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?