OU’s Panhellenic Association and Pi Beta Phi chapter have apologized for the actions of a sorority member who wore a Pocahontas costume for Halloween.
After Reagan West, a Pi Beta Phi member, posted photos of her costume to Twitter and Instagram Nov. 1, OU students and community members responded with backlash on social media.
Y'all are making me hate Halloween. DO. NOT. DO. RED. FACE. You are old enough to know better than this. pic.twitter.com/PdrxHQhzgZ— alex 🍂 (@AlexandriaSHolt) November 2, 2017
In the posts, West said Pocahontas is her “great grandma a lot of years ago.” West later deleted both the tweet and the Instagram post, but tweeted an apology statement Nov. 2 saying she has “Native American family roots” and that she now understands “the sensitivity of some regarding this subject matter.”
“I am truly sorry if I unintentionally offended anyone in the Native American community with my Pocahontas Halloween costume,” West said in the written statement on Twitter. “It was never my intent to be disrespectful ... I am thankful for this opportunity to further educate myself about the Native American culture, and specifically how Native American women have been treated throughout the years.”
Nichole Krug, president of OU’s Panhellenic Association, released a statement on behalf of the organization apologizing for the incident and recognizing that the costume is “deeply disrespectful to the Native American community.”
“It is disappointing that a Panhellenic woman would choose to wear something that appropriates another culture after numerous educational opportunities offered by the Panhellenic leadership,” the statement said. “The apology in no way takes away the pain inflicted upon and still being felt by the Native community here at the university.”
OU Pi Beta Phi president Carly Norwood also released a statement calling West’s actions “cultural appropriation.”
“There is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, and Pi Beta Phi has worked with its chapters on understanding the impact of their Halloween costume choices,” the statement said. “The choice made by one University of Oklahoma Pi Beta Phi member to dress like Pocahontas is cultural appropriation and not an example of living Pi Beta Phi’s value of Honor and Respect.”
Before Halloween, Panhellenic posted an Instagram photo with a caption that said “Don’t forget, culture is not a costume!”
Krug said in a statement that OU Panhellenic Association is taking appropriate action to rectify the situation, but did not specify what disciplinary action would be taken.