Siv’s ‘Pocahontas’ stunt backfired

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Finance Minister Siv Jensen set off quite a fuss over her decision to attend an autumn party at the finance ministry last weekend, dressed as Pocahontas. The photo she posted of herself on social media set off a torrent of criticism that surprised her, while others rushed to her defense.

After a busy week with the opening of Parliament and presenting the state budget, Finance Minister Siv Jensen literally let her hair down and attended an autumn costume party at the ministry itself. Her choice of costume set off great debate when she posted this photo of herself on social media. PHOTO: Instagram

“This is shameful and incredibly disrespectful,” railed one of the hundreds of comments posted under the photo of Jensen posing on the stairs inside the ministry. It shows her wearing a dress adorned with fringes, and a wig with black pigtails and headdress.

Kenzie Allen, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin in the US who has ties to both Norway and the Oneida people, commented that people using such a costume may not understand the culture of indigenous people or the oppression they’ve experienced. Indigenous people often are reduced to caricatures, she noted, but criticism of the practice is rising. Some major department stores, stocked with costumes in the run-up to Halloween, have removed so-called “Indian costumes” from their shelves.

One person objecting to Jensen’s costume choice emblazoned the photo with the message “Other people’s culture is not a costume.” Christina Hansen, a former member of the Sami Parliament (Sametinget), said she was “shocked” by Jensen’s costume choice, clearly disturbed that “a representative of the government dresses up as someone who’s been oppressed for several hundred years. That’s like playing with people’s culture.”

Others defended Jensen, with her state secretary Petter Kvinga Tvedt saying he “hoped folks wouldn’t be so easily offended and have more tolerance than this.” Confronted with Hansen’s criticism, Tvedt said that “if indigenous people want to have a discussion about this, they can. There’s freedom of expression in Norway. But I think she should have a twinkle in her eye. Jensen could have dressed up like a pirate instead, this isn’t meant to denounce the Indians.”

Opposition politicians Hadia Tajik of the Labour Party commented wryly that she thought Jensen was “a fine Pocahontas,” and was more critical of her politics. TV celebrity Davy Wathne wondered whether it would be considered blasphemous to attend a costume party dressed as Jesus.

Jensen herself told Tvedt that she thought the debate over her costume choice had spiraled beyond reason. “She’s had a lot support in social media, and it seems like most folks don’t understand the powerful reaction to her costume,” he said. “In Norway there are many who dress up as cowboys or Indians or pirates, we go from Bollywood parties to toga parties, have fun and laugh. This has absolutely nothing to do with ridiculing minorities, indigenous people or other groups.” Berglund

  • Jim

    How easily offended these delicate snow flakes are.. Get over yourselves its just a fancy dress costume.
    Halloween is just round the corner are black metallers Goths or Satanists going to be upset because people are dressing up ?? Maybe if Siv came down those stairs in an SS uniform? well now then they might have something to say… 😉

    • John Palmer

      I agree. Those who choose to take offense do so by their own choice. Consider the intent of the individual. The circumstances. Is it too harsh for me to say, “Get a life!”

  • richard albert

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeal it.” To paraphrase Santayana.

    This is such a bloody stupid controversy that I almost hesitate to comment. Never mind. Perhaps Siv Jensen just picked the wrong meme. Please see:

    As a second/fifth generation Brit/Scot, I guess I could take offense at a Native American Princess tricked out as Victoria Regina. Stuart bloodline and all that rot.

    Further, “Richard Albert” is a nom de guerre acquired while working in broadcasting. My actual surname has caused me no end of amusement by being conflated with certain Amerindian celebrities. Got kicked out of a barbershop, once.

    Native Americans, crypto aborigines, and wee Scotsmen do not need, want, nor welcome revisionists, apologists, post-colonial liberals, nor Euro-trash to “defend” us. We all have thriving, robust cultures with the means, the will, and the intelligence to do very nicely, thank you. Take your Lamarkist conciets elsewhere. (Something about Sami politicos who don’t speak…)

    Where is your outrage at vikings being charactered as having horns protruding from their helmets? There is not one archaeological example. We hail the landing of Leif Erickson. Conversely, should that be diminished for the viking depredations at Iona and Lindesfarne? What say you now?

    Quiz for European Amerindian outragers: What is a Jiisakiiwin ceremony? What is the significance of “Garryowen”? Who was Jack Wilson (AKA Quoitze Ow)? Googling is cheating. Three out of three – knowledgeable. Two of three – good. One of three – lucky. Zero – go have some lutefisk.

    My greatest regret is, that the perpetrators of this lunacy will never see the salient comments of this community, greater yet; they would discount it.

  • richard albert

    So let me see if I have this straight. She would have looked like this if her schooling was more rigorous? Wow! 🙂