Right now my social feed is littered with folks losing their poop about the suggestion that dressing up as Moana is racist. I cannot speak for the people that movie represents, but I can speak for what I experience as a First Nations woman. Every Hallowe’en and festival season folks want to don headdresses and feathers and pretend to belong to my people. I am even told this is because they love my culture so much and this is a compliment. 

Your costume is not a compliment. 

It’s not. Full stop. 

Firstly, you don’t understand if what you are dressing up in is a caricature of something that is sacred. Best avoid. Headdresses are ceremonial. The things depicted by your costume may be honours people from our culture have to earn. That stuff might mean something to someone

Secondly, as a First Nations woman, I deal with a lot of crap. My success must be due to the colour of my skin and my ancestry. Affirmative action, y’all. It couldn’t be that I work damn hard. I’ve been helped along the way while everyone else has to work harder, apparently. People make assumptions about my alcohol consumption, my intelligence, my lifestyle, my income based on my heritage. “I would be careful about moving in with someone with that racial background,” the mother of a former boyfriend said. In this century. Assumptions. I get a fail for being who I am 365 days of the year but y’all want to look cute dressing up like me one day a year? Becky, please. 

You want the beauty of my culture without the hardships. The culture you love so much? My people once weren’t allowed legally to practice it. My people were put in residential schools to “remove the Indian from the child.” They are invisible women who go missing on the sides of the roads but y’all are going to make us visible on October 31? Would we be easier to find if we carried around little plastic pumpkins the rest of the year? The difference is people look for missing trick or treaters. Do some reading about how many of our women went missing

If only all the folks who wanted to compliment me and how much they love my culture by spending money on a costume that makes fun of spirituality in a handy clear plastic bag bag did something in support of Reconciliation, MMIW and lack of clean water on reserves…. That’s how you can compliment me. By helping keep my people safe. Put the Pocahontas costume down, and if you want to appreciate something, do the work. Ally is a verb. 

4 Comments

  1. Jacqueline Reply

    I’m sorry that this happens so often, and I will continue to do my best call it out when I see it. It shouldn’t be that difficult; when someone from another cultural background asks you to not do something, you should not do it. This applies to Halloween, and all year long. You’re great at what you do, by the way, so keep doing it, girl.

    • alliespins Reply

      Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂 So appreciate it.

  2. Thank you. This has definitely got me thinking about the fine line of honoring the characters and being disrespectful. If my niece chose a Moana costume I would have reacted proudly. After seeing the movie, her response was that “Moana is very very very very very very very very very very brave”. I may not have enough very’s on that. So I see Moana as an inspirational young woman. However, I hadn’t thought how else that could be interpreted.

    Do you have any storybook recommendations with First Nations characters or real people that I can read with her? She’s six.

    • alliespins Reply

      Bianca, Thanks for your thoughts, I haven’t really addressed Moana specifically because I don’t know enough about their culture to say anything about how it was represented or if it would be fair, I can only speak from my perspective. The Disney character, Pocahontas was a real person who was not really done justice by the Disney rendering, from my perspective. That being said, I would suggest asking a children’s librarian for suggestions on really good kid’s books that are representative of First Nations people, my son is 9 and we don’t have a lot of children’s literature because we have family stories we discuss instead. I agree with your niece that Moana is very brave (and all those very’s and more) and it is an excellent thing for a young girl to aspire to and you sound like a very loving auntie 🙂

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