July 8, 2011

Callaloo Parade and the Sexualization of Native American Women

Sexual Violence is a Tool of Conquest
"Sexual assault rates and violence against Native American women did not just drop from the sky. They are a process of history." - Jacqueline Agtuca

So I just got word of another Native-themed Parade from my friend Melissa. She wrote:

I got a call from a woman today who was livid over a Caribana parade that's going to be happening in Toronto in the next month or so where the theme is "Native America." Here's the website http://callaloo.net/. I passed this around work and we're going to try to do something here to bring attention as to why this is wrong and provide some education as to how this image they are putting forth perpetuates violence against Aboriginal women.

So I checked it out, and this is what I found - The costumes for this year include “Native Apache”:

and “Tribal Princesses”:

and "Sacrificial Mayan Virgins":

Why is this bad? Adrienne Keene at Native Appropriations breaks it down:

But the pervasive "sexy squaw" is the most dangerous, especially when you know the basic facts about sexual violence against Native women:

- 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime
- 70% of sexual violence against Native women is committed by non-Natives

This Amnesty International study details, at great length, the gruesome truth about sexual violence in Indian Country. Also, recently, Vanguard (a show on current TV) did a special called "Rape on the Reservation". The show is about 45 minutes long, but so powerful, and so heartbreaking. Please watch it if you have time, even the intro is enough to shock you back to reality:

Now can you see why my heart breaks and I feel sick every time I see an image of a naked or scantily clad woman in a headdress? This is not just about cultural appropriation. This is about a serious, scary, and continuing legacy of violence against women in Indian Country. By perpetuating the stereotypes of Native women as sexual objects, they are aiding and continuing the cycle of violence.

What can you do? Contact Callaloo and let them know that the images that they are putting out there about Native women are wrong.

"The fact that Native American and Alaska Native women have been dehumanized throughout US history informs present-day attitudes. It helps fuel the high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against them and the high levels of impunity enjoyed by their attackers." - Amnesty International Report

And, if you're still not convinced that this is a serious issue, here is another excerpt from that Amnesty International Report:

"In July 2006 an Alaska Native woman in Fairbanks reported to the police that she had been raped by a non-Native man. She gave a description of the alleged perpetrator and city police officers told her that they were going to look for him. She waited for the police to return and when they failed to do so, she went to the emergency room for treatment. A support worker told Amnesty International that the woman had bruises all over her body and was so traumatized that she was talking very quickly. She said that, although the woman was not drunk, the Sexual Assault Response Team nevertheless "treated her like a drunk Native woman first and a rape victim second". The support worker described how the woman was given some painkillers and some money to go to a non-Native shelter, which turned her away because they also assumed that she was drunk: "This is why Native women don’t report. It’s creating a breeding ground for sexual predators.""


  1. This is absolutely nightmarish. The fact that this isn't widely known outside of Indian Country and that people can put on parades like this without the faintest twinge of guilt just goes to show how far the dehumanization the Amnesty International Report mentions has gone.

  2. The site link mentioned in the article seems to be down now (if you click it from here) but the costumes are still on this page http://callaloo.net/2011-c​ostumes/section8/ That page is listed under 2011 costumes and called "tribal princesses" If you google Callaloo parade, pages from their main site come up.

  3. This is so sick. I am so sick of cultural appropriation and the sexualization of Native women.

    This is why I have a bumper sticker on my truck that says... "Women are Sacred - Violence Against Women is not traditional."

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  6. Thanks for posting this. I'm heading over to the website now to give them a piece of my mind. "Sacrifical Mayan Virgin" takes the cake for being completely misogynistic. I feel ill.


  7. You do not appear to be aware of the history of the Carnival Mas, how it related to people of colour, Caribbean culture, and the celebration of historic alliances between African Diaspora peoples and Native peoples. In New Orleans, the tradition was a specific response to racist laws that placed Native and other POC communities in a common frame of reference. This tradition is almost 200 years old among Caribbean/Diaspora people in North America, and has nothing to do with the things you think it has to do with.

    In short, you are making a tremendous mistake by attacking a part of Afro-Caribbean culture as if this was the same as an expression of White/Euro privilege.

  8. @ deadwardz, this is not an attack on the Afro-Caribbean culture, nor is this an attack on Carnival. These are not Carnival outfits! These are costumes, generally for non-NA women, are for the purpose to dress up and play Injun. These above outfits are not meant to celebrate the NA woman's body, these outfits are reinforcing a stereotype of the sex kitten sqaw.

  9. Thank you so much for this important piece! I am sharing it with friends & on FB. I urge everyone to go to the Callaloo 2 website "contact us" page & write a letter of strong objection to this objectification of First Nations Women.
    Here is a video of what the costumes actually look like with the women modelling them, at the "launch" of this band's 2011 "Caribbean Natives".

  10. This is terrible! 1 in 3?! Those odds are horrendous; absolutely inexcusable.
    I'm British and live in France. If it hadn't been for your blog, I would probably never have known about this problem at all. I've already posted about it on my Twitter; I'm going to share this article with my friends and family on Facebook too.
    Praying for change in mentalities, and protection of women at risk,
    Take care and thank you for sharing awareness about the situation,
    xx Joanna

  11. Thank you so much for writing this blog. There is so much here that needs to be seen and understood. I pray that your work and insight continues to bring awareness and help create a better America where people are able to truly have the same rights without such exploitations.

  12. I want to be a BIA cop for Hallowween so I can "beat" on the fake indians,.lol

  13. These stereotypes are damaging still today. When I was a fully-qualified & degreed computer software consultant for an IBM partner in Tulsa 25 yrs ago, one client told me "I'm not paying no $50 an hour for no damned squaw unless she's flat on her back". Instead of punching him like I wanted to do, I quickly turned around to walk out. Then he said "hey, who is gonna fix my software problem?", so I told him "Go down to XXX exit & pick yourself up a hooker to fix your computer system." I didn't go to college to listen to that kind of ...

  14. This is disgusting!!!! Again someone has taking our culture and ancestral heritage in order to pervert and demean it. If our men and woman are not savages, then they make them as here, sexualized. Our men and woman were great thinkers, creators, leaders, and warriors!!!!!This is unacceptable!!!

  15. That's terrible!! I'm sorry that happened to you :(

  16. I can see how these costumes are perceived, especially via the lens of white domination, and it also raises the question of translation of cultural practices to new locations, with different histories (what might be seen as liberating in one context is oppressive in another). On the other hand, it also points to how little we know about each other (through anti-racism and first nations activism), and does easily leave you open to charges of attacking Caribbean culture (notice I do not limit it to Afro- alone). Carnival originates in the Caribbean which had a large "Amerindian" (the term used there) population (e.g. Taino, Arawak, Carib, etc). Despite genocidal European practices, there has been a resurgence in  acknowledging the fundamental basis of Amerindian contributions to the region, but also, and perhaps more relevant, a movement to recognize Amerindian roots (that is, Europeans did not succeed in killing everyone, Amerindian legacies also live in our blood, through lines of descent). While I can see that upon first glance, this looks like the "sexy squaw" stereotype, remember that all the costumes in Carnival are sexy. The Caribbean has deemed as hyper-sexual through the gaze of whiteness (which you are repeating), however Carnival is also about subversion.

  17. dead wrong.

    just because these people aren't white doesn't make them right. sheesh, the description of these outfits are inaccurate - as an apache, i can say this for sure. it's offensive.

  18. "She said that, although the woman was not drunk, the Sexual Assault Response Team nevertheless "treated her like a drunk Native woman first and a rape victim second".

    It's obvious that they didn't want to help her. They knew she wasn't drunk. This is sickening.