Cultural stereotypes in Halloween costumes spark debate

With many Winnipeggers hunting for Halloween costumes this weekend, some say culturally inspired outfits, especially those modelled after aboriginal regalia, should be off limits.

Some think aboriginal-themed costumes should be off limits

A "Native American Headdress" is among the many Halloween costume offerings at Gags Unlimited in Winnipeg. (CBC)

With many Winnipeggers hunting for Halloween costumes this weekend, some say culturally inspired outfits, especially those modelled after aboriginal regalia, should be off limits.

Aboriginal-inspired outfits and accessories, such as headdresses and beaded jewellery, are among the many cultural stereotypes people can find while shopping for costumes.

"There's very few things that somebody wouldn't find offensive in my store," said Kerry Hogan, the owner of Gags Unlimited in Winnipeg.

"I mean, everything from clerical collars, crosses … many styles of afros, I've got dreads, you know, you've got the Jamaican rasta wig."

But some in the First Nations community say they wish traditional regalia would be reserved for sacred purposes.

"If you're proud of it, then respect it," said Katlyn Fontaine.

"It's not like we're dressing up in, like, kilts or Ukrainian outfits," said David Kejick.

Some costume shoppers said they believe it's OK to wear culturally inspired costumes if it's done right.

"I think it's a beautiful culture and I think the costume is beautiful, so I think if it's used tastefully I think it's fine," said one woman.

"Like the Pocahontas princess — I think that's appropriate. But not making fun of it in any way," said another.

Hogan said he realizes some of the costumes he sells might not go over well with some people, but he believes customers who buy such items don't mean any disrespect.

"Personally, I think that we're a little overly sensitive and I think that we don't need to over-sterilize our society. I think they're beautiful," he said.

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