutely nothing to do with the Salem Witch Trials, she’s getting her known American colonial history badly confused with European history. The victims of the Salem trials were hanged, not burned (with the exception of Giles Corey, pressed to death because he would not give up his wife’s name as a “witch” to his torturers). And they were all devout Christians who hated the Natives (despite the help that the Plymouth colony had received from the local tribe) and who maintained what were, at the time, still very close ties to England.

    • BingoWasHisName_0

      Actually, Giles Corey did give testimony against his wife along with two of his sons-in-law.

    • Shaun

      i think you need to actually read her histories. the second came out today. the story about the salem witch trials of course has nothing to do with the native americans. but its not a “history of native american magic” its “a history of magic in north america” and since columbus landed here, part of that history has involved europeans settlers. and im not sure why you brought up them being christian? rowling has never made any notion that witches and wizards werent christian or any other religion for that matter…. the students at hogwarts celebrate christmas, one of the kids is jewish. the non-magical puritans accused some magical puritans (and some non-magical ones) of being witches (whether rightly or falsly) and by extention also accused them of being unchristian because they were convinced that witch=devil worshiper. but thats not the way it actually works in Rowlings world.

    • starrystarfish

      Where did she imply that the first nations were monolithic? I must have missed it.

  • Space Ghosta

    First Law of Ultra:

    Speak WHAT you want, just do not talk shit. You just violate the law.

    So according to you, the norsemen the Greeks had to be mad???

  • Bobby Franklins

    Man I hope none of you get a hold of some D and D source materials. Your gonna be pissed.

    Plus I guess you can say pirates are fantastic but they were real. Who knows how they got there so who knows how the Indians or Native Americans got there. They were people who got to a fantastic place some how some way.

    Also children do dress up as Indians and monsters. They also dress up as firemen and police officers those are real things not fantastic they are playing.

    Wicca is a real religion and culture. Are you appropriating that and devaluing it with your love of harry potter. Im sure some take that culture very seriously its old as hell origins before Christianity. Maybe you running around in your robe witha stick for a wand as a child is harming that culture.

    Or maybe we need to get the giant sticks out of our asses and just enjoy whatever. I mea for an even though this may not respect Native culture like you would like it also might make some people who become interested and delve deeper into the real history. I think that happens more often than one might think.

  • Shaun

    i think your jumping to conclusions a bit. she isnt saying that native american religions is some big magical joke. in fact, i thought she made it quite clear it was seperate from the wizarding world, as she has done in other locations such as brittain. obviously she has to have the magical and non-magical people interact to some extant or she might as well have just made the story take place in a fantasy realm like middle earth rather than a ficticious form of our own real world, but she cant have them interact too much or you break the spell of believability. you must have the wizarding world be a “secret” world kept hidden from the far more numerous non-magical folk.

    we can look at this, one way in which they were noticed by non-magic folk was that they were thought of as healers. this is no different from any other culture in the world. she said the same thing of wizards in other places likely mixing potions from magical plants and casting healing charms and such. this is the world she created. you couldnt possibly think that it would only exist in europe and then over in america it simply doesnt exist. its unrealistic in terms of the story. but she didnt say that the non-magic folk fully grasped the fact that these people were working magic, though some might have thought that, again, as is the case anywhere in the world.

    again, like in other places round the world the non-magical community mainly feared magic folk out of a lack of understanding. this is essential to her world building as its the reason for them keeping mostly secret and not letting their non-magic friends know about their powers. the idea that they would accuse native american animagi of having been evil witches who performed human sacrifice seems to fit all too conveniently with the navajo legends of skin walkers. and its simply a way to explain a real world belief in terms of her fantasized version of our world. she doesnt seem to have changed the story of skin walkers at all other than giving a reason for its existence. she again, does this even in the british wizarding world. and to be upset about her doing it in america, means you should be upset about her doing it anywhere. you should be upset she wrote a fantasy story, you should wish she had rather just written a non-fiction.

    and as for the witch burnings, that is a part of american magical history that has nothing to even do with the native american wizards, but with immigrant wizards. Our american history is a mix of native american, and european immigrant. the first part was all about the natives, the second part was about the immigrants, and i suspect parts 3 and 4 will be about them coming together into a single uniquely modern american history.

    she really isnt trying to insult your religion or your heritage anymore than she is trying to insult any other heritage or culture around the world. she’s not saying all native americans are magical witches and wizards performing nature magic. she understands its a real religion just as any other religion. being magic does not take the place of a religion. it doesnt stop students at hogwarts celebrating christmas and easter or that one kid being jewish and its not goign to stop native american wizards being native religons, nor is she saying native religions are derived from these native wizards. they are a seperate group of people, who simply interact and live among their non-magical brethren. same as anywhere else. thats all.

