Even though Halloween is over, which means the possibility of offensive costumes has ended, it’s still football season, which means there is a chance that fans will still paint their faces red and don Native garb to root for their favorite team.
“We, as First Nation people, have never had control of our image in colonial media since its birth,” says Deejay NDN, from A Tribe Called Red in an interview with the Huffington Post, explaining why dressing up as an historically oppressed minority is problematic.
But even if the dresser-up-ers are to blame, shouldn’t one point the finger at the retailers who sell those costumes as well?
Vice.com points out that offensive costumes are available online and in stores across North America, with online retailers offering more than 100 options for Native American dress: “Sexy tribal princesses,” Native American “Indian warriors” (found under the heading “Indian”), and “sexy Indian chiefs” (found under the heading “undergarments”) are a few examples.
And the costumes are described online down to fringe on the hem. Amazon.com advertises a “Wampum Native American Headdress” and a “Charades Women’s Sacajawea Indian Maiden Costume Set’ that “transforms you to the past.”
On Walmart.com, “American Indian Woman” is the 12th best-selling adult costume on its site (before both Catwoman and Wonderwoman), Vice says.
These costumes, some say, are a direct result of how Hollywood plays “Indian” and American’s believe that it, too, for them, is acceptable. Vice cites Thomas King, the author of The Inconvenient Indian, for a reason why this appropriation continues. King says that “North America no longer sees Indians.” But instead they see “war bonnets, beaded shirts, fringed deerskin moccasins, face paint, and bone chokers” as what makes an Indian real.
“Whatever cultural significance [headdresses] may have for Native peoples,” King writes in the book, “full feather headdresses and beaded buckskins are, first and foremost, White North America’s signifiers of Indian authenticity.”