Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Today’s princess is Pocahontas.
About the Look
I grew up in a very liberal college town in New England. The harmony and fellowship of the first Thanksgiving was the version of indigenous history I was taught in school. And it was the version of Thanksgiving we celebrated in my family by opening our home to international students and visiting artists for the holiday. We always had somewhere between three and eight visitors who couldn’t go home for the break and often it was their first exposure to Thanksgiving. So every year my family explained its significance.
Growing up, I loved Pocahontas. My local library had a series of biographies for kids and I read every one. The stories I liked best, like Pocahontas, I borrowed over and over. I loved her so much and so long that it became something I was known for. In 1995, my then boyfriend got us tickets to the Boston premiere of the Disney film that included a pre-show with parks performers. For years my friend in Virginia would send me her “I Voted” stickers because they feature Pocahontas. My brother gifted me the Disney Animator’s Collection doll.
I don’t know the exact title of the Pocahontas biography I first read, but it was probably one like this— sanitized for little white girl consumption. The Pocahontas I fell in love with wasn’t the Disney princess, but she wasn’t the real Native girl either. Her real history is a tragedy. Note that the top review of the book linked in that article, the first account of Pocahontas written by a Native author, gives it one star because it’s “littered with historical inaccuracies”. I think that says it all.
I visited Jamestown thirteen years ago and I wore this top that reminded me of Pocahontas. It’s not a costume, I styled myself the way I would any other day, and I did it to celebrate her. Dressing up is how I show my appreciation and affection as evidenced by this entire project. But it was still in poor taste and I’m sorry. Today, I want to do better.
For more on Pocahontas, Jamestown, and the complicated history of America, I strongly recommend the episode of the podcast “Nice Try!” Jamestown: Utopia for Whom.
About My Look
Non-white cosplayers get push back all the time under the guise of “authenticity” and I want to state for the record that I support any and every non-white cosplayer who portrays a white character in any way they want. My everyday cosplays are never authentic, that’s the point, but it was very important to me to create a look that respects Native culture.
Q: CAN NON-NATIVES WEAR 'YOU ARE ON NATIVE LAND' PRODUCTS? A: YES! WE MADE THE 'YOU ARE ON NATIVE LAND' DESIGN WITH THE INTENTION FOR ALL TO WEAR.
I’m wearing it with cut-offs, a brown leotard, and Steve Madden boots, all of which I already owned, and the boots were initially purchased secondhand. I was unable to find a turquoise necklace sold by Natives that was within my price range, so I chose not to wear one. I am wearing nylons because it’s October in Connecticut, but they are fair skinned like me. My make-up is simple, just mascara, lip balm (Burt’s Bees) and the same pink sunscreen I wore for Harley and Cinderella.
All of these photos were taken in my yard (which is Native land, it’s all Native land). The cemetery next to my house has a disturbing history with regards to Native culture. And my town infamously erected a statue to Christopher Columbus in 1996 (I mean, YIKES). It was removed this past summer. We must do better every day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is every day.