Why are Indigenous People offended by Pocahontas costume and Why do some people not find it offensive?
In this video I’ll be talking about WHY some Indigenous People (or non-Indigenous) find the Pocahontas costume offensive, and why some Indigenous people people do not.
To put this video together I did some research, asking our online community what people think, how they feel about this topic, and why they feel offended or not offended about pocahontas costume (during halloween or any other costume party situation).
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After listening to what the our online community had to say, and some of my personal connections, family members, friends, and other trusted elders advisors, and allies - I analyzed, compartmentalized and organized all of the feedback I received from all of my sources to be able to give you guys a clear answer on if the pocahontas costume is offensive towards Indigenous people or not.
So, here we go with the results - There really are 6 categories or groups of responses… 3 in the yes its offensive category, and 3 in the no, it's not offensive category ;)
I’ve put together 3 reasons why people might be offended by pocahontas costumes for Halloween, and 3 reasons why people are not offended by pocahontas costumes.
The FIRST 3 Categories of Responses from this question are reasons why people (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) are offended by pocahontas costume:
- The first group of people who find Pocahontas costume offensive are those who give the educated - fact-checker response
If you’re dressing up as the disney character - Pocahontas, some people (Indigneous or non-Indigenous) are constantly reminded when they see a pocahontas costume, that the Disney animated movie of Pocahontas is portrayed completely differently than the true story of Pocahontas
I’m not going to get into the details on the true history of the real Indigenous girl named ‘Pocahontas’, but apparently she was treated very poorly by John Smith, and to keep it PG she passed away at a young age, and it was violent and horrible.
- The second group of people who find Pocahontas costume offense are those who give the cultural appropriation response
Some Indigenous people are offended by anyone portraying any Indigenous person who is not Indigenous themselves.
Cultural appropriation is when you are claiming something to be of Indigneous background when you know its not. This can be anything that has an identity (or form of identity attached to it) it can be something you created, such as a product, a person, or place.
If you’re a bit confused on what exactly cultural appropriation is, because the term is thrown around ALOT... Read this article to understand what exactly cultural appropriation is, and how to avoid it if you are aiming to be an Indigenous ally.
So the 2nd group of offended people are those who find Pocahontas costume to be appropriating the culture, which if you want to know my opinion, I feel like the only time that it’s not cultural appropriation is when you’re wearing a costume.
Now, please don’t bite my head off here people, but cultural appropriation is claiming something is culturally Indigenous when it is not, so if you’re wearing a costume for the sake of pretending to be a certain character or animal, specifically halloween costumes - you’re not really claiming that identity as you in real life right. Its just for the holiday or event taking place that day.
That is all im going to say about saying about the Pocahontas costume being cultural appropriation on halloween… and folks who have this reasoning for being offended by it.
- The third group of people who find Pocahontas costume offense was those who give the gatekeeper response
Gatekeepers - Also known as Cultural appropriation police, unfortunately get offended by anyone participating in cultural anything who is not 100% blood quantum, full-status, born, raised, living and working on the rez.
The response by a gatekeeper is generally more extreme than any other kind.
This group of people are most likely to be offended by any person dressing up as Pocahontas. Even if they are indigenous it’s not okay to be pocahontas for halloween - actually what I’ve found is that they find that even worse if you are Indigenous you are offending your “own people” by trying to represent Pocahontas.
The next 3 Categories of Responses from this question are Reasons Why people (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) are NOT offended by pocahontas costume:
- The first group of people who who do not find Pocahontas costume offensive was those who give the Whateves response
This group of people are generally indifferent to topics surrounding controversy or confrontation, difficult conversations. Sometimes they these folks just aren’t offended by stuff or dont have an opinion on the matter whatsoever.
There is nothing wrong with this - some people just dont want to engage in anything that might be controversial or cultural appropriation related, political or nada like that.
These group of people wouldnt respond to any form or poll because they’ve got better things to do and likely if you asked them about their thoughts they would change the topic, so im not going to spend any time expanding upon this response, but thats what the first type of response is for someone who is not offended by the costume, they’re not paying attention to it whatsoever.
- The second group of people do not find Pocahontas costume offense was those who are knowledgeable of Pocahontas’ true story... and they also know that most of the Disney princesses characters are based off fiction (meaning the Disney creators made the storylines up)
This group of responders who do not find the Pocahontas costume offensive, are culturally aware of Indigneous cultural appropriation, but know that the media, including movie creators, use pieces of historical events that spark creative storytelling.
Many Disney characters are based off fiction and entertainment, and this type of response, that all of the Disney princess’ were made up focus on the overall creative production process of childhood storytelling and the awareness that movies like Pocahontas brings to Indigenous culture in general than the negative feelings tied to the true story that is very very completely different from the Disney Pocahontas.
- The third group of people who do not find the Pocahontas costume offensive was those who absolutely love Pocahontas
This group of responses to the Pocahontas identity or brand can be felt by anyone, Indigenous, or non-Indigenous.
These people who love pocahontas can often identify with her, or they look up to her as sort of a role model.
Many people actually admire the character of Pocahontas, for being beautiful, courageous, and resilient members of her community. She is portrayed as a brave individual, who is fierce, overcomes obstacles, and is graceful while facing challenges.
The traits that the character of pocahontas possesses in the Disney movie, are really positive ones and for some people, that is what stands out to them. And when they see a Pocahontas costume, they feel how it is representing a powerful female character, just like other superheroes, or warriors that are beloved across the world for their own brand identities.
And some final thoughts:
- if you’re someone who is not offended… it doesnt mean that you are stupid, or not an ally, or not as “proudly indigenous”, and
- if you’re someone who is offended, it doesn’t mean that you are too sensitive either... And my only advice would be that we each have control over our own triggers, and we have the power to overcome them too!
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