Native American Halloween Costumes: Culturally Insensitive or Innocent Fun?

Native American Halloween Costumes: Culturally Insensitive or Innocent Fun?


A few days ago on Halloween, Hilary Duff and her boyfriend, Jason Walsh went to a Halloween party dressed as a pilgrim and a Native American. While they were at the party, they posed for a picture and posted it on social media. They did not think anything of it, but when they returned from the party they saw the negative feedback on twitter. Hilary immediately issued this apology.

“I am SO so sorry to people I offended with my costume,” Duff tweeted. “It was not properly thought through and I am truly, from the bottom of my [heart] sorry.”

My wife and I were out with friends last night and we had a fascinating conversation about this topic. There were well-reasoned points on both sides. I will lay the pro and the con out here for you and let you weigh in at the end.

Pro: During the settling of America, the “white man” essentially took land that rightfully belonged to the Native Americans, fought, killed and essentially decimated an entire race of people. This is an ugly part of the American story. For the most part, Native Americans are offended when people dress up in costumes that degrade their culture. It’s not just innocent fun. It’s culturally insensitive and racist. Find a different costume.

Con: Halloween is about dressing up in costumes. It’s innocent fun. Hilary and Jason are liberal people who are educated and sensitive to the plight of Native Americans. These and other cultural costumes are for sale in most Halloween stores. Wearing them is not done to degrade the Native American culture. And, just for the record, the vast majority of Native Americans are not offended (some polls say 90%) by the name, “Washington Redskins,” so should people stop wearing this costume because a few/some/a minority of Native Americans disapprove? Do parents have to tell their 6 year-old girl that she can’t put a feather in her hair on Halloween because it might offend someone?

Your Turn: 

As always, keep it respectful. What is your opinion on this issue?

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  1. I honestly think its okay to dress up on Halloween as long as your not trying to disrespect the culture or the person your trying to dress up as. if its all in Innocent fun then i think its totally okay.

    1. This should not be giving the attention that it is receiving, because it is insignificant compared to the real problems within the Native American population. Furthermore, this minor incident that is getting this attention, covers up the more significant problem of the Native American Reservations. Which are in shambles and are in dire need of restoration and rehabilitation within the communities as the current Native American Reservations can barely be considered shelters, seeing as there is nothing sheltering them from drugs, poverty, and lack of education. Finally, to in my opinion to even consider this culturally insensitive to Native American Community, they in my eyes would’ve had to been denouncing there culture, create a false image of them. However, seeing as there was no record of them doing such things, This incident does not deserve the attention and does not compare to the horror that occurs within Native American Reservations.

  2. I think if they arent doing anything disrespectful to the Indians. If they were making the indians look bad or anything like that, then i would say they should take it off.

  3. My opinion is that dressing up as Indians is not bad because people can do what they want. And others should think so much of it.

  4. I think this is just a fun way to celebrate Halloween and they shouldn’t worry about people getting offended it was all for fun and no one was hurt so why should people get worked up.

  5. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with dressing that way on Halloween. I can see how it may be seen as offensive to some people but to me it is in no way insensitive.

  6. I think that people shouldn’t be giving hate towards this couple because I bet if a 8 year old wore the same thing and put it on social media not a single person would criticize it. So if no one criticizes the 8 year old no one should criticize this couple.

  7. I don’t think its wrong for these people to wear these costumes because they are not trying to degrade the Native American culture they are just trying to have fun.

  8. I think that they shouldn’t of gotten negative feed back for their costumes. They obviously had no intentions to offend the Native Americans. If costumes like theirs are sold in stores and other people wear them whats the big deal if someone famous does?

  9. I do not think that this is a big deal. Like the above text says “Halloween is about dressing up in costumes. It’s innocent fun.” I believe people who aren’t apart of this culture shouldn’t be offended but I understand if the Native Americans think that it is offensive because it is their culture and it is also shown that most Native Americans are not offended by the costumes.

  10. I don’t think that it’s wrong. I think that Halloween is just a bunch of fun. Halloween is about dressing up as something you like and having fun.

  11. It’s Halloween, I see it as some people wearing a costume to celebrate the holiday. I understand how it makes people angry, but it’s innocent fun like the article stated.

