No music festival is complete without a very offensive gaggle of hipsters twirling about in neon face paint and elaborate Native American-inspired headdresses (right Vanessa Hudgens and Alessandra Ambrosio?). But it sounds like Canada’s Bass Coast Festival will have to do without this year, as the event organizers have asked show-goers to ditch the offensive regalia.
This year, Bass Coast is being held in Nicola Valley, British Columbia, which is considered First Nations land (technically, all of Canada is First Nations land…eh, let’s not go there) and organizers are imploring attendees to please be respectful of the culture of the people on whose lands they’ll be partying for four days.
“We understand why people are attracted to war bonnets,” organizers wrote in the FAQ section of the festival’s site. “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.”
I am inclined to give the folks at Bass Coast many side-snaps for this decision. Time and time again we’ve run into cultural appropriation issues around the Native American headdress, and it seems as if people either simply don’t understand why it’s offensive, or (more likely) don’t care that it is. Several Native groups have come out to explain why the headgear issue is such an important and sensitive one, but attempts to get people to stop wearing the darn things outside of their proper context haven’t been as successful as we’d like. It seems pretty simple: If someone tells you you’re doing something that offends them and undermines their culture, you stop. But not everyone gets that.
Bass Coast found a simple solution for a rampant issue by eliminating the problem entirely. No headdresses, no potential for being disrespectful. Who knew it was so easy?
Hopefully, American music festivals will take similar actions when organizing events for next year. Coachella, your move.
[h/t The Guardian]