Debatable: The problems with the Princess Pocahontas Pageant and Ball

The Magnet Tribune: Creative Commons license
This is a closeup of the statue Pocahontas is buried under at Saint George’s Church in Gravesend, Kent, England.

Angie Bravo, Debatable columnist

As part of Washington’s annual birthday celebration, the Princess Pocahontas Pageant and Ball is described as “homage to the Native American culture” on its website. Oddly enough, while trying to respect Pocahontas, the website refers to the Natives as “Indians” throughout the description. Not only using language that is wrongly addressing them but overall promoting cultural appropriation and racism through the very existence of the pageant and ball.

Cultural appropriation is taking parts of one culture and adopting them as one’s own. If you are not native and are using that attire specific to the native culture you are part of the problem. Wearing outfits and headdresses sacred in Native culture and paying to wear them as a fashion statement means degrading the oppression Natives had to endure for years and overall reducing them to nothing but a fashion item.

You can try to argue it is a celebration, not appropriation, but this is not how you celebrate. You do not celebrate by taking sacred clothing items and pasting a made-up Native name to your outfit and making a profit off of it; yes, I am talking to you Princess Pocahontas coordinators, organizers and participants. I am absolutely perplexed as to how this “celebration” picked out names for its participants and thought it was okay to reduce the entirety of the culture for the sake of money.

By maintaining this pageant and ball up and running not only are you perpetuating racism but as well as ingraining in people that it is okay to keep addressing the Native population as Indian and that their culture is nothing more than something to be taken advantage of.

Scholarships can come as a result of participating in this event and seniors are in desperation of receiving money but to decide again, that it is okay to gain money at the expense of others is not okay.

Ultimately, though the Princess Pocahontas Pageant and Ball is justified to be a celebration, it is anything but. It simply serves to carry a cyclical form of violence of cultural appropriation and racism. As a community, it must be understood that the event needs to come to an end. Slowly but surely, we need to make a move away from these kinds of events so we are no longer part of the problem but rather, part of the solution.