First of all, it’s not a costume. It’s regalia, and there’s a big difference. Arawak Nation descendant Claudia A. Fox Tree, entered the World of Wellesley Martin Luther King Day, Jr., Breakfast beating a drum. She wore Arawak regalia and spoke her Nation’s language as the crowd of 75 at MassBay Community College listened. When she finished, Fox Tree explained the difference between her actions and those of someone dressed up for Halloween.
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“A costume is something someone puts on when they are trying to be someone or something else,” the keynote speaker said. Wearing regalia, a traditional style of indigenous peoples’ attire, has cultural and/or religious significance to the wearer. The point is that when an indigenous person wears regalia, that person is choosing to identify with his or her own culture.
From there the public school special education teacher delivered a talk designed to expand the audience’s ideas about Native Americans. Fox Tree laid on the line Christopher Columbus’ intentions when in 1492 he made first contact with Fox Tree’s tribe and other Native populations on the various Caribbean islands on which he landed. His confidence in his ability to conquer, and his intent to do so, came through in his journal. On his third night