Stop selling 'racist garbage,' shop selling Indigenous Halloween costumes told
'I don't think that having sexy Pocahontas costumes is really helping us out. I think it's doing harm'
A company with locations across Canada is coming under fire in Edmonton for selling Indigenous-themed Halloween costumes described as "racist garbage."
Last Thursday, Zoe Glassman was surprised to come upon an entire section at Party City displaying items such as fringed dresses and headdresses with the package showing white models donning dark wigs, braids and face paint.
"We're still struggling as a country to be honest with ourselves about how this entire section of our country was treated and so I don't think that having sexy Pocahontas costumes is really helping us out. I think it's doing harm."
But customers seemed to be buying the costume as only feather headdresses remained.
That same afternoon, Glassman complained online to Party City.
"I don't know how you might possibly still think it's appropriate to sell such racist garbage at your stores," she wrote.
Indigenous artist and activist Todd Houseman said in the context of missing and murdered indigenous women, the sexualized costumes promote harmful attitudes such as: "I can now treat them like that," which, he says, "can lead to a lot of horrific things across the board."
He said the costumes reinforce stereotypes of Indigenous people, undermining efforts to reclaim power and leadership.
Party City did not respond to requests for comment, but the company did respond to Glassman's complaint on Facebook messenger a day later.
"As a leader in Halloween, Party City supplies a broad assortment of costumes to satisfy all styles, tastes, and budgets and is always evaluating how to make shopping in our stores and online a fun, welcoming experience," reads the message.
"Nothing we carry is meant to be offensive."
Glassman wrote back: "I hope that it is true that you want your store to be welcoming, because if so, you will discontinue stocking the Indigenous-themed costumes immediately.
"This is not a welcoming sight for anyone who is aware of the systematic abuse of our First Nations people."
Nothing we carry is meant to be offensive.- Party City
She has not heard back.
On Monday, activists in Regina placed warning labels on Indigenous costumes at a Spirit Halloween store, which also has locations in Edmonton.
"I was shocked," said Clint Porritt, who came upon the Indigenous-themed section at Party City's Sherwood Park location last week and tweeted about it to Mayor Don Iveson with the "make it awkward" hashtag.
Porritt, who teaches at Mount Carmel Bible College, pointed out Canada has done some good work confronting its ugly colonial past, the residential school legacy and now missing and murdered Indigenous women.
But for that display to exist, he said, "it just shows we've got so much work to do still in education and self reflection.
"We all have to take a good hard look at ourselves and go, 'What am I allowing in my life that's contributing to these stereotypes, contributing to these cycles of abuse?' "