BuzzFeed reports that a Canadian group, Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism (SCAR), has been running a guerrilla campaign against a Halloween retailer selling costumes that promote offensive stereotypes of Indigenous peoples.
The group targeted a Spirit Halloween location in Regina, affixing these labels to “Indian princess”-type costumes:
SCAR member Chris Kortright told BuzzFeed Canada, “One can still have fun, one can still express their sexuality, without belittling other people’s culture.”
The group was inspired by Zooey Roy, an Indigenous woman who was asked to leave a Spirit Halloween store in Saskatoon when she complained about their costumes.
Ms. Roy told CTV News,
“Those costumes are offensive because our ceremonies were banned, we weren’t allowed to speak our language, our ancestors went through residential schools, we got our traditional clothing taken away, we got our language taken away, we got our food, our homelands, everything, taken away and we’re expected to get over it. And now people can just wear our traditional clothing, regalia, as a Halloween costume, and that’s such a slap in the face to who we are as peoples.”
Canada is currently facing a great deal of soul-searching about the treatment of Indigenous people, both historically and in ongoing incidents of racism. From the 188os to the 1980s, many Indigenous youth were taken away from their families and communities and sent to brutal, church-run, residential schools for forced assimilation. It’s considered an attempt at cultural genocide.
As well, there is an ongoing concern about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a troubling phenomenon in which native women in Canada are much more likely to be murdered than any other female population group.
A similar “warning label” tactic was used in 2012 by activists to protest recording artist Chris Brown in Sweden.