My culture is not your Halloween costume

Star Diavolikis, Columnist

Every year, I see white people and non-Native Americans post their Halloween costumes that are usually described as an “Indian Princess,” and this costume trend needs to die out already.

You’re not being cute imitating our war cries or “performing a rain dance.” You are being offensive.

To see my culture being dismissed enough to the point of just being a Halloween costume is harmful to not only Native Americans, but also those who are uneducated on how this is cultural appropriation and inappropriate. 

Spirit Halloween

Besides being offensive to our culture, normalizing this behavior makes those who don’t know any better believe the costumes are acceptable.

These costumes mimic real regalia and headdresses. They may imitate buckskin by using cheap cloth and may use feathers from an arts-and-crafts store to create a fake headdress.

The history behind our regalia is much more than something we would just buy from a store. Our regalia is tied to our religions and cultures.

Native American regalia greatly varies, whether it is our powwow outfits, what we wear to our church services or other modernized clothing. 

For women at powwows, depending on what category of dance they are participating in, they can be wearing buckskin or cloth, have a shawl draped on their shoulders and usually have otter furs wrapped around their braids and have moccasins on.

Realistically, we never look like these stereotypes portrayed by these Halloween costumes. Our cultures are more than what you may see on Halloween. 

We have a few different religions within our cultures, for example the Yakamas have Shaker and the Washat (Seven Drums) religions. We have dance categories at powwows and we have traditional foods. 

Nobody ever hears or knows about these facts when a girl is pretending to do a rain dance at a college dorm party. This is because our regalia is treated as a costume instead of what it actually is: part of a fully fledged culture.

A quick Google search of “Native American costumes” brings up multiple costumes imitating our culture, ranging from children’s costumes to adult ones that have a habit of being sexualized. 

All of them have the same trend of imitating buckskin regalia, and either a headband or headdress with women having their hair in braids. The implied hairstyles for men with these costumes are either braids or mohawks.

All of these costumes do, however, have either face paint or a prop of either a bow and arrow set or a tomahawk. 

As a Native American from the Yakama Indian Reservation, I can promise you we have not worn face paint or used tomahawks anytime recently. Our regalia is not always created from buckskin, and we are not doing rain dances.

My friend shared a status on social media of me saying I dislike when people wear these costumes, and my white friends tried to shut me down with their opinions as to why it is not offensive. 

One comment in particular said these costumes are not offensive, as they (white people) have borrowed from all cultures, and these costumes are equivalent to using turmeric in a recipe.

There is a large difference between a spice that can be used in recipes and a costume that portrays the Native American culture in a sexualized manner while also portraying us as silly, dumb or as savages. 

Tumeric does not reflect on a culture, while these costumes do.

While having a “Cowboy & Indian” couples costume with your boo may sound like a good idea, the great thing about Halloween is that there are endless amounts of costume ideas. 

You do not have to choose the one that involves a stereotype, you could easily be a king and queen, a superhero and their love interest or a celebrity couple. 

If you insist on a “historical” costume, you could be a president and his wife.

These costumes may not seem like a big deal to those outside of the culture, as it is “just a costume.” 

However, it is not up to non-Natives to decide whether it is offensive and acceptable or not. These costumes directly reflect on our culture.

A role non-Natives can play in this situation is to discourage the use of these costumes and educate others as to why they are bad. 

There are many resources online that can educate and explain more on this topic, so I encourage everybody to become educated.