Mic Checks the Headdress

Music.Mic has a great post on the cultural appropriation of wearing tribal headdresses in the lands you’re not a tribe of. Bass Coast festival in Canada have banned headdresses.

According to a Facebook announcement posted Wednesday, the organizers have banned Native headdresses, a decision that’s drawn praise from indigenous advocates across North America.

Why? “For various reasons,” the announcement reads, “Bass Coast Festival is banning feathered war bonnets, or anything resembling them, on-site. Our security team will be enforcing this policy.”

Plus: “We understand why people are attracted to war bonnets. They have a magnificent aesthetic. But their spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance cannot be separated.”

Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio. Image Credit: Instagram

The announcement concludes: “Bass Coast Festival takes place on indigenous land and we respect the dignity of aboriginal people. We have consulted with aboriginal people in British Columbia on this issue, and we feel our policy aligns with their views and wishes regarding the subject. Their opinion is what matters to us.”

Simple as that: It’s troubling that “respecting the dignity” of indigenous people remains such a rare occurrence, but in truth, few other festivals have taken this step. California’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival still receives special heat for documented instances of Native appropriation, to the point of being widely associated with the practice. 

Image Credit: Twitter

Ian Campeau, aka “DJ NDN” of the Ottawa-based aboriginal EDM collective A Tribe Called Red, has spoken at length about tribal headwear at his own concerts.

“We, as First Nation people, have never had control of our image in colonial media since its birth,” he said. Such practices therefore create “a false idea of what it means to be Indigenous today … robbing the First Nations of their nationhoods and nationality … [and] making us all ‘Indian’ instead of recognizing me as an Anishnabe or Ojibway.”

The Lightning in a Bottle Music Festival in Bradley, Calif., came close to barring the practice this year. But it stopped short of an outright ban, instead devoting a section of its website to discussing the issue and its implications.

Part of it reads, “Taking off the headdress is about respecting the realities faced by Native Peoples today,” and goes on to describe how “sporting that headdress means being a walking representative of 500-plus years of colonialism and racism, perpetuating stereotypes that Native people have been fighting against for just as long. 

Image Credit: Twitter

Lightning in a Bottle takes place on Chumash land, lending extra weight to its attempts to discourage the habit. But its ethos should be universal: No matter who you are, the traditional attire of indigenous groups — or any group, really — is not your personal invitation to play “dress-up.”

The example set by Bass Coast and its organizers should be emulated across the cultural spectrum, from high-profile celebrities to professional sports organizations and anyone in between. Native appropriation practices have persisted far too long. It’s time to wake up.

The Guardian said:

As feather headdresses have become popular fashion accessories at concerts and EDM festivals, they have become an increasingly important site for conversations about First Nations relations and cultural appropriation. Pharrell Williams and the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne both recently apologised for treating war bonnets as innocuous, whimsical headgear.

Canada’s award-winning Tribe Called Red have been particularly vocal on the headdress issue: “It’s ‘redface’. Just like blackface,'” Ian Campeau told the Huffington Post last year. “We’re in the middle of our civil-rights movement right now, today. So hopefully, in a couple decades, redface and terms like ‘Redskin’ and ‘Indian’ will go the way of blackface and terms like ‘nigger’ and become tabooed.”

Big props to Canada’s Bass Coast and America’s LIB for stepping up to address the issue, Burning Man should do the same, especially since the event takes place on sacred Paiute lands.

Feathers were banned and then unbanned. Playa chickens persist.

Next on the ban list may be the cultural appropriation from Hollywood, particularly Star Wars, Mad Max, and the Wicker Man.


12 comments on “Mic Checks the Headdress

  1. im all for cultural appropriation ,its part of our evolution ,if it was not for this ,white people may never have started bathing ,the problem is that you run the risk of looking like a total douche canoe to those you have appropriated from ,a little research goes a long way ,a head dress is something very few can actually earn ,its only given to the greatest warriors ,alot of these warriors earned them fighting pasty dirty white people ,who with great numbers & technology defeated them ,so naturally its quiet offensive to see well off white people sporting a head dress cuz it looks cool ,its like dressing up and pretending to be an army ranger with tons of medals for courage in battle ,what do you think some vets would think about that ?,you would probably get your ass whipped ,so i dont think anything should be banned ,it just makes all the stupid people easier to spot and avoid,

  2. As a First Nations person from Canada and a Burner. I’m going to just say, that even though war bonnets are not a part of my culture, it’s still someone else’s culture and what they signify is a huge milestone in that person’s life. I would be equally upset to see some privileged white guy trying to pass off a button blanket and say he’s from a West Coast nation. The indigenous people of North America are constantly ignored and face prejudice every. single. day. Just because this doesn’t affect you, personally, doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful and problematic behaviour. And if I see one more drunk white asshole at some bar in Burning Man, wearing a headdress and saying he’s Cherokee, I’m going to barf.

