Should Festivals Take a Stand Against Cultural Appropriation?

by Chloé Laguë on May 2, 2017 - 1:51pm

Summary of the article:

During the summer of 2015, the music festival Osheaga banned First Nations’ traditional headdresses. The subject was relevant because several controversial situations concerning the cultural appropriation of First Nations’ attributes in festivals had arisen in previous weeks. This ban was a big step against cultural appropriation, as Osheaga is the biggest music festival to ban traditional headdresses. In the media, people had mixed reactions to this new rule: some were unhappy, but most thought that this ban was beneficial. Once the public understood the reason behind it, reactions were positive. Unfavorable reactions came from the incomprehension of the significance of the headdress. People who though that it was unfair that only First Nations could wear headdresses to the festival did not know that a person from a First Nation would never find it appropriate to wear a traditional headdress to attend a music festival.

“It’s about celebrating the conquest of indigenous people. People don’t understand how degrading it is to have a sacred object within a culture stolen and appropriated and misused in an inappropriate setting.” - Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, head of the Department of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba (Marsh 1)

For Sinclair, this ban is a good reaction from Osheaga to cultural appropriation in festivals, as it shows that this kind of disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated anymore.


My opinion on the subject:

I think that Osheaga’s ban of traditional First Nations’ headdresses is beneficial both for people from First Nations and for the rest of the population. First nations will no longer have to witness cultural appropriation of their attributes, while the rest of the population will have a chance to get educated regarding the significance and importance of appropriated First Nations’ headdresses. As the author of the article said, I believe that most of the anger coming from this rule is related to ignorance. This ban has the potential to provide long-term benefits regarding the fight against cultural appropriation of attributes that come from First Nations.

Osheaga made a statement with this ban, and I think that it is important to acknowledge that they chose to defend First Nations against cultural appropriation while knowing that there was a possibility that the policy would backfire and make the festival lose popularity.

Overall, believing that Osheaga’s move against cultural appropriation was beneficial and courageous comes from my values and beliefs. I strongly believe that when you are in position of power, it is your duty to defend the rights of minorities and to educate society against injustice. I think the ban was courageous because, in our actual society, people often still get mad when they don’t understand why they are not aloud to do something. Since there is still a lot of incomprehension surrounding the significance of headdresses, it took audacity to defend First Nations’ rights even though it was not in Osheaga’s best interest because of the risk of boycott coming from the feeling of anger and injustice of those who did not understand the reason of the ban. If we look at the situation from an economic point of view, this ban was risky for the company. I think that more festivals should take a stand against cultural appropriation because they have a lot of influence on youth. It would be refreshing to live in a society where people understood the impacts of cultural appropriation, because someone understanding this concept understands that it is immoral and will not appropriate things from other cultures.

Do you think that the economic risks of taking position in social and political debates will impede festivals to set “controversial” policies in place?


Works cited:

Marsh, Calum. "Osheaga's headdress ban shows festival's zero tolerance for cultural appropriation." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 July 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.




I find that it is an original topic and it is interesting for me to question myself about cultural appropriation since I never really had the chance to think about it. Your writing style is very clear and fluent and your arguments are strong. I agree with you that Osheaga was audacious in prohibiting the wear of headdresses during the festival. I believe that individuals have the free will to do what they want do to, but I also feel important for people to consider the implications of their actions. In this case, I think in the same way as you; it was responsible to ban headdresses from the festival since individuals from First Nations felt insulted. On the other hand, I think that the mingle of culture is an important aspect of globalisation and it is inevitable, obviously at the expense of some communities. Today, interactions between anybody is possible with the different ways of communication, and I think that the share of culture makes the world richer. By banishing headdresses from the festival, I feel that the First Nations’ community is excluded from the rest of the world, even if I understand that they are uncomfortable with the idea of others wearing headdresses. I think that the integration of different cultures in the global market is important, and by banishing headdresses, Osheaga just established a dichotomy between First Nations’ and the North American’s culture. Thus, I applaud the decision of Osheaga to ban headdresses in order to protect a minority, but I think that such decision also alienate the First Nations. What do you think of the cultural appropriation of Natasha St-Pier in her videoclip Tous les Acadiens?

