issues and experts

SFU expert on cultural appropriation and Halloween

October 25, 2018

This Halloween many children, and some adults, will dress in costumes that some may find offensive. These include Native American princesses, hula dancers and sheiks—some inspired by Disney movies targeted at children. Annually, this prompts debate and anger from those who hate to see their culture turned into a stereotype.

SFU archaeology professor George Nicholas is available to provide commentary on this issue.

“Western society has, for centuries, turned to the cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples worldwide as a source of inspiration for stories, art, architecture, and more,” says Nicholas. “In North America, this is seen in tribal names for sports teams, rock art designs on clothing, and the use of sweat lodges in New Age religious practices, to name but three examples. Often these uses are justified as “an appreciation of a great culture that lies in the past.” For Indigenous North Americans, however, these appropriations of their heritage amount to the unauthorized use of items and expressions that are still important within a very-much-living culture.”

Nicholas is the former director of the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) Project, which has developed many resources to aid people make better informed decisions about how they use elements of other peoples’ heritage.

George Nicholas, archaeology, 778.782.5709,
Justin Wong, University Communications, 778.782.3035,