Well, it’s official. The hipster headdress has gone British. Last week was the Glastonbury music festival in the UK, a huge music spectacular not unlike Coachella, or The Bamboozle, or Sasquatch! or Lightning in a Bottle here in the US. Boston.com posted an image of festival goers sporting the (no-longer) edgy hipster headdress, maddening, but pretty unsurprising, actually. It was only a matter of time.
However, not to be out done by their former subjects across the pond, these British hipsters took playing Indian to a whole new level. Observe the “tents” at this year’s festival:
Yeah. Those are tipis. A whole lot of tipis. So while you’re wasted, or high on something or another, gallivanting through the fields and communing with nature while rockin’ out, you can “authenticate” your wild-man experience by coming back to your tipi–living like the original bad asses, those Indians who didn’t give a damn, no rules, no “civilization”, just one with life, man.
Snarky imaginative narrative aside, there is a really interesting dynamic of playing Indian in countries other than the US/Canada–there are “powwow” communities, especially in Germany, where participants make painstakingly “authentic” regalia, sing in drum groups, etc. That’s a whole post in itself, but it raises the question of how these actions are perceived and interpreted in a country without Native Americans, lacking both the genocidal history or contemporary culture to provide context and understanding of their actions.
Not that people in the US, even with that context, have some greater understanding (or my blog wouldn’t exist!), but it reminds me of the incident a few months ago when Harry Connick Jr was a guest judge on a show in Austrailia, and participants came out in blackface to perform Michael Jackson:
As an American, Connick Jr. was offended, and rightfully so. However, the Australian community shared no such outrage, because wearing blackface has no history in their country. There was a lot of back and forth debate, and there are any number of similar examples, but it goes to show that history and context is key in the understanding of racist actions.
Does it make it ok? absolutely not. Just like I’m not ok with british headdress wearers or a tipi village at a music festival overseas. Perpetuating stereotypes and erasing the current presence of Native people is never excusable in my book, even if it occurs thousands of miles away.
Boston.com Glastonbury slideshow: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/glastonbury_festival_2010.html
Educating Non-Natives at Lightning in a Bottle: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/06/educating-non-natives-at-lightning-in.html
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