Evan Agostini/Invision/AP images
"Harry Potter" author is launching a series called "Magic in North America," a four-part backstory for this fall's film adaptation of the Potter prequel "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." Announced Monday, March 7, 2016, on Rowling's Web site, www.pottermore.com, "Magic in North America" will run in installments Tuesday-Friday on Pottermore.

J.K. Rowling On Native American Wizards - Called Skin Walkers on Pottermore Website

Vincent Schilling
3/9/16

Lovers of Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling’s  works can see Native American ‘Skin Walkers’ written about in her newest installment of wizarding history on the Pottermore website entitled, “History of Magic in North America.” But not everyone is happy about it.

The reviews on social media have been in violent opposition as many assert Rowling has no right to appropriate Native American culture, while others state this is just another mystical installment of Rowling’s fantasy writings.

Rendering of a 'Skin Talker' on the Pottermore website.

From the Pottermore website:

The Native American magical community and those of Europe and Africa had known about each other long before the immigration of European No-Majs in the seventeenth century. They were already aware of the many similarities between their communities. Certain families were clearly ‘magical’, and magic also appeared unexpectedly in families where hitherto there had been no known witch or wizard. The overall ratio of wizards to non-wizards seemed consistent across populations, as did the attitudes of No-Majs, wherever they were born.

Rowling also says that in Native American communities, some witches and wizards were accepted and even lauded within their tribes, and gained reputations for healing as medicine men, or outstanding hunters. 

Rowling describes the legend of the Native American ‘skin walker’ – as an evil witch or wizard that can transform into an animal at will – which grew up around the Native American Animagi, that had sacrificed close family members to gain their powers of transformation.

She refutes the false claims of the legend and writes:

[T]he majority of Animagi assumed animal forms to escape persecution or to hunt for the tribe. Such derogatory rumours often originated with No-Maj medicine men, who were sometimes faking magical powers themselves, and fearful of exposure.

The Native American wizarding community was particularly gifted in animal and plant magic, its potions in particular being of a sophistication beyond much that was known in Europe. The most glaring difference between magic practised by Native Americans and the wizards of Europe was the absence of a wand.

One Native voice on social media that has received considerable media exposure has been Dr. Adrienne Keene.

On the Refinery 29 website Keene says: "But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions," Keene writes. "Traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as badass as that wizarding world is)."

Buzzfeed has also caught wind of the angry Native voices and posted them.

J.K. Rowling’s representatives declined ICTMN’s requests for comments. 

 

Follow ICTMN's Arts and Entertainment Editor and Contributor Vincent Schilling on Twitter @VinceSchilling

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bullbear's picture
bullbear
Submitted by bullbear on
These skinwalkers carry very, very powerful bad medicine. They have the ability to effect anyone in emotionally and psychologically debilitating manners on long-term basis. If you know anything about it from what medicine people and tribal elders pass on through their experience, you will do all you can to steer clear of it in any manner possible. My senses tell me that there will individuals who will suffer by their willful interrelationship and characterization of these very real bad medicine practices. It can effect you and your family, regardless of their distance. This is "not magic or wizardry" by any stretch of the imagination. I have experienced how it can effect an entire community - it is bone chilling, even as I recall that sensation some 40 years ago.

turbojesus's picture
turbojesus
Submitted by turbojesus on
And she gained her powers from the final solution. She could hide out among the Nazis with her aryan super race attitude and looks.

Juliet's picture
Juliet
Submitted by Juliet on
Thanks a lot, racists of the past. Nobody comes away from 'Black Sabbath' (a Mario Bava film) or 'Suspiria' (Dario Argento) with the idea that Italy or Germany are hotbeds of supernatural evil. This is true even with the long history of belief in evil witchcraft and sorcery throughout Europe. Nor does anyone read H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King and think that New England must be purged of the followers of evil. Part of this is that we know our own culture and so aren't going to think that the real-world people of a given area are (or were) like the fictional people of a movie, television episode, or book/short story. Heck, inventing a region awash with Devil-worshippers and evil magicians is not even necessary. But when it comes to Native Americans (and other indigenous peoples in lands the Europeans conquered), a writer can invent completely fictional ethnic groups loathed by non-fictional groups -- and stupid bigots will immediately tar the ENTIRE population with the 'primitive, evil, devil-worshipping' label. And that's without getting into the issue of appropriation. Rowling here doesn't take into account the variety of Native American ethnic groups and their beliefs about shapechangers and magic. Some, like the Dineh skinwalker, ARE evil: social deviants who willingly perform evil magic and do whatever it takes to gain that power, all for selfish, personal, ends (and such exist in every culture). Other ethnic groups define shapechangers and magic in more positive ways. Really, she would do better to stay away from non-European peoples. If she wants to increase the Potterverse, she could invite knowledgeable people to contribute to it and listen to what people have to say.

mem's picture
mem
Submitted by mem on
...if anyone believes that this women will respect any culture must be living in a cave. There has never been culture respect by the majority of those from across the Atlantic. The Europeans can not use the word "conquer" when it comes to human beings in the Americas but instead they took full advantage of the naivete of these beautiful beings and in their insatiable greed committed horrendous crimes against them and continue to do so.

WhiteManWanting's picture
WhiteManWanting
Submitted by WhiteManWanting on
One might wonder what the response might have been from the Christian community if Rowling had re-branded Jesus Christ as a magician and wizard, training his Apostles in the "craft." 'Tis easier to misuse some groups more than others in further lining one's pockets.... But perhaps Ms. Rowling was under the impression that the existence of actual Indians was only a myth that was perpetuated by history books, and thus fair game.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I'll probably catch hell for this, but I think we're being too sensitive in this instance. Rowling has written a book of FICTION (for those of you who don't read, that means IT'S NOT TRUE). Stories of skin walkers have abounded in Native lore and unless we're willing to censor everyone those stories continue to be told or written about. Rowling doesn't appear to use Native lore in a derogatory manner and seems to be respectful in her mention of Native lore. My question is why must we be so sensitive when a non-Native mentions our beliefs or uses our lore to create a FICTIONAL story? Do I, as a Native have the right to compose a story about a Japanese ghost (after researching Japanese folklore)?
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