WTF Coachella?! You’re a One Stop Cultural Appropriation Festival!Tweet
I LOVE MUSIC. All genres. I go to several concerts a year, so normally the Coachella Music Festival would be my cup of wakalapi (coffee). There’s only one problem: nothing kills my mood faster than seeing some half naked asshole cavorting around in a fake warbonnet.
Coachella is happening now. From April 10th-12th and April 17th to 19th, dozens of musical acts will be playing for inebriated hipsters in Indian Wells, California. Bare-chested college kids can party alongside bikini clad, leather vested celebutantes while listening to everyone from AC/DC to Drake.
Unfortunately great music, and campsite sex with randoms you’ve met via Tinder is not all Coachella is known for. It’s become the poster child for widespread cultural appropriation.
Every year, we’re subjected to a barrage of white folk shaking their privileged asses at Coachella whilst bedecked in faux feathers, war paint and headdresses. It’s not just the audience either. Sometimes performers who are playing at the event get into the act too, rubbing salt into the genocidal wound.
Although I find it difficult to believe that non-Natives are still ignorant of the fact that wearing dollar store headdresses that mock sacred warbonnets are offensive after all the publicity the topic has received, it doesn’t matter if there is malicious intent on the part of appropriative offenders or not. The effect is still the same.
When people appropriate Native culture it’s the height of disrespect and sadly, the commodification of Native culture is an epidemic.
Stealing the sacred and making it into a cheap costume or fashion trend perpetuates the lie that all Natives are the same, as though we are monolithic; in reality there are over 566 Native American Tribes, each possessing a distinct heritage, culture, and language. Curiously, those who wear fake headdresses are often quoted as saying they’re Cherokee. If that’s the case, the last thing they should be putting on is a northern plains warbonnet. The Cherokee did not wear them. If they truly wish to embrace their culture, a turban would be more fitting.
Warbonnets are sacred to my People, the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation). They aren’t meant to be worn as a costume. Only those Natives who are worthy may wear the warbonnet. Each feather within it represents a great deed. It’s not a hat. Would you wear a medal of honor or a purple heart that you haven’t earned? Then you shouldn’t wear a warbonnet either.
Millions of Indigenous North Americans were slaughtered after 1492. The Federal government, armed with colonial dogma, did it’s best to kill us, and when that didn’t work, they tried to assimilate us by destroying our cultures and forbidding our ceremonies and languages. Native ways were outlawed. Our children were stolen for the purposes of indoctrination. Native people were beaten, arrested, and killed for holding onto their traditions. Newsflash: our sacred objects don’t exist merely to help you gain Instagram followers.
Also, whether you’re a run o’ the mill hipster, misguided fashionista, or stripper, it’s wrong to promote the Pocahottie stereotype of Native women. I know Natives are sexy, as are warbonnets, but 1 in 3 Native women are sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The majority of those who commit sexual violence against Native women are non-Native. Don’t contribute to the conquest of Native female bodies by encouraging the delusion that we’re little more than a fetish meant for male gratification.
Coachella is far from ambivalent when it comes to cultural appropriation. They’re making bank off it. The Coachella snapchat stickers have tipis this year. Companies like Novum Crafts make fake headdresses and sell them. You can bet they’ve gotten a lot of business from Coachella. Native appropriation is their livelihood- lock, stock and barrel. By the way, feel free to contact them here and tell them how you feel about it.
East Indian culture is appropriated at Coachella too; bindis, worn on the forehead over the 6th chakra, represent the third eye. Henna body art is ceremonial. These unique cultural practices are being abused by westerners as well.
Our culture is not your fashion accessory.
It doesn’t have to be this way, Coachella. The solution to what ails you is fairly simple. Stop dehumanizing us and ban the wearing of Native American headdresses. The Bass Coast Electronic Music Festival in BC did it in 2014. They held workshops where Indigenous educated attendees about cultural appropriation too. Glastonbury Festival also banned Native American headdresses in 2014. Their decision to do so was predicated by a change.org petition.
Now, a petition has been started that demands that Coachella Music Festival updates its Rules and Policies to include a dress code that forbids culturally appropriative attire, including Native American headdresses. Please sign it. Wopila (Many thanks).