JK Rowling has been accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ in her new four-part story series, set to detail the history of magic in North America.
The series, which has gone live on her Pottermore website, sits in tandem to the forthcoming movie 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, set in the USA prior to the 'Harry Potter’ series and out later this year.
In the first of her 'Magic In North America’ stories, she uses Native American beliefs, specifically those of Navajo 'skin-walkers’, as part of her wider descriptions of magic and 'animagi’ – wizards who can transform into animals – seen on the continent.
You can check out the trailer for it here…
She writes: “In the Native American community, some witches and wizards were accepted and even lauded within their tribes, gaining reputations for healing as medicine men, or outstanding hunters.
“However, others were stigmatised for their beliefs, often on the basis that they were possessed by malevolent spirits.
“The legend of the Native American 'skin walker’ - an evil witch or wizard that can transform into an animal at will — has its basis in fact… the majority of Animagi assumed animal forms to escape persecution or to hunt for the tribe.”
But commentators on Native American culture have slammed her 'appropriation’ of the term.
Dr Adrienne Keene, who runs the website Native Appropriations, has taken the writer to task for using the beliefs in her 'fantasy’ world.
“These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected. The fact that the trailer [for the series] even mentions the Navajo concept of skinwalkers sends red flags all over the place,” she wrote in a furious post.
“We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors.
“Colonization erases our humanity, tells us that we are less than, that our beliefs and religions are 'uncivilized’, that our existence is incongruent with modernity.
“How in the world could a young person watch this and not make a logical leap that Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter?”
She tweeted Rowling too, adding: “It’s not 'your’ world. It’s our (real) Native world. And skin walker stories have context, roots, and reality.
“You can’t just claim and take a living tradition of a marginalized people. That’s straight up colonialism/appropriation.”
Brian Young, a Navajo author, tweeted that he was 'heart-broken’ by it all.
“My ancestors didn’t survive colonisation so you could use our culture as a convenient prop,” he wrote.
Thus far Rowling, usually prolific on social media, has not addressed the concerns.
Image credits: PA/Warner Bros/Twitter