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B.C. Music Festival Bans First Nations Headdresses

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DH Vancouver Staff Jul 30, 2014 9:29 am

A B.C. music festival has announced that it will not allow attendees to wear First Nations headdresses while on site.

The Bass Coast Festival, happening in Merritt from August 1 to 4, has enforced the rule due to the issue of cultural appropriation that arises when people of non-aboriginal descent wear the traditional headpieces.

On their Facebook page, the Bass Coast Festival released a statement explaining why festival-goers would not be allowed to wear the headdresses:

For various reasons, Bass Coast Festival is banning feathered war bonnets, or anything resembling them, onsite. Our security team will be enforcing this policy.

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

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.

The organizers of the Bass Coast Festival have worked closely with aboriginal bands in the area to put together an event that would respect the traditional aboriginal territory on which it is taking place. Their decision to ban the headdresses was made so concert- goers would be aware of how to appreciate Native culture without offending the aboriginal population and their traditions.

Latash Nahanee, an elder of the Squamish Nation, explained that Native headdresses have a significant spiritual meaning to aboriginal groups. They are headpieces that are traditionally worn at ceremonies to honor respected leaders, family members or friends.

“It’s the same as how you don’t see people wearing a Pope or Bishop’s traditional headpiece.” Nahanee noted. “Native people don’t wear these headdresses everyday because they are only worn for spiritual and ceremonial purposes.”

Over the past few years, the topic of cultural symbols being worn as an accessory has become controversial. Much of this controversy has stemmed from celebrities wearing aboriginal headdresses as a fashion statement. Pharrell Williams, Victoria’s Secret models and Khloe Kardashian have all recently been photographed wearing the headpieces. Furthermore, the headdresses have been increasingly popular concert wear at music festivals such as Coachella and Bonaroo.

The ban of headdresses by the Bass Coast organizers may be seen by some as a move that restricts individuals from personal expression through fashion. However, this decision highlights that there is a line that needs to be drawn between fashion and respecting cultural tradition and customs that hold a spiritual significance to a particular group of people.

Feature Image: Native headdress via Shutterstock

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DH Vancouver Staff
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