  • Shifu R. Careaga

    I completely agree with you. But just to point out: wizards arne’t fantasy either. White magic, druidism, wicca, paganism, etc… were also systematically repressed perhaps even more than NAtive religion. IT’s nearly impossible to find authentic druidic practices. A white person that does sweats and vision quests, or Asian mysticism is more accepted than one doing their own native mantic practices from Europe. Now if a minority does them, it’s considered “just that African voodoo” or even hip if it is Native American or Polynesian. But if a person were to dress in robes and walk about they would be going to Hell. The use of wands or staves, stones and herbs is seen as somewhere between psychotic and witchcraft (the black magic kind).

    The problem is different but they stem from the same source. The loss of connection to the real Path all people around the world shared until Aristotle’s lineage which later became the formal Church and secular sciences (which are killing the planet with unethical behaviors) stamped it out by denying the soul and the connection of the subjective and objective. By Othering literally everything even to the point where Descartes could only know he was real after a long and troublesome query…. this is the legacy that is destroying native people, children, the environment, health, water and air systems, etc… And like as not it’s being adopted faster than abandoned. China has let go of its roots and embraced Western Industrialization and Globalization and now look at the pollution, the obesity, etc…

    So it’s all connected to a great Wheel. IF any spoke is unbalanced the whole wheel wobbles, not only those of minorities. You want to fix whites stealing and extinctualizing and fantasizing Aboriginal culture? Help them remember their own. http://www.sacred-texts.org

  • Justin

    I was sort of excited when I heard she would be throwing Indigeneity into the realm of Potter magic. Until I realized that my understanding of our practices isn’t hers. The way I see spirituality as a whole, is that the deities, practices and beliefs hold their greatest strength in their lands of origin. Native spirituality (in North America) is strongest here. Her insinuation that broomstick flying motherfucking wizards brought magic around and that there were ‘false medicine men’… It’s just sickening.

    I’d honestly be okay if it was adapted to more of a “so they had their magic and we had ours” even though it’s not magic to begin with. A more realistic idea even would be that no natives willingly chose to go to Hogwarts because we know what it’s like to be institutionalized and avoid it.

    Anyway, ramble ramble, I’m super disappointed and this is definitely going to be fueling more settler misunderstandings of our culture and beliefs and add to the monstrosity of dumb fucking conversations I’ll hear in public about it.

    Dammit, Jo.

    • starrystarfish

      She said that there were real medicine men. She also said that there were some fraudulent medicine men. She did not say that all of them were frauds. She also never said that brooms and wands were what brought magic to north America. I think you must have been reading the wrong story.

  • Katharine Crompton

    Forgive me if I’m wrong but the original Harry Potter books are also deeply rooted in English culture, many things being based on English myths and legends etc, the only difference between this and that being that the Native American religion and spirituality that she is “appropriating” is still practised? The idea that that in itself is harmful is pretty ridiculous, she’s not comparing the absurdity of wizards to the Native American spirituality, she’s using it as a base to create a fantasy world, if Harry Potter wasn’t a fantasy and it featured Native American people, nobody would have a problem with it, unless of course it displayed a blatant lack of understanding, it being poorly researched or something, but J.K. has a pretty good track record for doing her research well, so not something to be concerned about until there’s more evidence at least. I don’t think her “appropriation” is a cause for concern in the same way that the books set in the UK feature Christmas each year, because it’s the state religion. I think without more evidence to suggest that she’s misrepresenting the Native American community, (outside of depicting some of them as wizards, in a fantasy book, about wizards) it’s pretty harsh to accuse her of “appropriation” she’s simply including them, since it would be so obviously wrong to exclude them from a fantasy so grounded in American history. If she has done something legitimately harmful then I apologise but in all honesty given how little we know of what she’s planning, this is jumping the gun a bit to say the least.

  • Jean-Luc LeBlanc

    Okay, relax. I watched the video and here’s what I saw: an animagus, some burning witches who probably used the Flame-Freezing Charm, and the “Magical Congress of the United States”. I suggest you wait until the content is actually readable before you judge it. :)

  • ceciliawyu

    What happens when an artist runs out of ideas but is too lazy to research a topic properly to meet another contract deadline…..it is sad when you prostitute your own art ….but dont appropriate others art to prostitute. If an artist is too lazy to do the correct research…dont touch a transcultural topic. Real artist do the research…….Rowling is out of line ….. CeciliaYu.com

    • herthoughts

      Yes, I was just thinking too, is this author so good if instead of relying on her imagination, she’s just borrowing this and that?

  • Jeremy Schmitt

    Rowling has become, all in all, another brick in the wall.

  • Hannah Potter

    How is that man turning into an eagle any different from Sirius turning into a dog?

