It’s that time of year again folks, Halloween. I’m sure you’re all gathering ideas trying to figure out what to do for your Halloween parties. Let’s be honest, Halloween is my favorite time of year. Who doesn’t love free candy? But do you know what I don’t like, yet see every year? People dressing up as an ethnicity. More specifically, people who think it’s okay to dress up as Pocahontas for Halloween.
First of all, her name wasn’t Pocahontas. It was Matoaka, and she was later known as Amonute. She was the daughter of Powhatan, also known as Wahunsenacah. Contrary to popular belief, she did not fall in love with John Smith, nor did she save his life like in the popular children’s movie. In fact, that movie is extremely far-fetched. Matoaka did, however, marry John Rolfe. BUT, only after she was kidnapped and held hostage for ransom supplies from her own people.
Matoaka’s life only gets sadder from there. After forced into a marriage with John Rolfe, she was forcibly converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. Once she arrived to England from North America, she was paraded around like an anomaly just so the Virginia Company of London could receive more money to travel back to North America to colonize it even more.
Matoaka eventually died from an unknown illness at age 21.
Now look at me in the face and tell me you want to dress up as Pocahontas for Halloween. I dare you. Not only is dressing up as an indigenous woman racist, you’re also exploiting her image and her trauma for your own benefit. Matoaka lived an extremely dark and traumatic life after her kidnapping. If you have dark hair and think this makes you suitable to dress up as Pocahontas, ding dong your opinion is wrong.
The moral of this story is: don’t dress up like Pocahontas. Don’t even dress up as an indigenous person. Don’t use the sad tale of a kidnapped native woman as justification for your own costume. There are plenty of appropriate costumes that are completely harmless. Many costumes out there are perfectly fine. However, if you decide to appropriate a culture for your own benefit, I hate to tell you, but that’s racist.
So just don’t do it.
5 thoughts on “It’s about to get real”
I agree this is too real. While scrolling through my social media timelines I continuously find Native American tribes demanding Halloween stores and companies that appropriate the Native American image to align with stereotypical attire to take those costumes down but to no avail. I actually did not know the whole backstory of Matoaka and I thank you for enlightening me about it because I won’t lie when I read “Pocahontas” I started to hum “Just Around the Riverbend.” But the humming subsided as I realized what her true story was, which is sad. And, I guess, makes me wonder, why didn’t Disney try to educate children about her instead of sugarcoating it and making it seem like a happily ever after? Why isn’t her history talked about in public school systems?
I love how this article takes on the issue of cultural appropriation in our society, especially now when it becomes such a prevalent issue. Most of us don’t even know Matoaka’s true story – I didn’t even know this was her true name! It just goes to show how media can alter even history for capital gain. I wonder what other stories like hers have been altered in such a way.
Thank you for writing about this. It’s important to think about the culture behind something before attempting to represent it. I also agree that there are SO many other costumes you could choose.
UGH THANK YOU for finally calling out the appropriation of Native culture. Capitalizing on native culture, hispanic and latinx culture, black culture; the list goes on. It’s upsetting, real, and Megyn Kelly seems to be on the same boat; wearing cultures and races is okay. Great insight, thank you!