For the most part I have been staying out of the ‘native’ tags on Tumblr because they give me a migraine, but I ventured there and it was a dark pit of racist despair. Then I thought to myself, “why in hell is there such an influx of dumb ass people?” then I remembered, “oh yeah, Halloween.” That special time of year where NDNs everywhere grit their teeth and close the blinds, because it’s just a matter of time before you see some person with a chicken feather headdress and acrylic war paint smeared across their rosy cheeks. Now, dear, Moniyaw, I want to veer away from the usual “wow that’s really racist and disrespectful you really shouldn’t put on that faux buckskin bustier and buy that plastic tomahawk” and I really want you to look at the picture of this woman:
Take a good, long look into her eyes.
Now I want you to look at these women:
The first image of a murdered Saulteux woman named Pamela George, she was dispossessed of her land in Saskatchewan and moved into Regina where she worked as a sex worker to provide for her children. She was brutally sexually asaulted and murdered by two white college aged males. Those other women? Those are some of the missing and murdered Indigenous women who have been assaulted and murdered on the streets of Vancouver. Not pictured here, is a Cree woman who the news papers called ‘A Squaw named Rosalie’. She is another Native woman who was murdered by a white guy.
Now, what do the tragic murders of these women have to do with your Halloween costume?
You see, when you dress up as this:
or even this:
You are not only being disrespectful and racist, you are aiding in the sexualization and devaluing of Native women’s bodies. This is a stereotype Indigenous women have been battling since contact. The bodies of Indigenous women have been Settler men’s playgrounds for centuries, not because Indigenous women wanted it, but because of the power they exerted/exert over us. Historically, governments would withhold rations for reserves until they obtained access to the bodies of Native women, the Northwest Mounted Police (pre:RCMP police force in Canada) would turn their backs when Indigenous women would tell them what was happening, sometimes even exploiting starving families for their own access. You see, the sexualization and devaluing of Indigenous women has been a ploy for dispossession and domination by the Settler-Colonial state in order to gain access to our lands, our resources and destroy our communities. The branding of Indigenous women as ‘whores’, ‘licentious’, ‘squalid’ aided in the formation of the stigma and stereotypes that still haunt and influence the everyday lives of Native women. These costumes are a continuation of this. These costumes are a product of this ideology: the same ideology that allowed white men to have their way with Native girls since the 19th Century. When you put your body into the costume, the identity, of a ‘sexy Indian princess’ you are perpetuating the same idea, you are aiding in the continued sexualization of Indigenous women, the same devaluing. This devaluing of the bodies of Native women is what allowed the murderers of Pamela George to be given a minimum sentence, because they were young white men with a future, and she was nothing but a ‘Native prostitute’. This perpetuation of this ‘squalid squaw’ stereotype, is the reason that those missing and murdered women go unrecognised and unoticed by the general public and the cops that were supposed to protect them. When you wear these costumes, there are real life consequences that effect the lives of Indigenous women everywhere. When you put on those costumes, you are allowing the continued dispossession domination, assault, sexualization, disrespect, racialization, and colonization of Indigenous women and Indigenous communities.
All I am asking you, dear fellow Halloween-goer, is to think critically before you wear your costume. And if you choose to wear your racist costume, when someone calls you out on it, listen. Even if you think it is ruining your night to sit there and listen to a person tell you why you are hurting them. Because I can guarantee that they only ruined your night, but you ruined so much more.