    • Mixelle

      Read the blog post on this page about real peoples and their lives versus made up fantasymagicchildren’sfiction.

  • LIsa

    I am sorry, but I just don’t see the problem, here. There’s a native american man who turns into an eagle? So? Do you not know about Animagus? It doesn’t even say anything about “indigineous magic”. It would be really silly and ignorant to have something based on American history without native americans.

  • Mimi D

    It really bums me out because I would love to see Magic in North America explored. But this has been an issue w/ J.K. where she doesn’t really do the appropriate amount of research and only wants to profit off every community she can. :c

  • Honeymaid

    ALL mythologies are open to reinterpretation and re-telling as others have stated: Norse gods, baba yaga, ghuuls, djinn, yokai, dragons, skin walkers, Jesus, werewolves….

    NOTHING is wholly sacred or inviolable besides human life and freedom.

    All cultures ebb, flow and mix like waves in the ocean; to expect otherwise in this interconnected age is folly and foolishness.

    If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

  • Junk

    One question I have is how this applies in the milieu of fantasy/scifi.

    I’m very much on board with your statement that the most important fix for representation problems is more diversity not only in the representations, but especially in who is creating them. That’s something creators and audiences should seek and support.

    But in terms of today, where that’s absent, or in terms of a future where things are better, but there are still concerns about misrepresentation… When one is writing a fantasy the distinction between real and make believe in terms of how history, religion, folklore, etc are utilized in the novel isn’t exactly simple.

    For example, it’s common to use Greco-Roman mythology in fantasy novels. In the context of the novels, the mythology is “real,” but to most readers it is either “historical” or “make believe” outside of the context of the novels (IRL). Yet, at one time this was a faith equivalent to Christianity (meaning: real, to those who believed in it) and, while it’s not common, there are reconstructionists worshipping Zues today.

    Keep in mind Joseph Campbell’s definition of mythology as, “what we call other people’s religion.” Fantasy features and reinvents religion and folklore from all over the world and all over history. A lot of it is real, not make believe, and some of it is modern, like Christianity and Islam (even Neo-Paganism, though that is…well…).

    Now, realize I’m not intending to imply that someone of European descent featuring Norse, Greco-Roman, or Irish myth and folklore is “the same”–in terms of Rowling, England didn’t, for example, take over Greece, practice genocide, and then oppress the Greek people for centuries, resulting in an erasure that continues to this very day. (Although it’s not like there’s nothing troubled there, either: there was an imperialistic relationship, and that whole thing with the Parthenon marbles still.) But I think it’s useful to determine if there is a potentially valid and respectful way for WASP fantasy authors to feature Native American history, faith, and folklore.

    Because part of me wants to say that if Native American cultural artifacts were to appear more often and with the same treatment as other cultural artifacts in fantasy, that could be a good thing. Except maybe you’re saying it isn’t, because the same treatment for Native American topics doesn’t have the same implications and therefore has a different end result.

    If so, I find that…unfortunate, but a reasonable position to hold. However, it seems to me that “be careful” is preferable to “just don’t”, because it theoretically helps the situation a little. For example, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods did what I’m thinking (treated all mythologies [remember: other people’s religion] the same) and never struck me as problematic. But it could easily be without me noticing, as I’m quite steeped in the hurtful stereotypes and assumptions as a consumer of WASP culture.

  • Pete Miller

    The word indigenous is synonymous with native. A native is **anyone** born in a particular place. Being American Indian does not make you more native or more indigenous to America than white, black, etc, Americans. Around 90% of Americans are native and indigenous Americans, period. This can not be disputed without ignoring the definitions of those words.

    The usage of the term native American as applying only to American Indians is ignorant at best and racist at worst. It is a result of the madness and lies of political correctness.

    As for how America, the country, and the two continents under the same name, were colonized by non-Indians, they were colonized no differently to how the Indians did it. In the vast majority of the cases they were settling in uninhabited lands, while in other cases they engaged in warfare to annex such lands. This can not be disputed without ignoring actual history and common sense.

    My great grandmother was American Indian; I am simply American. I’m a proud American. Sites like this only serve to spread misinformation and sow discord, racism, and separatism. They are shameful and hateful.

    • herthoughts

      The big difference between the “Native American” arrival and that of the Europeans is that there were no civilizations that were pushed out of their native lands and/or enslaved. Granted though, once tribal cultures were established in the Americas, they fought greatly and viciously with each other. Even today, there is no loyalty between tribes as they fight over casino rights. I’m not just saying that. It’s going on right now in my county. And as I’ve said before in this website, I’m so tired of the “we were here first” ragging by every group in every era. It must be some human species survival instinct, but we should be able to be better than that.

