First and foremost, I want to say that I am not a Native American. I am very much white. With that, I also want to mention that I am a cultural anthropologist, so I do have sensitivity towards these issues, especially concerning indigenous peoples of the Americas. With my limitations in understanding due to ethnicity, I admit that it’s very possible that I’ll be disrespectful, and if that happens I apologize and don’t mean for it to be that way.
So why am I talking about this on here? Because it deals with my two worlds, geekdom and anthropology.
I imagine many of you have heard or read about the controversy surrounding JK Rowling’s writings where she talks about Native American wizardry, more specifically legends revolving around Skin Walkers and her version of fictional history that surrounds the concept to fit her world.
Rowling is receiving a lot of flak from the Native community regarding her writing and choice of words. If you haven’t already, I recommend you stop reading my post and read Dr. Adrienne Keene’s post as it is from her point of view as a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Keene brings up a lot of fantastic and valid points of how Rowling’s writing is damaging towards indigenous people of North America. I know that there are countless people siding with Rowling and telling those that are opposed to her short story to basically “get over it, it’s just fiction.” But what they don’t realize is that Native American people have been royally screwed over countless times in all forms of life, including media. So when this story appeared, of course people were going to get upset.
It’s actually pretty complicated. I have friends that are Native and I’ve heard both sides from them. Those that didn’t care and say it’s just fiction also said if native people have such a problem with it, then they should write the stories. And then those that are against it said that there are things that shouldn’t be talked about, such as skin walkers.
From my limited understanding, skin walkers are bad juju and even saying it out loud if you believe in them is like an invitation for bad things to happen. So with Rowling talking about skin walkers and opening up this dialogue for people who don’t know or understand the multitude of different indigenous cultures, especially those with skin walkers or other variants, I imagine it becomes overwhelming. Couple that with the different levels of disrespect, knowingly or not, it’s easy to see why this subject has upset so many.
The best advice I can offer to everyone in this situation is to consider the other side and be calm and respectful about it. Don’t start devaluing opinions of others because they don’t line up with yours. Being respectful and explaining your side without anger or resentment can go a long way to help others understand.