Marsh, C. 2015. “Osheaga’s Headdress Ban Shows Festivals Zero Tolerance for Cultural Appropriation.”

Marsh, Calum. 2015. “Osheaga’s Headdress Ban Shows Festival’s Zero Tolerance for Cultural Appropriation.” The Guardian (July 17).

Included in the FAQ of banned items at Osheaga Festival was First Nations headdresses, with the consequence of confiscation or barring from the festival until it can be removed. This is aligned with a sweeping trend of Canadian festivals who are banning headdresses out of respect for Native Americans. Social media announcements fared well, save for a contingent denouncing political correctness – however, most indigenous (and non-) responses have been positive.

“The headdress is not, contrary to its depictions in popular culture, a fashion accessory, or common component of a day-to-day indigenous ensemble.”  Because headdresses are strictly ceremonial, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair (head of Native Studies at U Manitoba) says, there would be no reason as to why an indigenous person would wear one to a festival in the first place.

“People have been dressing up like Indians for 150 years,” he says. “It’s about celebrating the conquest of indigenous people. People don’t understand how degrading it is to have a sacred object within a culture stolen and appropriated and misused in an inappropriate setting.”

Many indigenous people want to enjoy a music festival just like anybody else. “That’s impossible to do that when you have people celebrating genocide standing right beside you […] It takes a long time to educate people and this is one step in that re-education process [….] It’s only a matter of time now before people begin to understand that indigenous people will not tolerate the disrespect of their cultural objects [….] Stupidity and ignorance never last in the face of reasoned arguments.” – NJS


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