Monday, October 6, 2014

Do not be an "Indian" for Halloween

Halloween is coming, and after that Thanksgiving.  But first Columbus Day.

What do all of these have in common?  Unfortunately each has a lot of terrible mis-representations of history and mis-appropriation of Native American culture.

Columbus Day in a nutshell:

 Columbus came to the islands south of Florida. (400 years after Lief Erickson was the first European to set foot in the Americas)   Found a gentle and kind people living there and made them slaves starting a 400+ year history of abuse of Native American peoples.   He personally whipped, chained and set dogs on native people before taking 300+ back in his ships to sell in Spain.  This is not a holiday or a person we should be celebrating.  Instead we should mourn for the sins that European-Americans have committed against Native American people.

Thanksgiving in a nutshell:

Europeans come to America, claim land that already is occupied.  Nearly starving their first winter they are then are fed by native peoples.  Once they are strong again, the Europeans go back to killing native peoples and taking their land.    The Thanksgiving dinner is a celebration of a moment of peace in the midst of a history that is violent.   While I don't suggest canceling Thanksgiving.  I do suggest that we remember the whole story, good and bad.   And while we give thanks for all that God has given us, we also ask for forgiveness for racism.

Halloween - what does it have in common with these other two?  Well, all to often in all three we see kids (and adults) dressing in native costumes.  DON'T dress like an Indian!  Don't have a "Pow-Wow".  Its very disrespectful to this group of people who have already been trampled and hurt enough.  Headdresses have a very specific meaning in native culture.  Only people who have earned them, can wear feathers.  When we dress our kids in fake feather headdresses and they do little dances it is making fun of people.

This LOOKS cute and harmless.  But what it is teaching kids is that the native culture is something we can play with, it is not serious, native peoples can be used without regard to their feelings.
Native peoples have proud traditions and beliefs.  They don't want to be made fun of, they don't want people to dress up like them.  They don't want their traditional clothing that is special and meaningful mocked by children begging for candy.  Just don't do it.  Be a fireman, cop or Batman instead.

Don't want to just believe me?  heres a great article written by a native american woman on the topic.

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