'Reservation Royalty,' 'Indian Princess' Halloween costumes hit Winnipeg shelves

'Reservation Royalty' and 'Indian Princess' are just some of the Halloween costumes on display in a Winnipeg store that some are calling offensive and racist.

Critics fed up offensive costumes continue to be sold year after year

Student slams Halloween costumes for sale in Winnipeg

6 years ago
Duration 1:19
'Reservation Royalty', 'Indian Princess' and 'Indian Warrior' are just some of the Halloween costumes being sold in a Winnipeg store that University of Winnipeg Indigenous student Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie is calling offensive, hurtful and racist.

"Reservation Royalty," "Indian Princess" and "Indian Warrior" Halloween costumes being sold in a Winnipeg store are offensive, hurtful and racist, some Indigenous Winnipeggers say.

Spirit Halloween on Pembina Highway carries a variety of Indigenous-themed costumes that a University of Manitoba professor calls "Disney-like."

"It's offensive, stereotypical and Disney-like," said Niigaan Sinclair, the native studies department head at the University of Manitoba.

"This is all driven by pop culture's representation of Indians, and that can all be traced back to the 19th century," he said.

"It's the same story told every year for as long as I can remember."

University of Winnipeg student Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie said she's frustrated by the controversial costumes that continue to pop up in stores every year.

The costumes depicts aboriginal women as "sex objects" and mock her Indigenous culture, she said.

"I'm always hurt by it. I always feel a sense of frustration," said Lavoie.

"It's frustrating, because we always have to educate and explain why it's hurtful."

Lavoie sees them every year, especially when she goes to buy her own Halloween costume, she said.

"They try to capture us as like stagnant in time, from years ago, of what their version of what Indigenous people are, and they mock our Indigenous warriors and they sexually objectify Indigenous women, and they always have the headdresses," she said.

"It's very racist, even just the titles that they name these costumes."

This isn't the first time the Halloween-themed store has been under fire for selling controversial costumes and feathered headpieces that are considered sacred.

In 2014, a Winnipeg woman complained to CBC about the "Pocahottie" outfit that was sold at Halloween Alley and the "Indian Warrior" costume that was sold at Spirit Halloween.

Lavoie wants the store owner to remove the costumes and she's also urging the public not to support the store by purchasing the costumes. 

"In order for us to have better relations in the future, this is one step that the stores can do in the efforts of reconciliation," she said.

"You know, there's money to be made, and the more people don't voice their frustration, it's only going to continue."

Driven by pop culture

The offensive costumes will likely continue to be made because of the way the international community views Indigenous people, Sinclair said.

"It's in all the text books; it's in all the Disney movies," he said.

"We're stuck in the 19th century and we're produced as these exotic savages."

CBC contacted Spirit Halloween for comment but so far the calls have not been returned.