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Two posts ago I mentioned that my daughter had chosen to dress as an American Indian for Hallowe’en. I was taken to task by a commenter for failing to think about the issues raised by such a choice.

I immediately saw her point and agreed with it. If my son had said he was dressing up as “a black person,” there’d be no question of allowing it. The fact that I knew Erin was doing it out of admiration (based on excellent recent curricula in her class) is beside the point: dressing up as a representative of an entire ethnic group — let alone an abstract collection of groups under a label like “American Indian” — is the very definition of stereotyping.

But now there’s been a very interesting development. Erin came to me last night, completely unprompted, and said, “I decided I’m not just an Indian anymore. I’m Sacagawea.” She was beaming.

Sacagawea. This seemed to instantly reframe the issue for me. Sacagawea — a historical person of great achievement — is a genuine hero to Erin right now. Whether or not it clears the issue entirely (I somehow doubt that), this does seem to move the gesture in the direction of tribute.

What do you think?

sacagawea
Erin as Sacagawea
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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.