The author has recently started publishing, part by part, a series of stories under the collective name “History of Magic in North America” on her website Pottermore. The short piece of writing deals with the magical New World in the 14th to 17th centuries. The series of stories released is connected with the upcoming trilogy of films “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, set in 1920s New York, 70 years before the Harry Potter books begin. These movies represent a cinematic expansion of the Harry Potter universe.
The first part of the series, published Tuesday, tells the story of how wizards communicated with North America before it was colonized by non-magical humans, or ‘No-Maj’ ( an American slang equivalent to the British term ‘Muggle’ used in the Harry Potter books). The author incorporates some of her existing lore into the new story, using her term from the Harry Potter books, ‘Animagi’ – wizards and witches who can turn into animals at will – to explain the use of magic amongst Native American tribes. Rowling refers to ‘skin walkers’, an actual myth of the Navajo people, according to which individuals gain the ability to transform into animals at night, usually after killing a family member, reports The Guardian.
Although new insights into the HP universe were well received by fans all around the world, Rowling is also currently being harshly criticized online by a number of voices, many of whom belong to Native American communities. She is accused of appropriating the “living tradition of a marginalised people” by writing about the Navajo legend of the skinwalker in one of her new stories.
Campaigner Dr. Adrienne Keene reacted to this on her Twitter account, telling Rowling that “it’s not your world. It’s our (real) Native world. And skinwalker stories have context, roots, and reality … You can’t just claim and take a living tradition of a marginalised people. That’s straight up colonialism/appropriation”. On her blog, Keene added: “There is no such thing as one ‘Native American’ anything. Even in a fictional wizarding world. Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards”.
Besides Keene, several other people took to social media accounts to express their disappointment with the questionable representation of Native Americans in JK Rowling’s stories.