Change comes slowly, and while many in the United States are waking up to the racism of Native-themed sports mascots and Halloween costumes, it is the lumbering giants of commerce who will probably be the last to see the light. The NFL won’t take action on the Redskins until advertisers and the media reach a tipping point. We can analogize that with a big-box mega-lo-mart like Walmart, which isn’t likely to do the progressive thing about Halloween costumes until it’s the best business decision.
How far out of touch is the U.S.’s largest retailer? Inspired by the “fat girl” Halloween costume fiasco, we rooted around the “Native American/American Indian” costumes and found dozens of stereotypical getups—that was expected. But the product descriptions! It’s the voice of white privilege smirking at the quaintness of a minority culture. Were these written in the Mad Men era?
And a note to skeptics: If you don’t think these outfits qualify as “racist,” try subbing in some other ethnicity for Indian, American Indian, and Native American—would you proudly attend a party in an “authentic Hispanic costume” or brag that your child makes an adorable “African American princess”?
“The chief may not be happy that his most beautiful daughter; Little Paw, has ran [sic] off to a Halloween party in her best Native American Maiden costume. … Make peace with the Adult Plus Size Indian Maiden Costume. This costume comes with a faux sued [sic] dress with a fringe, a bead trim belt head piece and boot tops. You’ll be dancing around the tribal fires in no time with the Adult Plus Size Indian Maiden Costume – you’ll be one seductive little Indian in this outfit. So expect a lot of male attention at your next Halloween party!”
Nothing gets attention at a party like racism.
“Get ready for a Halloween Pow Wow with all of your friends- Some costume are just for fun while others have a lot of authenticity- This is one of those authentic style costumes”
No it isn’t.
“This Deluxe Indian Princess Halloween Costume is a wonderful choice for young fans of the princess life. Your daughter will feel confident in this authentic costume, knowing she looks like the real thing.”
Yes, she is the spitting image of that thing that never existed.
“When you want to bring out your love of the land and of Native American culture, you’ve got to pick up this outfit! That’s because it’s hard to go wrong with fringe. It’s also hard to not want to dress up as a member of America’s first people, so pick up our Womens Indian Little Deer Costume! This princess is too pretty for a papoose! In this sexy Indian princess look, you’ll be the most wonderful woman in the wigwam! Take a new spin on an ancient look and buy this Womens Indian Little Deer Costume today!”
True, it is “hard not to want to” stereotype other races. But dammit, you must try.
“How about a little tribal trouble? Or a lot of it! Sexy Pocahottie girls in Indian costumes strongly believe in trivial tribal conquests. After all, it’s harmless and they’re allowed to do as they wish when wearing this Sexy Pocahottie Costume. This Sexy Indian Costume features a brown micro suede stretch dress with intricate beading and layered fringe hem. The Sexy Indian Costume also comes with a matching beaded headpiece with red and yellow feathers. If you’ve ever wished to be Pocahontas, here is your chance to feel as strong as her!”
We’re concerned that the “Pocahottie” costumes imply that Native women are promiscuous and sexually available. It’s nice to see verbiage that doesn’t imply this at all—just comes out and says it.
“Your daughter will be a living piece of American history in our Indian Princess Costume. … The Native Americans who lived on the continent long before Europeans arrived made their own clothes out of what was available. The Kids Indian Princess Costume includes a suede dress with several design features that are purely native. The order also includes a matching headband that will keep your daughter’s hair out of her eyes.”
Those poor Natives, making their clothes out of what was available. How happy they must have been when Europeans showed them how to make their clothes out of unavailable things.
“American history buffs and even people with Native American heritage will admire the Adult Plus Size Indian Princess Costume. … The Women’s Plus Indian Princess Costume will have you giving everyone a history lesson this Halloween! … When you put this costume on you will be asking yourself “how” did it take so long for you to order it!”
Worst history buffs ever.
“Be the best dressed at any Pow Wow this year in this Classic Womens Adult Costume. Choose the Indian Maid Womens Plus Size Halloween Costume and pass the peace pipe this season! … Indian Maid Raise your left palm proudly and repeat the tribal chant! You won’t want to miss this experience to feel prestige, as a Plus Size Indian! These women look sexy and sweet in their signature clothing, with a feather in their headbands, to complete this Indian look. You’ll feel empowered and have a thrill wearing clothes covered in fringe. This Indian Costume for Women comes with a headband, tan dress with fringes, belt, and boot tops. There will be tribal quests merely formed to chase after you!”
