‘It’s hard to draw the line’: Calgary store defends selling native headdress as Halloween costumes

CALGARY – Ceremonial native headdresses and costumes have been spotted at stores selling Halloween costumes across the city, striking a nerve with some Calgary shoppers, who argue the costumes are culturally insensitive.

“We’re seen as this historic relic, as if Indians don’t exist anymore [then] it’s okay to don these outfits not representative of our traditional dress,” said Gabrielle Lindstrom, a University of Calgary Indigenous Studies professor.

READ MORE: Calgary Folk Festival isn’t banning headdresses, but doesn’t want you to wear one

Lindstrom argues that such costumes further exacerbate the divide between two sides that should be uniting.

“Given Canada’s colonial history and tense relations, it makes it all the more offensive when we’re trying to move towards reconciliation.”

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One indigenous woman told Global News she was even more offended because of the over-sexualized outfits.

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“There’s nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada,” said Amy Willier from the Moonstone Creation Native Art Gallery.

“As a native woman, I am ten times more likely to be raped and murdered than any other woman. That’s a scary fact. The fact that people dress like we’re pornography, it instills in somebody else that it’s okay.”

READ MORE: RCMP #MMIW campaign aims to bring home Canada’s missing Aboriginal women

Retailers that sell the questionable costumes, however, argue they are simply trying to meet consumer demand, and never meant to offend any ethnicity.

“We have never received any complaint; there are so many ethnicities depicted in costume,” said Krystine Wilson of Chuckles Unlimited. “It’s hard to draw the line—as a retailer we have to stay in business.”

First Nations communities say the sale of such costumes is proof that Canadians have yet to bridge the gap between communities.

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