Chase Iron Eyes: A time to put on your Indian costumes

"Halloween is fast approaching, and little monsters everywhere are scrambling for costumes. Every year there should be an awareness campaign about the practice of Americans assuming Indian identity by donning an “Indian costume.”

What do “they” get out of playing Indian? Maybe it fills some psychological-spiritual void that is created by the separation of man and nature, the latter to be exploited (toiled) as in the Bible or in accordance with the scientific method—but to say that would be stereotyping on my part. It is clear to me that several generations of media have succeeded in making caricatures of Indigenous peoples. Intentionally or not, the American Indian, by and large, has been made out to be something other than a normal contributing component of western civilization. The reasons for this phenomenon are not hard to imagine when one considers the inter-generational conditioning Americans are put through via school and pop culture.

Because most Americans see American Indians as a conquered and disappearing race, they see no wrong in playing Indian dress-up, particularly in social situations which do not include Indians. When in fact there is definitely a wrongful appropriation happening. Members of the mainstream—historically of Euro descent—have crafted 500 years of institutional paradigms that usually depict the Indian as noble, savage, bloodthirsty, lusty, and/or fierce. More importantly, the mainstream is convinced that Indians, having not figured out how to exploit the earth properly, were and continue to be impediments to “progress”—progress as defined in “modern” financial-industrial civilization. These collective paradigms see us as relics, as interesting little bits of history, ones that fit well into the narratives of White heroes."

Get the Story:
Chase Iron Eyes: Halloween: Time to Wear Your Indian Costumes (Indian Country Today 10/28)

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