Halloween should be the best time EVER! You dress up, you get free candy, and sometimes explore your DARK, creepy side. But what if you want to express your culture with your costume? You’re not going to wear you nice regalia to a party or trick-or-treating, so how can you express your heritage with an off-the-shelf costume or an original creation? Here are a few ideas:
Use the Force!
Star Wars has always been fertile ground for Native-influenced costumes. Beginning with Princess Leia’s iconic Hopi-inspired hairdo, there is a lot that can be borrowed and customized (especially with the new chapter coming to theaters in just a couple of months). One great idea is troopers! The vast array of armored characters provide a canvas for tribal symbols, language and design. Also, the rustic robes and dress of jedi and dessert characters lend to easy crossovers. Check out famous Native cosplayer Dezbah Rose‘s (Yuchi, Navajo, Chippewa) take on Rey – adding leg wraps, turquoise, Native-crafted metal and leather wrist cuffs and belt, a beaded bag, and moccasins. What can you do to customize?
ANY hero or character with America in their name can be indigenized. Just look what these fans have done. Casey (Osage, Oglala Lakota) has put us all to shame this year with his #CaptainNativeAmerica cosplay. And the parents of these cute kids nailed it with their takes on the Winter Solder and Captain America. Dezbah appears again, but this time in a pitch-perfect Native hybrid of Wonder Woman. Which American icon will you take back?
Native Legends & Literature
Why not inhabit a character from Native legends? Creation stories and other tales are filled with anthropomorphized creatures that brought about our natural world, and influenced the lives of mortals. Will you be a raven? A skinwalker? Or how about the devious Coyote – as pictured above from Native author Rebecca Roanhorse‘s (Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo) Trail of Lightning! Or what about badass monster hunter Maggie Hoskie from the same story? Whether creepy or delightful, these make for great culturally-relevant costumes.
Who doesn’t play video games? Well, not everyone – but there are a limitless number of titles and characters to inspire your dress. Native cosplayer Alyssa Osceola (Seminole) became well-known for her Overwatch Thunderbird Pharah costume – but how about something simpler, like a Native Pac-Man? Adding face paint, ribbons, beads, feathers or indigenous jewelry/accessories can transform almost any costume!
Use Your WORDS!
Literally labeling your costume with words from your Native language can educate and indigenize any costume – especially for kids! Many indigenous language ECE programs around the country use this method to teach toddlers Native languages. This little wolf displays the animal’s name in Inipaq, a tribal language of Northern Alaska. You can put this on ANY costume, so let your imagination run wild.
Share your indigenous costume ideas with us in the comments below!