WRITTEN BY IRA HUFF

So, I’m Native American, and more specifically, Haudenosaunee. Let me set the record straight from the start: Yes, I come from a reservation; No, I don’t live in a tipi; No, Pocahontas was not a princess and the Disney movie is complete fantasy bullshit; Yes, the Washington Redskins name does offend me, etc. We could go on all day. What you’re probably wondering is why I’m writing this. Two reasons: One, Columbus Day was just upon us, and two, Halloween was last night. October represents scary times for Natives on campus, and everywhere for that matter.

Now, the myth is that Columbus discovered the Americas. Cute. Your textbooks in elementary school brainwashed you well. The truth is that there were thousands of unique indigenous nations throughout the Americas, with their own cultures, languages and ways of life already here well before 1492. Columbus didn’t discover shit. Before we go on celebrating the guy, let’s get our facts straight. Thanks. This very university sits on part of the land that the Onondaga, my brethren, have called their traditional homeland since time immemorial, well before Columbus and European contact. And the Onondaga are still here today, with their reservation situated just a few miles south of the city. Some perspective: Natives still exist.

Sorry for the quick history lesson, though. Here’s the real juicy issue: Halloween. Fuck “Indian” themed Halloween stereotyped costumes and parties. You think that’s fun to look at for us Natives? My friend just recently witnessed a “Cowboys and Indians” themed party at a fraternity (which shall remain nameless) on campus, and we could only muster a collective “Why?” within the SU Native community. Wearing buckskin, donning feathers and fake headdresses and putting on “war paint” does not make you stylish and you should know better. But, perhaps you don’t. Maybe you’ve never met a Native before, but someone with enough common sense should let you know what you’re doing is actually wrong, ignorant and degrading. Well, here I am. It’s all of those things. Just ugly. So frustrating.

There are still over 500 recognized Native nations within the United States alone, but not one single Native conglomerate or image. We’re all unique. We aren’t products of a single mold. We aren’t fucking stereotypes. We’re human beings. And we’re tired of being treated like less. You can’t be saying, “What’s the harm?” Not anymore at least. Just because you don’t know any Natives personally doesn’t make it right. If you’re reading this now, you can’t say, “Oh, I didn’t know any better.” It’s as bad as dressing up in “black face,” and just as disrespectful. Racism is racism, no matter the circumstances.

This is the age of education, and this campus prides itself on its diversity and its outreach. But they can only do so much. It’s up to people like me to speak out, to make a difference. It’s up to me to say enough is enough. Stop this ignorance. You’ll feel better about yourself.

  • Nicholas Brisk

    The writer seems to be very angry at a lot that is very little. You seem to care more about a silly costume offence rather than having an entire continent taken away from your ancestors. I’m Native American as well, i don’t let costumes offend me, i take it as a compliment, those people idolize me or love me or just want to be me. Why get mad at someone who wants to be you? You need to be more open to the world and learn to laugh at yourself once in awhile or else everything in life will offend you. If you can laugh at a black, blonde, or jew joke, why can’t you laugh at a Native American joke. The only thing i really got from this article is your anger. You have a lot of it and it’s rather sad to see a Native soul so lost in the world. Let your anger and hostility go and you’ll be a lot happier. ~Representing Listuguj Mi’kmaq family.

    • Lydia

      See, decent people DON’T laugh at blonde jokes and jew jokes and black jokes. If you’re the type of person that does, then you’re the one who’s lost. Laughing at yourself is different than allowing an entire culture to be reduced to a caricature. If you want to make a joke about your personal identity, feel free. That’s your choice. But subjecting entire groups of people to your dumb racist assumptions is NOT okay.

  • Lydia

    I am so glad you took up this topic right now, around halloween. There are jackasses all over campus dressing up racially, and it’s disgusting. I am actually taking an ETS class about Columbus and…nothing about Columbus day is cute. Nothing about commodifying race in the form of costumes and stupid theme parties is cute. The SU campus needs to learn a thing or two, especially around halloween.