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Dressing Up for Halloween? A Person’s Culture is Not a Costume

native american female with text: my culture is not a costume native american male with text: my culture is not a costume native american female with text: my culture is not a costume

The American Indian Program at Scottsdale Community College is raising awareness of culturally insensitive Halloween costumes by participating in the national “My Culture is Not a Costume” poster campaign. 

SCC students, faculty and staff are sending in photos showing their traditional Native attire (some of them are depicted on this page). The purpose of this activity is to enhance cultural awareness while promoting, planning, and integrating school and community activities that stimulate the growth of American Indian students and all students. Regardless of intentions, cultural appropriation perpetuates harmful stereotypes. 

The campaign will be online beginning October 18, 2021 to raise awareness for Halloween, and run through November for Native American Heritage Month.

“Minimizing and stereotyping of our diverse cultures has incited violence against Native communities for generations. Our histories include a great deal of trauma,” said Ana Cuddington, SCC’s American Indian Director and member of the Akimel O'otham tribe, Gila River Indian Community. “As an indigenous person, I am not a costume, and you are not me. You go home and remove your costume of choice. These truths we cannot ‘take off’ at the end of the night. It is who we are, and we cannot change that. I am me. There is no costume to remove.”

Instead of dressing in a costume portraying Native people, Cuddington suggests taking time to reflect and understand Native American history and culture. She says what’s important is getting to know Native people and their beauty, strength, intelligence, and resilience. 

“As you choose a costume, please remember, it should not reflect someone's personal identity or culture,” she added.

The American Indian Program at SCC was created in the 1970s to address the constantly changing and highly diverse educational needs of American Indian students and communities. The mission of the American Indian Program is to provide comprehensive academic and personal support that promotes opportunities for a successful and enhanced college experience for the American Indian student. This ties in with SCC’s unique location on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The American Indian Program provides a wide variety of programs and services that are designed to assist students in their educational and personal development.

In addition, SCC offers degree and certificate programs in American Indian Studies and Sustaining and Advancing Indigenous Nations which provide an interdisciplinary opportunity to develop a wider scope of understanding of American Indians, their traditions, struggles, and aspirations for sovereignty and self-determination. Students are provided with instruction and academic support in courses unique to the political, legal, economic, and social status of Indigenous peoples and their respective communities. 

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