Native Americans accuse JK Rowling of appropriation

London: “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling has been accused of appropriating the “living tradition of a marginalized people” by writing about the Navajo legend of the skinwalker in a new story.

The logo of the controversial story. Pic/PottermoreThe logo of the controversial story. Pic/Pottermore

Rowling posted the first part of a four-part series, the “History of Magic in North America” on her website Pottermore, on March 8, depicting the magical history of America within her fictional universe of witches and wizards.

JK Rowling. Pic/AFPJK Rowling. Pic/AFP

The series of stories, titled “A History of Magic in North America”, will give fans the historical background to the latest “Harry Potter” film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, ahead of its November release.

But it has upset a number of Native American writers and activists, who have objected to the new material’s depiction of their spiritual beliefs. In particular, the inclusion of characters based on the Native American concept of ‘skinwalkers’ – humans who can transform into animals at will – in publicity materials and a video trailer have led to accusations of cultural insensitivity.

Twitter ire
Dr Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee scholar, called out the novelist on Twitter, posting, “You can't just claim and take a living tradition of a marginalized people. That’s straight up colonialism/appropriation @jk_rowling.” Navajo writer Brian Young wrote on Twitter, “My ancestors didn't survive colonisation so you could use our culture as a convenient prop.” Rowling’s representatives are yet comment on the issue.

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