From Standing Rock to Black Rock – Unite with us as One Global Family for what may become the world’s largest synchronized drum circle. Hundreds of locations will Unify and tune into a live drum circle prayer broadcast from Red Lighting located at the heart of the Burning Man playa and amplified by the Mayan Warrior. Indigenous Wisdom Keepers will be at the center of this prayer leading the drum circle and uniting the world into one global heartbeat.
The idea may have backfired, with reports that some of the Water Protectors (indigenous leaders) were deeply offended by the drug abuse and cultural appropriation they witnessed: so much so that they have threatened to shut Burning Man down.
This is the video (Part 1, Part 2) where Myron Dewey of Digital Smoke Signals first shared his overall impressions of Burning Man, saying that people should not bring children there and that the experience was perhaps similar to what his ancestors felt going to Washington DC for the first time.
No one sold ceremony. [Please. BMorg sold Radical Ritual ceremony for up to $1200 a ticket- Ed.]
I don’t do drugs or alcohol.
We didn’t sing “going to a powwow.” That was a clever edit. Indigenous people came to share in good faith.
I, along with others, went there to share the message of Water Protectors, to elevate this struggle, their current criminalization, into other platforms, and to share our truths.
Some facts and now some thoughts I hope you share with your network about my statements that “all are Indigenous.”
Everyone is Indigenous. All descend from the sacred waters, the land, the cosmos. Everyone has been subjected to the same forces of separation, abstraction, division. Spirit separated from mind, heart from intellect, being separated from relationships with food source, from relations with the waters, the star nations, from covenants with the sacred sites. All anyone has to do is go back far enough and there is a time when you were connected to the sacred.
Colonial forces asserted “dominion” over Mother Earth, over the older beings, the animals, the winged, and so forth. These forces declared themselves “superior”, instituted currency, the logic & institutions of capital, private property, the nation state, extraction. They are the purveyors of patriarchy, pop culture, of cool, of fashion, of beauty, of advertising and so forth. They are now the sources of this separation, fear, hate & division, from which we seek a liberation.
To liberate the spirit, to transcend the limits of body, language & perceived differences of race, religion is to take part in a great awakening, one which is evolving, which will compel us to civilize ourselves with divine order, to unite ourselves with the universe. Then our institutions of law, economy, energy, media, education and so for can reflect humanity’s pursuit of liberation and that of Mother Earth’s, more importantly because we will be morally and spiritually authorized to create that reality. We won’t let vampires destroy our planet.
Cultural appropriation is wrong, yes. Original Nations have survived genocide, slavery, holocaust, and an ongoing genocide, an ongoing deliberate attempt to undermine our dignity, liberation & self determination. For foreigners to prance around in a headdress is wrong. I have lived my life confronting objectification when I first learned of it at 19 years old from the Association of American Indian Psychology. I will continue to confront it and I thank those who fight that fight. Natives confronted people at Burning Man in teachable moments.
Upon leaving the playa where there is no cell service, we arrived back in civilization to see social media on fire with the conversation about cultural appropriation. There was much ugliness and ridicule, as is common on social media, but for those genuinely interested in understanding what happened the information is available. Yes the issue of cultural appropriation was with us at Burning Man as it is with us outside of Burning Man. It is being addressed and all the conversations are part of that healing when people conduct themselves with respect.
Many have entitled themselves to say what is a “real Indian”, what is a “real ceremony”, what is a “real prayer”, what is a “real culture”, and each is welcome to their opinions. We all have a choice to be guided by a desire for healing and come from a place of love, or allow ourselves to fall into the division, anger, and hatred that is also part of humanity’s cultural heritage. Burning Man is a microcosm of humanity. It is important to remember that there is a deep wound and the anger about cultural appropriation needs to be heard if it is to be healed. Any path forward to unity will have to account for and include letting go of the wounds of the past. How do we reconcile?
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.
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.
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.
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.