The reason I chose to comment on your article is because I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions on this topic because it seems as if this issue isn't discussed enough, because it is not considered an “important” point of discussion.
In my opinion, Osheaga banning headdresses was indeed a very dominant standpoint, because to the people they are not banning a cultural aspect but a fashionable aspect, because most people who wear them probably have no idea what it stands for. Although, instead of banning it completely maybe they should have addressed the issue and try to explain why it may offend people and educating the population on its significance. This would ensure that people who do decide to wear them, know what they are actually wearing it for. It’s not any more insulting then someone wearing a giant cross on their shirt, and full of cross accessories, most people wear it for the fashion without really knowing where it comes from.
This topic is very controversial because a lot of fashion statements have derived from past cultures and many other aspects. So, if we don’t explore other cultures then how do we evolve as one? People like to play dress up and explore new things, but if we take away every piece of clothing that has a significance then how do we get to see inside new cultures?

I am here commenting on this post because I have not heard about this ban and it is very interesting. Usually when you see a dispute between the First Nations and someone else, it usually involves the land of the First Nations and how it was taken away from them but this time it is more positive for the First Nations. People do not want to see a part of them such as a religious artifact, cultural artifact, a lost ones jewelry or anything that has sentimental value to them be miss treated. That is what the First Nations see the headdress as, they see people not knowing what the headdress means and then see them at an event with something that has nothing to do with that event. It is disrespectful and to see the Osheaga as stepped forward and saw that the headdress did not people at a music festival is great. The festival took a stand for First Nations and is inspiring to see that sometimes you do not realize what you are doing can affect someone else in a negative way.

I found your post interesting because I didn't know about this and I like to go to festivals!

Festivals are events made to celebrate life and to have fun! People like to dress differently to show their colors. Unfortunately, many people just want to dress with new things just to look different, no rother purpose than having people's attention. I know a lot f people that wear t-shirts of bands like Nirvanna even if they have never listened to any of their songs, It's just to have a "genre". This band is considered as one of the greatest bands of all-time but haven't fought in civil wars and Nirvanna's t-shirts weren't used as symbols in wars or important events representing difficult events of the past. The First Nations's headress doesn't have the same impact. It's a sacred object that has an historical value for minorities involved. i agree with Osheaga's decision because respect is important between different communities. Also, the purpose of wearing this isn't to spread the values of the First nation!

It's important to measure the impact of our actions!

I like the way you summarized the article. The topic you’re talking about is very interesting. I wrote an article about another issue surrounding First Nations. Even though the issues are completely different, they have something in common: the disrespect of the indigenous community.
Not long ago, I read an article about the wearing of First Nations traditional headdresses in music festivals. At first, I believed that wearing them was a good way to promote the indigenous community. I also thought that the final look was pretty cool. Then, I read the article and I felt ashamed. Without even noticing it, I approved the disrespect of the indigenous community.
As you explained in your article, the indigenous community do not wear headdresses to attend music festival. And they do not wear them into their daily life. Headdresses are a sign of respect and of responsability. The one wearing it is usually a chief or someone with good influence. Moreover, headdresses are a gift and are not given to everybody. Therefore, someone who is wearing one of these traditional headdresses at Osheaga is disrespecting the beliefs and the values of the indigenous community. In my opinion, this is inadequate. I have been taught to respect others, not to use their traditional clothing to look fashion.
As you can see, I agree with you. I think that banning First Nations traditional headdresses was a good decision. The people at music festivals wearing them were not doing so by belief: they were wearing them because it was a great fashion accessory. I believe that people can have a great look without these headdresses.