Merritt's Bass Coast music festival bans attendees from wearing Native headdresses

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The Bass Coast music festival happening in Merritt August 1 to 4 has announced it will not allow ticket holders to wear Native headdresses on-site.

      A July 23 message posted on the event’s Facebook page emphasizes that this policy will be enforced.

      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.

      Skimming through the 178 comments posted so far in response to that message, it becomes evident that a lot of people don’t understand why some First Nations people might find it offensive for (mostly) white people to wear a Native headdress to a music festival.

      However, it’s a minority of comments that are explicitly against the ban. And there are far more “likes” and “shares” on the announcement of the headdress ban (a combined 1,628 at the time of writing) than there are comments expressing disapproval.

      Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly popular for people to attend music festivals wearing costumes that include clothing and accessories that draw on Native traditions. (Increasingly popular, though still not actually all that common, at least at the festivals I’ve attended this past year.)

      In addition to taking place on Native land, the lineup for Bass Coast includes aboriginal performers. The most high-profile of those is the Juno Award-winning DJ group A Tribe Called Red.

      In June, the trio made headlines when they were accused of racism for one of their members wearing a T-shirt that played off the logo of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.

      Promotional photographs showed Ian Campeau (aka DJ NDN) sporting an ironic version of the Cleveland jersey that had been altered to read “Caucasians” instead of “Indians”. It also included a white head with a dollar sign above it instead of the baseball team logo’s Indian face and feather.

      A Tribe Called Red spoke publicly against festivalgoers wearing Native headdresses in a July 12 interview with Huffington Post.

      “Please stop,” said DJ NDN. “It's disrespectful and we really don't appreciate it.”

      He went on to explain his feelings on the matter: “It’s creating a false idea of what it means to be Indigenous today. It's ‘Pan-Indianism’. It's robbing the First Nations of their nationhoods and nationality. It's making us all ‘Indian’ instead of recognizing me as an Anishnabe or Ojibway. I'm NOT an ‘Indian’. I'm of the Anishnabe Nation. Also, it gives the impression that Natives are something from the past. Not here today. If you were to think of an ‘Indian’ you certainly aren't going to think of me, tattooed in a hoodie with a Sens cap on. We, as First Nation people, have never had control of our image in colonial media since its birth.”

      A Tribe Called Red reacted to Bass Coast's July 23 announcement with a message on Twitter.

      What do you think? Is Bass Coast’s ban on headdresses enforced by security too PC for a music festival? Or is this an appropriate show of respect?


      We're now using Facebook for comments.



      Jul 24, 2014 at 2:11pm

      Uh, well, as a man should I be offended by the sight of women wearing trousers? They are stealing MY GENDER'S DESIGNATED VISUAL SIGNAL!!! NEVER MIND THAT YOU FIND THIS CLOTHING TO BE NICE - I OWN IT EXCLUSIVELY!!! STOP HURTING MY FEELINGS!!!


      On the other hand, I'm not obvious to the seductive comfort of group identity. We are all Canucks (except Tortorella ha ha).

      Maybe I can afford to be post-racial because I have other things going on in my life. Maybe other people have different values and maybe I should respect that and not be an asshole about it.

      NDN supporter

      Jul 24, 2014 at 3:16pm

      Thumbs up to the Bass Coast organizers. This is what you get when intelligent women run festivals. Well-deserved respect and honor for aboriginal people.


      Jul 24, 2014 at 4:28pm

      How silly. If this holds up,, then natives shouldn't be allowed to wear sneakers. See how silly it can get when other people want to tell you how to dress. Soon, they will tell you what to eat, what to think etc. Silly, silly, silly!!!!! Oh wait, it's okay for left wingers to tell you what to do , wear, or think. Just not right wingers. Personally I wish all you wing nuts from both sides would butt out of my life. The left wing nutjobs are just like the right wing nutjobs.

      general custard

      Jul 24, 2014 at 4:58pm

      late breaking news! mardi gras has been cancelled!

      for me its a little too p.c. ; but they are at least showing respect!
      what about banning all the trendy tribal shit? oh and the canucks haida hat , they're cool with that!
      i'm down for whatever makes the native people happy and is fair...even if i don't agree.
      my native friends are split on this issue!
      i think native languages should be taught in school , just like how they pushed french on us. or have native immersion schools!
      we need more native shit, we can't let their cultures fade away!


      Jul 24, 2014 at 7:08pm

      To bobo and related dimwits: I'll just assume that you have sacred objects in your life, family, or culture, and presumably wouldn't appreciate other people getting wasted, half naked, and dancing around with your sacred objects because they find it fashionable or don't care that they are offending you.

      Or perhaps, you're like me, who has few sacred ideas and no sacred objects, but at least realises that I'm from a culture which marginalized another, and to take from that culture and disrespect it is a pretty crummy thing to do. Do unto others, or something like that.


      Jul 25, 2014 at 9:11am

      We all have a right to honor our culture and freedom of speach. We have that as we are in Canada. Banning this is like banning tattoos because they originally started with bikers and jail. If you believe our Native Canadian Culture is the only culture with feather head dresses - you need to expand your mind travel the world.

      I am allowed to disagree with this, not go to the festival and wear what I want downtown that honors my own culture - if you find it offensive buy me a tea and tell me your story and I will tell you mine.

      Peace xoxox


      Jul 25, 2014 at 10:23am

      Awesome, now those yuppies on ecstasy drinking, drugging dancing and screwing the weekend away at Basscoast can feel even more smug in their political correctness. Just pat yourselves on the back basscoasters, you've done your political activism for 2014. Along with putting Noenbridge in the middle of your facebook name as you eat your organic veggies trucked up from California and smoke that bong! Viva la revolution!

      Dresscode at a music festival? Ug

      Jul 25, 2014 at 10:45am

      Really? People think a PROHIBITION on a piece of clothing is good?

      When has banning anything (especially style choices) worked for anyone?

      Why don't we let the government start making dress codes and banning religious or cultural attire and let's see how the Georgia Straight readers like it...

      No Nose Rings!

      Jul 25, 2014 at 11:10am



      Jul 25, 2014 at 11:54am

      What about kilts?