  12. I think I fine because there at a party and they sell the custom. if they did want to get offended they shoud not sell them in the first place.

  13. In my opinion, people should be able to dress up as Native Americans and Pilgrims because if the majority of Native Americans do not get offended then it shouldn’t be a problem. People dress up as pirates and police officers all the time and I don’t see how it’s any different. Halloween is meant to be fun.

  14. I think this is not disrespectful because it is Halloween and he has a reason to wear that costume, And I feel like it isn’t bad to dress like an Indian… Its not disrespectful… People dress like Army men on Halloween is that bad because of Stolen Valor”

  15. It’s inappropriate when you dress up as a specific culture but if you dress up as a character that’s a specific culture it’s okay, like pocahontas. But dressing up as a native american can be offensive to their culture and people should respect that.

  16. I don’t think it’s a big deal because it’s like a fighting bird, Im sure some bear killed people or a other wild animal. All I see out of it is a name that brought the world as far as it is.

  17. I feel that it can be viewed as disrespectful, but to me its a costume with no drastic features. If the uproar came from Native Americans and it is offensive to them then I can side with them, but if its just regular people looking for something to complain about I dont view this a disrespectful.

  18. I think nothing is wrong with the costumes and its not really a big deal, people are over reacting on this situation. I don’t think its disrespectful at all.

  19. I don’t think it is disrespectful because they didn’t show what the bad side of it. They probably didn’t realize so many people would get offended.

  20. I don’t believe the costumes were bad in anyway. As long as there was no one holding a fork or something for instance, I don’t see the issue. They are not yelling “screw the NA” etc. These costumes are innocent.

  21. I don’t think there is anything wrong with these costumes. I think it was a fun way to celebrate halloween and they weren’t set out to harm anyone. These costumes can be sold in stores and they probably weren’t the only people in the world that wore this. But since they are famous people, they’re making a big deal about it.

  22. These costumes were not disrespectful because Duff and her boyfriend were not expressing the negative parts of history between pilgrim and native american culture. If they were to do so then I would consider the post disrespectful.

  23. I don’t really think this is disrespectful because its not like they were making fun of Pilgrims or Indians , Its Halloween dressing up is what you do.

  24. In my opinion I believe that dressing up as Native Americans and Pilgrims isn´t a bad thing, because most Native Americans are not offended. People dress up as Police Officers all the time and no one is offended by that.

  25. I think this is not disrespectful because they are not stereotyping the Native Americans or pilgrims in anyway. People nowadays will complain about anything they see online that can be manipulated to be seen as disrespectful or offensive.

  26. I don’t think the costumes were disrespectful, they didn’t dress up as a certain culture, and they didn’t mean to offend anyone.

  27. I don’t think Hilary and her boyfriend were being disrespectful at all. They had no intentions to offend anybody or disrespect any culture. They were just trying to have fun and enjoy themselves at a halloween party by dressing up, isn’t that what halloween is all about anyway?

  28. I don’t see it as respectful but I don’t see it disrespectful at all. This costume would only be disrespectful if Jason had a severed head or scalp. He didn’t have anything like that so it cant be disrespectful

  29. Honestly I don’t think this is really a problem. Half of this is just the media and people trying to make it seem like everything celebrities do is disrespectful. There is nothing wrong with dressing up as native Americans or pilgrims. If this has offended people then I guess elementary schools also should offend them. There’s also a person on YouTube that has an Indian head set he wears and no one rips off on him. So basically this is just a way to get them to comment for them, like an attention cry in a way.

  30. It’s not hurting anything. It’s not any different than the washington redskins they had native americans on their team. No reason to make a big deal out of it.

  31. I think that it can be taken the wrong way but they were not doing any actions that make it inappropriate. So because there is nothing inappropriate in this picture it means they did not want to offend anybody, they just were trying to have fun with the costumes.

  32. There was no disrespect meant by Duff and her boyfriend. In no way did the costumes accentuate common native american stereotypes. They simply dressed up as historical figures the same way that people dress up as spartans or hippies.

  33. I don’t believe that they meant harm but I don’t know how they acted at the party. They could have been disrespecting the culture by some of their actions that night. The stores don’t need to stop selling the costume just the people need to stop their actions against their culture.

