J.K. Rowling Releases First Installment Of ‘History Of Magic In North America,’ Faces Accusations Of Cultural Appropriation

On Tuesday morning, J.K. Rowling published the first installment of a four-part series entitled History of Magic in North America on Pottermore. The Harry Potter author wrote the essay to provide a historical background, which will give fans a better understanding of the fantasy world that will be seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie, which will be released in November this year, is a prequel to the Harry Potter movies, set in 1920s New York.

While many were excited to read J.K. Rowling’s latest work about the wizarding world, there were some who accused the 50-year-old author of cultural appropriation.

In the first installment of History of Magic in North America entitled “Fourteenth Century — Seventeenth Century,” Rowling incorporated spiritual beliefs of the Native Americans into the fantasy world, a move which angered some in the Native American community.

Here are snippets from J.K. Rowling’s latest essay.

“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 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 absense of a wand.”

After J.K. Rowling published the essay, many were quick to accuse the author on Twitter, which spawned the hashtag #MagicinNorthAmerica. According to Mashable, many of Rowling’s accusers say that she can’t just take the beliefs of Native Americans and place them into her fantastical world.

One of the people who responded to Rowling’s work is Dr. Adrienne Keene from the Cherokee Nation, a Brown University post-doctoral fellow in Native American studies. Keene posted a lengthy reaction to History of Magic in North America in her blog, Native Appropriations.

In her post, Keene said that the problem is “Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures,” which shouldn’t be the case, since many still practice their Native American ancestors’ beliefs.

“We’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as bada** as that wizarding world is).

Another part of J.K. Rowling’s writing that was criticized by many is about the “skin-walkers,” which is a very important aspect of some legends from Native American cultures.

A skin walker, as J.K. Rowling describes, is an evil wizard or witch that is able to transform itself into an animal anytime. She also said that these Animagi would sacrifice family members in order to have the power to transform into an animal.

Here are some of the reactions from Twitter.

As of writing, J.K. Rowling has not commented on the accusations of cultural appropriation against her.

J.K. Rowling’s History in North America has already sparked controversy, but there are three more parts of the essay to be released within the next few days. The second one will be published on Pottermore on March 9 at 2 p.m. GMT, and the third and fourth will be published on March 10 and 11 at the same time.

What do you think of J.K. Rowling’s story? Do you think it’s disrespectful to Native Americans? Share your comments below.

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