Defeathering Halloween: 3 things to keep in mind about headdresses

By Rosanna Deerchild, CBC News, Canada

Halloween is just around the corner.

I mostly love this celebration. I get to dress my kids up in crazy costumes and raid their Halloween candy as part of my ten per cent mommy tax.

I say ‘mostly’ because there is one aspect of Halloween that I do not love. That is passing by the rows of Indian Princess/Stoic Warrior headdress get-ups that pop up every year.

Seriously, why is this still a thing? I mean costumes are something you put on. Culture is not.

And while we are seeing the headdress being banned from music festivals, it still shows up every Halloween through DIY sites and costume shops.


Native headdress costumeA “Native American Headdress” is still an option at many Halloween costume shops. (CBC) 

So why should you not dress your little one up as an “Indian” or yourself for that matter?

Let’s de-feather the issue and take a naked look at the headdress. There are three things to know about the feather headdress.

1. Who wears them?
The headdress was sacred and still is to many indigenous cultures like the Plains Cree and the Lakota people.

2. How do you get one?
They were not just handed out willy nilly, you know.They have to be earned and gifted in ceremony. Only the most fearless leaders and warriors traditionally wore them. It is kind of a big deal.

3. Why is it important to First Nations cultures?
Again, because it is a sacred item. You don’t see people running around with yarmulkes or hijabs in colourful mockery trying to be trendy.

As the image of the stoic warrior and sexy Indian maiden became more prevalent in movies, advertising and pop culture, the more tarnished the headdress became. Until something that once symbolized accomplishment and position was merely a chicken feather hat to be worn as a costume, an accessory, a joke.

While we as a people try to regain the respect for the headdress, we must also still wrestle the image away from hipsters, celebrities, sports team owners and costume shops.

Throw away the war paint, use the feathers to stuff pillows and just say no to culture as a costume this Halloween. Your indigenous friends will thank you.

Walmart Takes Twitter Beatdown Over ‘Fat Girl Costumes;’ Pocahottie Still OK's 'fat girl costumes' page is one of the all-time lowlights of e-commerce.’s ‘fat girl costumes’ page is one of the all-time lowlights of e-commerce.


Steve Russell, Indian Country Today


They say that making fun of morbid obesity is the last socially acceptable form of prejudice.  And it’s hard to defend treating people badly over a serious health issue or, worse, destroying the self-image of children over something they may not be able to control.

Walmart got taken to task by the blog Jezebel for hawking a “Fat Girl” category of Halloween costumes.  The social media firestorm about adults so childishly ridiculing un-skinny women was heartening for those of us who were wondering what is next—a “Diabetes Department?”

In the same post, Jezebel also complained of racism, pointing out that Indians have also been put up again as objects of ridicule for Halloween in a stunning line of stereotypes, pocahottie for the females and Tonto for the males.

A costume that really says 'HOW! Can you possibly not see the racism here?' Source:
A costume that really says ‘HOW! Can you possibly not see the racism here?’ Source:

Walmart was slow to react, much slower than Twitter, but they finally took the “Fat Girl” section down (technically, it redirects to “plus size”) and came up with an appropriate Twitter auto-reply.

Customer: “Congrats on your ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ section.  Always keepin it classy, eh @Walmart?”

New Auto-reply: “This never should have been on our site.  It is unacceptable, and we apologize.”

Notice the straightforward nature of the apology.  No claim of tradition involving ridicule of fat people, especially girls or women, and no claim that those being ridiculed should understand it as an “honor.”  No hedging that they didn’t mean to poke fun at females with medical problems that cause the look being ridiculed.

The betting window is open on what they’ll say about the “Native American” costumes.  Making an issue of the body type of girls and women is bad, and those involved ought to be ashamed.  Does it ever occur to the same people that Indians are neither Pocahottie nor Tonto, and the endless bombardment with stereotypes might be bad for them as well?

Ridicule of fat people is a socially acceptable prejudice that ought not to be accepted.  But from Walmart to the antics of the fans at FedEx Field, Indians have caricature put in their non-warpainted faces every day.  Sambo and the Frito Bandido were retired years ago, and the Fat Girls insult disappeared instantly.

Chief Wahoo lives on, and the most popular sport in the U.S. tolerates a team name that is a racial slur.  Mockery of fat people is not the last socially acceptable prejudice, and a Twitter storm of righteous indignation just proved that.  Mockery of American Indians is.



15 People Who Plan to Be a Native American This Halloween



Simon Moya-Smith, Indian Country Today


Well, it’s nearly Halloween, which means it’s that time of year again when cultural misappropriation runs amok; when you end up at a party and some one comes clad in faux Native American garb, i.e. a chicken-feathered headdress and multi-colored racing stripes on his face. Invariably, the man’s date comes costumed as a “Pocahottie,” and is completely oblivious to the plague of violence against indigenous women in North America. So, folks, here are 15 people who have publicly expressed their interest in dressing up as a Native American this year. Be warned. Some of these are pretty awful:


Um, no, you can’t.


Emphasis on “wanna be.”

RELATED: Five More Things You’d Never Catch a Native American Saying




Go toothpaste. Please, go toothpaste.


Buddy, that’s A.) Hardly creative, and B.) Really? … just … really?



College Cheer Squad Dresses Like Cowboys & Indians

Twitter.comA screen shot of a photo previously posted on the @UofRCheer's Instagram account. The photo was removed over the weekend.
A screen shot of a photo previously posted on the @UofRCheer’s Instagram account. The photo was removed over the weekend.


A photo that made the rounds on Twitter Sunday evening has sparked backlash against a cheerleading squad from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The squad tweeted a photo taken during a practice event that showed 18 girls wearing cowboy costumes and “Indian” themed regalia. The squad members wore clothing that looked like pieced-together buckskin dresses, parted their hair and wore long braids, and put on headbands with feathers in their hair.

Valerie Timmons, the president of the university, said that the cheerleading coach has apologized for the team’s “culturally inappropriate themes and costumes.

“Further steps will require that the team’s coaches and team members discuss this matter as a group with the university’s Executive Lead on Indigenization and take cultural sensitivity training,” Timmons’s said in a statement. “Once these discussions have taken place, the university will determine whether further disciplinary actions are required.”

The photo was also posted on Instagram and received 44 likes before it was removed. U of R faculty, staff and students were outraged by the photo.

“I was disturbed by the image, and I thought that the team, like all of us who live in Saskatchewan, likely need formal education on the topic,” Andrea Sterzuk, an associate professor, told, “because treating First Nations and Métis women as a costume objectifies them, and that behavior, I think, contributes to their dehumanization, which is a larger problem that I think all Canadians need to be concerned about.”

Ryan Deschamps, a doctoral student at the university, told, “I thought we were kind of past this issue. I think it was something that we’ve seen in the news that’s obviously insensitive to certain people and I don’t understand how that actually happened.”

At least 10 percent of the students at the university are of aboriginal descent. It is also home to the First Nations University of Canada.

Someone using the @UofRCheer Twitter account responded to the backlash on Saturday: “We apologize for the photos, they have been removed from all of our social media. Our last intention was to disrespect anyone.”