  34. I feel like this is not a problem. People are only dressing up for the fun of it. If the majority of Native Americans are not offended then I don’t see what the problem is.

  35. I think that the costumes shouldn’t have offended Native Americans because Halloween is meant for fun and to dress up as something that you normally aren’t. I could see how one could get offended by this however him dressing up as an Indian had no intention to be discourteous to anyone.

  36. I personally don’t think they are doing anything to hurt or disobey Indians. That is what Halloween is about is dressing up in unquiet costumes and having fun with it. When people dress up as Indians they don’t plan on intentionally being racist in anyway.

  37. I don’t believe that Duff and her boyfriend’s costumes were disrespectful. They displayed no negativity towards Native Americans. Walsh did not mock Native Americans at all. All they did was dress up as Native American and pilgrim for a harmless Halloween costume.

  38. I don’t think this was disrespectful in the slightest. As was said before, Halloween is about dressing up in costumes and it is innocent fun. It wasn’t meant to offend anyone. It was simply a Halloween costume.

  39. I don’t see it as a sign of disrespect and neither did the couple. If they had they wouldn’t have posted a picture of it for millions of people to see. I think with the internet people with big followings have to be aware that they have many different people with many different values who will see what they post.

  40. I don’t think that they were trying to offend anyone by dressing up. Halloween is just for fun, and I think some people can take a costume and put way more meaning into it than it was intended for.

  41. Duff and her boyfriend were not hurting anybody by dressing as Indians. Certain people will always be offended by things. They were just having fun and I don’t see it as an issue.

  42. I think it is not insensitive because it is just a costume. They sell a bunch of Indian and pilgrim costumes in the stores. Plus many other people in the world wear those “offensive” costumes but never get hate.

  43. I don’t believe that they should be getting worldwide hat for this. Halloween is all about having fun, but nowadays people will take any opportunity to complain about others because it makes them feel as they are some amazing saint who would never be so disrespectful.

  44. I don’t see it as disrespectful because I am Greek, and I don’t get offended when people dress up as a spartan. So why should native Americans get offended when people dress up like them? People need to stop taking things personally and start having fun with their lives.

  45. I don’t see anything wrong with this. I feel like they didn’t disrespect either culture because they didn’t try to make the costumes funny or disrespectful. I think the only reason this sparked anything is because they are both famous. No one, in my opinion, would think twice if they saw a couple walking down the street with their kids trick or treating dressed like these two.

  46. I think that is okay to dress up as what they did, it was not disrespectful. They did not mean it in a negative way at all so it should not have been blasted the way it was.

  47. I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. I think it’s just having fun, it’s the one day out of the year that you can dress up as what you want to be. I think it should be let go by everyone because it’s not a big deal. They never had any intentions to make the pilgrims or Native Americans look bad in any way, they just went to a party. In this case, it’s innocent fun.

  48. I dont think its wrong to dress up as a Native American. I dont think its disrespectful because Halloween is so people can dress up and be whatever they want it to be. It wasnt meant to offend anyone it was just for fun.

  49. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the couple dressing up as an Indian and a pilgram. Unless they were being rude to Indians and making battle cries and other stuff.

  50. I dont think that it is a disrespectfully at all. Its not like he is dressing up with any blood on it or something like that. The majority of the people must not think that it is disrespect because they sell already made costums.

  51. I feel as if this isn’t that big of deal because all they want to do is have fun, and people are taking things way to seriously.

  52. I say that this couple are fine wearing what they are wearing because they are just having a good time at a party and they wore a costume that they bought.

  53. No we should not stop letting people wear that as a constume because Halloween is meant for people to dress in other cultures, other characters. Halloween is meant to be fun, no one should take offense to any cultural costume.

  54. I don’t feel like they disrespected or intended on doing so, i just feel like the people feeling “disrespected” are blowing it up with now point.

  55. Honestly, I think this is kind of ridiculous, this happened what, a century ago? Two? these people are focusing on the past and it blinds them. Its just a Halloween costume! Let it go!