Just be careful they don’t run you over the edge of a cliff.
“The Indian Maiden Adult Plus Costume will make you look like a primal princess. … You revere the natural setting around you with respect and are thankful to live in such a pristine environment. The Womens Indian Brave Plus Size Halloween Costume features an ultrasuede dress with intricate fringe detail, printed bead work, fringe boot tops, a belt, choker, and headband with feather accessories. The harvests are good and the tribe prospers with good bounties.”
Many thanks to the Creator for this year’s bumper crop of polyester.
“Only the manliest of men can tame nature and this Mens Indian Brave Costume will show everyone your native roots. This Halloween go as an Indian warrior and show the ladies that you can provide them with an evening full of fun and excitement. This costume is perfect for if you plan on going with groups or a special young squaw! … This Mens Indian Brave Costume is simply the best Native American costume that you can get your hands on! Pick up this fantastic outfit today and get your best war cry ready to go!”
Native roots sold separately.
“Many a warrior this Tribal Princess did delight in her teepee late at night. This Sexy Indian Costume features a stretch faux suede dress with feather and turquoise bead trim, with a lace-up neckline and fringe hem. This Tribal Princess Costume also comes with its own matching feather headdress, armband, and tomahawk. The sexiest girls in the tribes are the ones with free spirits to match. Add to this Tribal Princess Costume with your own personal, array of tribal energies, scattering throughout the teepee. Delight, but don’t fright, become a Sexy Indian tonight!”
We think you might be white. Are we right?
“Pocahontas was the first Native American Princess, and with the right outfit, you can be the next! … Pocahontas saved the life of Captain John Smith and became the first Native American Princess and you can dress just like her with our Girls Native American Indian Princess Costume!”
There you go with this “princess” idea again. And can we just have a little perspective about “firsts” happening in 1607? You realize that the Indigenous people of Turtle Island had been living here for at least 10,000 years before Europeans showed up, and had all sorts of strong and notable women in their many Nations and societies. If a tree falls in the forest, it makes a sound even if no white people are there to hear it.
“The Indian Maiden Costume is for anyone who appreciates America’s native culture, outfits and history or really just likes that Pocahontas Disney movie (or both)! … The Indian Maiden Costume comes with a dress, belt with detachable accents, and a hair clip with beads and feathers (because it wouldn’t be an Indian costume without that). It’s worth thinking that, as awesome as cowboys and cowgirls and mountain men and such were for exploring the frontier, the American Indians had done that thousands of years ago. They were all, ‘Seen it. Done it. Over it.’ Then they spent the rest of their lives figuring out useful things like planting fish in farmland or finding out what to use a buffalo’s hooves for. You don’t hear them bragging about exploring the Americas all the dang time, now do you? The Indian Maiden Costume is the culmination of thousands of years of history and tradition (even though I couldn’t even wager a guess about what tribe this gal belongs to).”
Now here’s some history they won’t teach you in school. Well, not a good school.
“Are you in need of a pow wow wowzer of a Halloween costume? Well put down your peace pipe and check out this Lil’ Princess Child Indian Costume instead! Our Lil’ Princess Child Indian Costume comes with an adorable brown dress with ribbon trim and tan fringes. This also comes with a matching ribbon trim headband and brown faux fur boot covers! Everyone will swear she just stepped out of a teepee in this terrific ensemble! So make them say ‘And how!’ to your little Indian Princess! Order this today!”
“And how”… how … how can we tell your parents to stop dressing you in racist costumes?
“Your boy will be ready to lead his tribe of friends on the warpath wearing this Running Bull Costume for Children. … Your boy can dress as a peaceful person of the land he lives on when wearing the Running Bull Costume for Child. … The Native Americans who lived on the continent before Europeans arrived lived comfortably within their means.”
Then the white man showed up with his credit cards and student loans and rent-to-own electronics. Running Bull was soon overextended, living beyond his means, and he had to move back home and live with his parents, who took out a reverse mortgage.
“Whoop and holler in this rustic Native American Adult Costume this Halloween.”
Pro tip: The inauthentic costume that parodies the culture of an Indigenous population that was devastated by invasion and colonization is racist enough. Keep the whooping and hollering to a minimum. It’s just overkill.
“This Men’s Plus Native American Male Costume is a great outfit for those who admire the native ways and want to show their love of the culture.”
No it isn’t.