      I too am the descendant of a Sioux great grandmother and am an enrolled tribal member. I agree with you, Pete, that there is not enough “real talk” and common sense talk about Native American issues today. That said, I think this website, though often sounding like it’s crying victim, is just trying to keep the cultures alive in the crush of this modern era. Not hateful. Census figures say we are 1-2% of the U.S. population, so we have to be kinda loud to be heard. I think we honor our ancestry by keeping their stories alive and true.

  • herthoughts

    Well, we are a sensitive lot – Natives, Wiccans, Anglos. It’s just a fantasy book, and maybe this author doesn’t do such a good job after all.

  • candytripn

    Try to understand, this is just fiction. It’s not real. There are books and movies where pieces of mythology have been taken from almost every culture and every religion. It’s just a work a fiction. People seem to get butthurt over the silliest and smallest things. /smh

  • Satanic_Panic

    These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected.

    And about as truthful as made up Harry Potter stuff.

  • Brockland A.T.

    Katharine Trendacosta of io9 (March 11, 2016) sums it up best:


    “J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America Was a Travesty From Start to Finish

    …. American history and culture are not her fields. And the beliefs of the various Native American tribes and their histories was something she was especially not qualified to speak on. If you absolutely have to include these things, speak to some people.

    Creating a second history for an existing place that is not your own is not easy. It requires a lot of research. Research Rowling clearly didn’t do.”

    The Great Sasquatch Rebellion seems to be a lite parody of indigenous revolt against he new government.

    However, Rowling’s interpretation of the Salem Witch Trials is inane opportunistic disservice to real history and cheapens the ruined lives and deaths of real people. Its doubtful that even Tituba was a witch, yet Rowling just arbitrarily says “a number of the dead were witches”.

    It’s not clear which is worse; J.K. Rowling’s insensitivity and opportunism, or the fact her fanatics just drink the Potterverse in North America kool-aid and can’t get enough.

  • Nick Bassett

    I think that appropriations were the norm in Roman culture, and that this has been passed down to our present western culture.
    Besides the material practice of taking stuff from conquered peoples and parading it through the streets of Rome they had a religious/cultural practice too. The ceremony was called “evocatio”, and this is part of the description from Wikipedias article on Roman religion:
    “The “calling forth” or “summoning away” of a deity was an evocatio, from evoco, evocare, “summon.” The ritual was conducted in a military setting either as a threat during a siege or as a result of surrender, and aimed at diverting the favor of a tutelary deity from the opposing city to the Roman side, customarily with a promise of better-endowed cult or a more lavish temple. As a tactic of psychological warfare, evocatio undermined the enemy’s sense of security by threatening the sanctity of its city walls and other forms of divine protection. In practice, evocatio was a way to mitigate otherwise sacrilegious looting of religious images from shrines.
    Evocatio, “summons”, was also a term of Roman law without evident reference to its magico-religious sense.”

  • Nick Bassett

    As someone who has, or people who have, knowledge and concern with cultural appropriations I’d like to know what you think of my idea of what is the most significant cultural appropriation in history.
    I think that the cultural appropriation that has had the most impact on the world must be the appropriation of the Jewish Torah, and its renaming and reinterpretation as “the Old Testament”.

  • Brieanne Greco-Antoun

    By that logic, then any time fantasy ever does a fantasy take on any culture, ethnicity, or time period; we should get up in arms. Should Caucasian people be insulted that 99% of sci-fi and dystopian fantasy involves our race having royally fucked something up? In FICTION we’re almost depicted as the idiots who brought about the end of the world somehow. It’s almost always singled out to a white person.

    But that’s fake. All of it’s fake. People can take it to heart if they want, but if someone expected fiction to suddenly be politically correct, we wouldn’t have an entertainment industry at all. Native American culture is my absolute favorite, and I respect the shit out of it, I really do, but again, where would we be if we stinted creative freedom with all subject matter? If you withdraw the rights to one thing, where would it stop?

    I recently read about the outrage about Native American culture in fashion, and laughed. Why in the world are people so mad?! I just don’t get it. What is it hurting really? By the logic people are going off of, then Asian cultures should be pissed and get on America’s ass for cosplay, and adopting their fashion like Harajuku and Lolita, and wearing Kimonos for non-proper-ceremonial purposes. And we could get right back at them because Japan is obsessed with American culture and fashion, and has butchered English and knock off copyrighted subject matter on clothing everywhere.

    The battle for political correctness would be endless, when it’s much easier solved with letting bygones be bygones and fighting what actually IS racist, or wrongful cultural appropriation. I’m even lax on Halloween, cause dude, Halloween mocks EVERYTHING. Nothing is safe. We’d have to stop Halloween costumes all together if we tried micromanaging that one lol.