    1. Well, logan i may agree that this is ridiculous, but this is still a problem today and it needs to be handled apoprletly

  56. I don’t think that they were trying to offend anyone. That being said, some people do take offense to these types of situations, so I think that we should just bew careful not to over exaggerate things like the actual red skin. That is actually offensive.

  57. I don’t believe that they were trying to offend someone. They were just having fun on Halloween and that was the costume they just so happened to pick out. If they were doing anything disresepectful then of course that’s not okay, but if they weren’t I feel their costumes were fine.

  58. I don’t find the costume they wore to be disrespectful in any way, if 90% of Native Americans don’t find it disrespectful or offensive why are men and women who have no ties to Native American culture being offended? Florida State “Seminoles” have established great relations with the Seminole tribe and Tribe leaders even attend games! People nowadays love to be so politically correct about everything.

  59. I think it these costumes should not be worn because it is a part of a culture. you cant appropriate a culture for a costume that you will wear one time for one night. native americans view these as sacred and if we wear them as a joke or as a costume then they could be offended.

  60. I believe wearing a costume of another culture is appropriate when it is done respectfully and in gratitude of the culture. When costumes are worn maliciously against a culture it is offensive, but done in the right spirit, it can be politically correct.

  61. I think it is perfectly acceptable to dress up as a Native American if it is just as a costume. If you are trying to make fun of those people it is not okay. Since hilary and her boyfriend are doing it as a costume and not as an insult it is acceptable.

  62. I am a native american and I think it is offensive because it shouldn’t be a costume. Native American people have got through so much and it personally think it is disrespectful. Because costumes are meant to be funny and this matter is not funny.

  63. I think on halloween, It’s okay to dress up as whatever. It’s all in good fun. As long as the costumes aren’t obviously racist or discrimanatory such as black face or something, I don’t think it should be an issue. When someone dresses up as an indian, I think they’re dressing up as more of the culture rather than discriminating against the specific people.

  64. I think this is offensive toward different cultures. It is discriminating against cultures and mocking their attire. It clearly is meant to be “just a costume” yet it shows that people think cultural attire is a costume which is offensive.

  65. As long as the costume doesn’t reflect offensive stereotypes or is meant to make a joke of a culture I feel it should fine. Dressing in a headdress really doesn’t say anything. All it is is wearing a costume of a specific culture from a specific time. It’s basically the equivalent of a white person getting angry at me for dressing like a medieval knight. It’s silly to be blunt about it.

    1. I don’t see these “costumes” as Halloween costumes. If I were to wear a Native “costume,” it would put me in their point of view.

  66. I think it is offensive to certain cultures. Even though it is meant to be funny it is still discriminating because it is worn in a way to make people laugh.

  67. I think this kind of offensive because they are using someones race for a Halloween costume. That is like someone dressing up as a slave for Halloween. But this is common for this country and has to change because we are never going to get better as a unit.

  68. When in doubt about the possibility the costume is offensive, avoid it. A person might think the choice is no big deal without realizing that it could be.
    A problem that can arise is going overboard with the situation as in all the racist discussion which borders on ridiculous and causes more conflict than it fixes.
    Without no intention of minimalizing the seriousness of the disrespectful Native American regalia which makes a woman look like a slut, I suppose if the costume issue continues, animal rights people will complain about bear and rabbit costumes. That poor little bunny might get scared of that huge bunny. Or, what if there really is a man out in space whose costume you are mimicking?
    We need to be sure our efforts to be respectful are not turned inside-out and creating a larger problem to deal with.

  69. Yes, parents absolutely DO have to tell a 6 year old girl she can’t wear a feather in her hair and explain to her WHY she shouldn’t. We should already be having these conversations with our children. Feathers are sacred and EARNED in Native American culture, and to wear one for a costume is incredibly disrespectful.

  70. It’s NOT who we dress up as, it’s how we do it that’s offensive. Indigenous people are too smart to let it slide because we’ve been doing it all wrong. If one of them were to make fun of white people I’d be okay with it. Because otherwise it’s my fault for letting that offend me.

  71. I thin its good that Hilary Duff said sorry because not all people would do that. For me i´m doing a project on native Americans, and I realize that people don always know what they did and wont say sorry. But I am happy Hilary said sorry and what he truly thought.