Halloween and cultural appropriation or appreciation?
Let me say that I am a “Heinz 57” kind of gal (as my grandfather would say). Most of us are. On my grandmother’s side, the family genealogists traced us back to England, Scotland and Ireland (and they trace back to the Vikings). My grandfather was Slovenian. My paternal side isn’t nearly as well traced out but I know I have English and Cherokee roots (“hillbilly” too). As a child I LOVED knowing that I was an “indian”. Blond headed little me, was an indian. When I’d get a cut, I’d swallow as much of the blood as I could so I wouldn’t loose any of that blood. Several years ago, I found out that my grandmother’s father looked like a full blooded Cherokee but we can’t prove it because no one kept those dreadful papers. I know one of his ancestors was on the Trail of Tears. I’ve tried to find her name but the best I’ve been able to do is find her daughter’s name. I want their names to be known for if they are not remembered how can we keep for repeating that atrocity?
One of the few costumes I remember from when I was a child was dressing up as an indian. If we played the standard “cowboys and indians”, I always wanted to be an indian. I took an archery course in college as a desire to learn something that I couldn’t learn as a child. I did it out of appreciation and admiration. As I’ve gotten older that feeling hasn’t changed. Do I do I dress as such as an adult? No, but neither do I have a problem with others doing it. I’d rather have a child dress as an indian than a mass murderer. Maybe along the way they will learn something. I see it no different than dressing up as a Viking, a caveman, a nomad, or an egyptian.
I do not understand why some people see that as appropriation and I do not understand why they find it offensive. Yes all tribes were treated horribly and in many cases still are but this is an opportunity for education. One day a year isn’t appropriation. Screaming at a child or a parent about why this is offensive will not make any difference but continues an “us” vs. “them” mentality. Explaining how the costume is wrong or how it mixes different tribal customs makes it a learning opportunity that will stick. Sharing information and goodwill spreads goodwill and is more likely to effect changes than pitching a fit worthy of any two year old. I love that Columbus Day seems to be going to the wayside and is instead becoming a day to appreciate those he harmed. I love that “Rock your Mocs” is becoming more prevalent and I think the appreciation for dream catchers is a wonderful universal desire to rid ourselves or our children of nightmares.
I’d dearly love to learn more about my Cherokee heritage and past then teach it to my old child. To learn their way of looking at and moving through the world, but since I look like a European I fear causing offense. There is much to learn and admire of the Native American peoples, yet I fear reaching out. I live in their native lands and there is so much I could learn from them! The more others scream about appropriation, the less likely people will reach out. Assuming appropriation causes divisions instead of unity. America is a melting pot, a pot stolen in the distant (and in some cases not so distant) past, but still a melting pot. I did not do the wrongs of my ancestors but I’d like to help change the now. Nothing can change as long as we are divided. Nature is not static. Man is part of nature and if a culture becomes static it will eventually die. Who are you more willing to help, your friend or your adversary? In a perfect world, you’d help both but realistically you are more likely to help the one that was that you felt was a friend. By making it personal, there is have more of a stake in assisting those in need and preventing tragedies from ever happening again. Teach and honor appreciation instead of assuming it is appropriation. What is remembered lives.