Angry Native Americans have accused the Harry Potter creator of insensitivity and “cultural appropriation” in her latest expansion of the wizarding world into America.
The four-part series released on pottermore.com explores prickly topics such as skin-walkers and the Salem witch trial.
In a video preview of the series, a Native American skin-walker can be seen transforming into an eagle. Skin walkers are an important part of some Native American legends.
JK appears to weave elements of Native American spiritual beliefs into her own fantasy world, earning the ire of experts in the field.
The most vocal is Adrienne Keene of the Cherokee Nation, an academic at Brown University.
“The problem, Jo (can I call you Jo? I hope so), is that we as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures,” Adrienne writes in her blog, Native Appropriations.
“But 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 badass as that wizarding world is).”
Adrienne’s comments, shared on Twitter, have prompted a passionate debate under the hashtag #MagicinNorthAmerica.
Particularly at issue is JK Rowling’s introduction of “skin walkers” into the Potter universe.
“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,” she writes.
“A legend grew up around the Native American Animagi, that they had sacrificed close family members to gain their powers of transformation.”
Production giant Warner Bros. says the essays, all released on Pottermore from March 9, are intended to “provide context and backstory for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is set to open on November 18.
The movie is a prequel to the eight hit Harry Potter fantasy films, which were based on JK Rowling’s bestselling books.
JK makes her screenwriting debut with the script for Beasts, starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Jenn Murray, Faith Wood-Blagrove and Colin Farrell.