Calgary group calls Halloween costumes depicting Indigenous women “dehumanizing”

Click to play video: 'Calgary group highlights issue of racist costuming ahead of Halloween'
Calgary group highlights issue of racist costuming ahead of Halloween
Patti Derbyshire, co-founder of Otahpiaaki, joins Global News Calgary to discuss how myths and stereotypes of Indigenous women can be reinforced during Halloween – Oct 28, 2018

A Calgary-based group is asking trick-or-treaters to avoid costumes that they say depict Indigenous women in a stereotypical and negative way.

Patti Derbyshire, a marketing professor at Mount Royal University, said sexually suggestive costumes depicting Indigenous women are inappropriate and harmful. Derbyshire is the co-founder of Otahpiaaki, a fashion initiative that aims to contribute to social, cultural, restorative and economic reconciliation.

“They in no way resemble the Indigenous women we know,” Derbyshire said in an interview Sunday on Global News Morning.

“They’re problematic because they really reinforce an oversexualized image, stereotype and bias against Indigenous women.”

READ MORE: Students at Queen’s University facing criticism over ‘racist’ costume party

Costumes of Indigenous women can be dehumanizing, according to Spirit River Striped Wolf, who is also a co-founder of Otahpiaaki. He said it is “incredibly inappropriate” to portray Indigenous women in a sexualized way through costume.

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“If we think of things like missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls… the biggest issue is how these women are dehumanized,”

“They’re further dehumanized by things like this.”

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Derbyshire said the ultimate message is simply that “we know better now so we can do better.” She added that new relationships need to be built surrounding the issue of cultural appropriation.

“There is no other culture… whose imagery has been appropriated (more frequently),” Derbyshire said.

“There is no other peoples where the marketplace feels (it) can just take this very rich, beautiful, meaningful cultural set of images, systems, ways of being, dance.”

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