To begin, I’d like to apologize.
Last Friday, the Gazette published the column “Please dress up as Moana this Halloween.” In the column, the author, Rita Rahmati, intended to start a discussion about which costumes are appropriate to wear on Halloween and which are not. She argued it should be okay for people to dress up as fictional characters for Halloween, citing Pocahontas as an example.
Reflecting on this, I practiced poor editorial judgement publishing the column. The column’s statements about Pocahontas were problematic, and I’m sorry for the offense and harm I caused Western University’s Indigenous community. As many pointed out, Pocahontas was not a fictional character — she was a real-life person who faced horrible ordeals in her lifetime and to wear a Pocahontas costume, regardless of circumstances, is cultural appropriation. In particular, the Disney movie Pocahontas was produced without Indigenous consultation or consent, perpetuating harmful fallacies about Indigenous peoples and their histories. It is not a story we should celebrate or trivialize through Halloween or otherwise.
Having joined the author of the column in discussing these issues with the president of the Indigenous Students Association, Kaitlyn Powless, and the acting director of Western’s Indigenous Services, Amanda Myers, I know the Gazette can do better. In addition to adding an editor’s note to the original column and this apology, the Gazette will also arrange training with one of Western’s visiting elders. I am using the column as a teaching opportunity for myself and my newsroom — it is crucial the Gazette accurately reflects the student experience for Indigenous students on campus in a constructive, meaningful way. I am deeply sorry this column detracted from that mission.
I encourage anyone from the Western community to share their thoughts with me about how the Gazette can do better in this regard. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Going forward, I will strive harder to hold the Gazette to high editorial standards to better serve the Western community.