  3. sillytalk is super smart and can definitely understand the intricate structural violence enacted by acts neocolonialism embedded in race and calss. Please post more and you should especially post this to native communities since your wisdom is so impressive.

  4. If a foreigner comes to America with a big smile and says, “I love America! I’ve been wanting to visit here forever! I can’t wait to go to a football game! I really want to buy a cowboy hat!!” how do you feel? It feels awesome. And when they wear a cowboy hat it’s hilarious, and you take lots of pictures, and everyone has a great time.

    Seriously.. GET OVER IT. My problem is not with the concept of Cultural Appropriation. It’s definitely a worthy effort. The struggles of the past as well as the current struggles of various minority communities need to be remember, learned about, and changed. However, as usual, Social Justice is not about helping people. It’s about loss of free speech and the idea of a stepping-on-eggshells society where the idea of being offended by ANYTHING is legitimate, and the only people who disagree are obviously those who want to control everyone. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY ACTUALLY PARTICIPATED PHYSICALLY IN KILLING AMERICAN INDIANS.

    I give you, a list of things I’ve heard described as appropriation if the person is white. If they’re a POC, it’s promptly ignored in 99% of cases because POC have political correct immunity:

    Tattoos in other languages
    Any tattoo representing anything construed as stereotypical
    Football teams with Native themed mascots (agree, but it’s not changing.. Get over it.)
    Any print that can be regarded as indigenous
    Ear Stretching
    ‘Bollywood’ garb
    Irish stereotypes
    Tribal tattoos
    Other religious symbols
    Paper cranes
    Most other shit you do, to be honest.

    Note, this does not take into account whether or not you care and know a lot about this culture, it was given to you as a gift, etc. Nope. Your intent, apparently, never matters. Of course, exempt from this list is anything that can be construed as ‘white’, supposedly due to the white privilege in this society. But of course, actually hypocritical.

    That said, I’m getting sick of being told ‘research your own culture!’

    ‘White people’ – the pale skinned, blue eyed, controlling, evil, rootless and heritageless don’t have any fucking culture. What is the inherent ‘WHITE’ culture?

    Redneck trucks? Monster energy drinks? American flags? Christianity? Beer pong? Hollywood? Diets?

    Oh. Could you perhaps be talking about a more british-esque culture?

    Tea and crumpets? Sweater vests?

    Of course, our culture doesn’t matter, because since we’re white our culture must all be the same. Especially annoying for those of us who come from ‘darker’ countries who don’t fit the pale white ideal. For example, I’m half Greek. I’m white as white could be, but that doesn’t change the fact that most of my ancestors had darker olive skin than I did. That’s not to say Greek people aren’t white, but guess what? My culture is not a ‘british-esque’ one, either.

    Where is my culture?

    Oh fucking wait.

    It’s everywhere. Greek people have had a huge influence. Hear yourself speaking? I bet you use thousands of Greek-based English words every single day. But guess what? If a fucking Greek person complained about the use of the Greek alphabet in Sororities, I’d laugh in their face.

    Because it DOES. NOT. MATTER.

    Culture is appropriated no matter what. It’s something I love about the world, and I’m getting pretty fucking sick of being called a racist because I enjoy other cultures. Every time I disagree with the idea that anything the supposed ‘oppressed’ culture decides to be offensive must be so, I get called a racist. Which is a surefire way to make me want to smack you. Or at least get balls mad.

    So, to those of you complaining about 99% of ‘cultural appropriation’, I give you the solution:

    Shut the fuck up, stop whining, educate people about your culture, and move on.

    You mad? Stay mad. You’re not helping anything at all but reinforcing the bitchiness of Social Justice.

    • how would you feel if someone moved to the US and was seen walking around with fake medals of honors and purple hearts and military uniform? You’d probably be pretty pissed off because they’re posing with something insinuating they’ve done a great service in the military. That’s what a headdress is to Native Americans. Don’t fucking wear it, if anything it’s just plain disrespectful, and not cultural appropriation.

  5. so what’s next ??? we can ban kilts unless you’re scottish/irish poet shirts unless you european dresses for women only pants for men all bone and leather attire unless you’re that specific race i think this is a really good idea we should just keep making and labeling everything so we can stay as divided as posible and never come together as one

  6. It’s easy, show some respect and don’t wear a headdress to festivals. We’re all open-minded and understanding to pull that off right?

    I empathize with you because I know that people not being to wear feathers is going to give you a heart attack, cause you to lose your job, and start a zombie apocalypse.

    But then you wake up and realize that this has not affected your life one bit.
    At all.

  7. also leave your kimonos at home. and your kilts. and your paisley bandanas. and your kanji and tribal tattoos. take off your bindi and put down that gordita, ALL of that is appropriation and all of those people have been subjugated by somebody. people whining about this shit ONLY care about the native americans, effectively alienating every other human culture and revealing how vapid and superficial their fight is. at least TRY to apply your ridiculous altruistic philosophy to something in your life outside the feather fight currently trending on facebook.

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