My friend Ricky (who made this awesome graphic I’ve posted before) headed out to the Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) music festival a few weeks ago, and was prepared to approach the concert-goers in headdresses and other forms of cultural appropriation in the mindset of an educator. He encountered many headdresses, and more. I’ll let him tell the story himself:
I went to Lightning in a Bottle a few weeks ago. As a Native who is considered pretty ‘alternative’ (ie goes to festivals frequently and likes Electro House music, although I also love Swing Dancing, Break Dancing, and Freestyle MC-ing) I knew that this trip would be wrought with challenges of Fashion Identity, Racial Politics, and overt appropriation of Native American Cultures, Symbols and Practices… It was very difficult to be amongst so many people of the new age belief, and to constantly stay silent so as not to be rude. Speaking out then would be akin to quantifying the Pope as the Anti-Christ in a Catholic church in Boston. That’s the kinda heat I was around.
In this journey which i prepare for by sweating, I also needed feathers from my Eagle which I had recently cleaned. I prayed for a whole day on these two feathers so that i would have the A) Strength to continue educating non-native, as i predicted it would be very fatiguing to do so, and B) Patience so that i would not get frustrated by their lack of perspective, respect or recognition of Native Symbols. While I had some good conversations and even had people offer to take off their feathers, i also had people viciously defending their ‘right’ to expression. Its’ a very American concept, this right to act however you please. Its also this kind of thinking that lead to the genocide 100+ million original natives from the America’s over 500 years.
I went as an educator of expression that is too often undeserved, and more than not, ignored. By being a Native presence at this kind of festival I attract a lot of attention to my self, especially when i wear my feathers, for the purposes listed above. When I offer cleansing I make sure to be in sober spirit. More then I can say for many of the Plastic Shaman that I saw out there. I was also fasting for about 30 hours and with dancing and constant walking in the mix, I did not need to partake of other medicines to be enlightened. At that point it was pretty full on.
May we have greater recognition amongst Non-Natives so that we are not merely known about, but understood. If you live in America then you benefit from our subjugation, please do not perpetuate the actions of the past, by staying ignorant and blind from our shared History.
I can only imagine the strength it took to remain calm and collected in that environment. Here are the pictures that Ricky sent over of other concert goers:
and here’s Ricky (he shaded out his eyes):
The other interesting part about LIB is that they bill themselves to be a progressive, environmental, save-the-rainforest type event. If you go to their website here, and look under the tab that says “environment” you can see more about their mission. This page caught my attention as well: http://lightninginabottle.org/environment/critical-beats/ which includes two images of Indigenous men from the Amazon and information about the “critical beats” organization, which uses indigenous songs, music, stories, and spoken word combined with western artists’ music to create new songs that they sell to raise money and awareness on Indigenous issues. Interesting stuff, but I don’t know enough about it to formulate a total opinion.
Anyway, my point is that I always find it hard to believe when people who are “aware” and “tuned in” still think it’s ok to don a headdress or offer “Native” ceremonies. I’m sure they would use the “honoring” argument, which we know is just as offensive as wearing the headdress itself.
So, thanks to Ricky for the story and images, and I’m so glad he was there to talk to the participants, though I know it must have been exhausting and frustrating. Keep fighting!
But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-hipster-headdress.html
The Hipster Headdress Abounds at Coachella: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/hipster-headdress-abounds-at-coachella.html
Headdresses and Music Festivals go together like PB and…Racism?: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/06/headdresses-and-music-festivals-go.html