Music festival bans Native American headdresses

Singer Eliza Doolittle performs during Day 3 of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2011 wearing a Native American headdress. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

In the wake of recent, festival-season concern about Native American cultural appropriation, the Canadian Bass Coast Festival has banned Native American-style headdresses from their premises.

“For various reasons, Bass Coast Festival is banning feathered war bonnets, or anything resembling them, on site,” they wrote in a statement on Facebook. The new rule will be enforced by security.

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

Held in Merritt, British Columbia, the Bass Coast Festival is situated near at least five aboriginal communities. “We have consulted with aboriginal people in British Columbia on this issue and we feel our policy aligns with their views and wishes.”

The response on the Bass Coast Festival Facebook event page has been overwhelmingly positive.

“This just filled me with so much gratitude! Thank you for honoring my culture,” wrote one Facebook user.

Native American headdresses are sacred in native culture and are reserved for elders who have earned honor through bravery and selflessness in their respective tribe. “Wearing [a headdress], even an imitation headdress, belittles what our elders have spent a lifetime to earn,” said Simon Moya-Smith, a journalist and citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation, in an informational piece.

This festival season has stirred controversy regarding non-native concertgoers and celebrities sporting the spiritually significant adornment solely for style purposes. In June, 'Happy' hit-maker Pharrell Williams was photographed for the cover of Elle UK wearing a native headdress. Despite his partial Native American heritage, the cover faced criticism and Williams was forced to apologize.

Khloe Kardashian was also virtually berated when she posed in front a tepee decoration wearing a headdress for her niece North West’s first birthday celebration, called Kidchella.

Bass Coast Festival is an EDM festival and has featured acts including Goth Trad and Om Unit. The Guardian reports the festival has become one of the most important of its kind in British Columbia.

This year’s lineup includes A Tribe Called Red, an aboriginal trio whose band member Ian Campeau has been vocal about his displeasure about Native American cultural appropriation. “It’s ‘redface,’ " he said. “Just like ‘blackface.’ ”