Culture should never be a costume

Cassandra Cullen, Music Director

Halloween is fast approaching and with times changing, we, as a society, are becoming more aware that certain costumes are culturally insensitive. With older photos of Justin Trudeau in blackface coming to light across the internet, we are reminded that changing the color of your skin is never a Halloween costume.

It’s unfortunate that, even with Gov. Tony Evers changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, we still have to talk about the cultural appropriation of the Native American culture.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, there are 11 Indigenous tribes in Wisconsin and 573 federally recognized Indian Nations across the United States.

To the people of these tribes, wearing headdresses as part of your Halloween costume is offensive. There are many different types of headdresses with many different meanings worn with honor, and you shouldn’t wear one unless you are a part of the culture and understand the meaning behind it. Most of them worn by men who are highly respected in their tribe, and each feather represents an act of bravery.

When you consider that one in three Native American women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and states that Native Americans are at the greatest risk of sexual violence, so when you wear one of these costumes you are insulting them and ignoring this truth. 

Madison College has a Native American Student Association, and anyone who wants to learn more about the culture can join or participate in the club’s activities.

“The thing about the Native American culture is that it’s so open-ended and so welcoming to anybody that wants to learn about it,” says member Pierson White. “There’s plenty of Native American tribal centers, there’s events … there’s not really many exclusive events in Native American country.”

Even starting at your local library can go a long way to understand the culture.

Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day is a great step forward for cultural awareness and, according to Onedia Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill, can serve as an educational tool about tribal culture and history.