Here’s What Indigenous Cultural Appropriation Is And Why Canada Needs To Stop Doing It

    Everything about this is a mess.

    2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

    Toronto Caribbean Carnival / Via torontocaribbeancarnival.com

    Their website says it's a three-week long "cultural explosion of Caribbean music, cuisine, and revelry as well as visual and performing arts."

    2017 also happens to mark the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. Which is why this mas band thought it was a good idea to "celebrate" with this.

    A Carnival band has designed Indigenous costumes to celebrate Canada's 150th. A CityNews viewer says it's offensive… https://t.co/4YLq7ZVfLQ

    Toronto-based mas band Carnival Nationz previewed two of their designs called, "Oh Kanata" and "One Nationz" ahead of the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival.

    Both designs featured headgear styled in reference to sacred Indigenous headdresses.

    And there were a lot of feelings. Even about the way CityNews Toronto chose to word their tweet.

    @CityNews Indigenous "costumes" are actually called regalia and portraying Native traditional wear as a costume can… https://t.co/aa0WiGNqut

    @CityNews I am proud of my Caribbean culture. However on this, members of Indigenous community should have been engaged.

    Now, if you're not quite sure ~why~ this is a bad thing, we'll break it down for you. Not only did Carnival Nationz get accused of appropriating Indigenous culture; people were pretty pissed that it was meant to be a celebration of Canada's 150th birthday.

    Which Indigenous peoples have some... varying opinions on.

    @IPSMO1 Ottawa 2017: 150 Years of Genocide #canada150 #decolonize

    Although some Indigenous peoples in Canada boycott the celebration of Canada Day, many are doing so especially this year for Canada's 150th birthday. Many believe the increased call for celebration is a means of distraction from contemporary Indigenous issues, as well as Canada's history with Indigenous peoples.

    In short, it feels like a celebration of colonization and genocide. So, "honouring" First Nations with cultural appropriation for Canada Day? Triple no.

    Yikes. Cultural appropriation is also especially bad when it's supposed to be sexy.

    Nah @CNzInc, you guys screwed this one up. You don't get to steal the culture of Indigenous Canadians and claim it'… https://t.co/539uJzqoRK

    Some thought it was a positive display of "cultural appreciation."

    Carnival Nationz wins this year. Really pulled through with some beautiful costumes. Thank god.

    The Facebook post was originally shared over 2,500 times and commented on over 2,000 times in 24 hours.

    facebook.com

    Now, this is what mas band costumes usually look like.

    And this is what female powwow dancers at Gathering of Nations looked like.

    Just to clarify, this is okay.

    And this is okay, too.

    This, on the other hand, is questionable.

    Yeah.

    Comedy Central

    The mas band's costumes brought up the discussion of headdresses, too.

    Also can we please acknowledge that Indigenous ppls have multiple cultures, and that this particular style of headdress is specific?

    Recently, a teen apologized for cultural appropriating a headdress at Coachella.

    Welp, weekend 2 of #Coachella2017 had at least a few headdress offenders. I can't believe we're still dealing w/thi… https://t.co/aSLJ0NmN8O

    Not only is the headdress considered a sacred object, it's also commonly viewed as "pan-Indigenous" (a term referring to the misconception/stereotype that all Indigenous people dress the same, look the same, etc.).

    Many chiefs reserve wearing of the headdress for special occasions and ceremonial purposes.

    (A.K.A. Not Coachella)

    It is something to be treated with respect.

    This is Chief Red Cloud's warbonnet. This is who & what we rep. Honor the ancestors.

    Native people culturally appropriate, too.

    First Nations Chicago Blackhawks fan wears fake headdress to a game and confuses everyone: http://t.co/uofAok6IHX

    In 2015, a man named Rob Bear stirred controversy after he was shown on-air wearing a headdress and drinking beer. He was reportedly approached at the Winnipeg Jets vs Chicago Blackhawks game but refused to take the headdress off.

    The maelstrom that followed prompted the owners of the Winnipeg Jets to ban fake headdresses from their games. But cultural appropriation goes beyond headdresses.

    Like, how in 2015, Miss Universe Canada was a non-Indigenous woman who came under fire for this.

    Oh, Miss Universe Canada came under fire for that in 2011, too?

    Miss Universe Organization / Via press.missuniverse.com

    And in 2008.

    Miss Universe Canada / Via nativeappropriations.com

    While many people believe the past Miss Universe Canada and Carnival Nationz' costumes honour the first peoples of Canada, some are still pretty heated over the outright "sexualization" of First Nations culture.

    Chief calls for feathered bonnet and First Nations-inspired costumes to be pulled from Toronto Caribbean Carnival https://t.co/uRgHArOC39

    In a statement on Facebook, Carnival Nationz apologized for the costumes. But, they didn’t say whether they’d still be worn to the carnival.

    Facebook: carnivalnationz

    This all comes less than a month after a non-Indigenous Toronto artist was called-out for cultural appropriation of Native artwork.

    For anyone trying to decide whether Amanda PL is "influenced" or straight up copying NM. I offer this side by side… https://t.co/2dEwTTZlyV

    The Canadian artist, known as Amanda PL, claimed to be "inspired" by the work of renowned Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau. But people were quick to call the art out for being a "rip-off."

    @AylanX Not content on just ripping off Morriseau #AmandaPL also plagiarized Corey Bulpitt & Larissa Healey

    She signs her name in fucking syllabics, y'all. Don't give me your "be niece to this well intentioned White Girl" b… https://t.co/IRYJSinrpT

    Amanda PL isn't the first non-Indigenous Canadian artist to be accused of plagiarism.

    Beautiful. Our Home and Native Land by Canadian female artist Jennifer Adomeit #cdnpoli #canada150 #cdngov #CAN2017… https://t.co/ijFQtqxoBk

    This piece, by Jennifer Adomeit, is being sold on Etsy for a whopping $200. That's some expensive cultural appropriation.

    Jennifer Adomeit has been called-out by people who claim she ripped off Haisla-Heiltsuk artist Mervin Windsor.

    Mervin Windsor / Via Facebook: Mervin

    Windsor also believes that his work, a piece called "Unity," was ripped off by Adomeit. He has several different versions of the piece, dating back to 1995. Meanwhile, Adomeit has based her entire Etsy shop around the "Northwest Coast First Nations Style" artwork.

    Sometimes, cultural appropriation is more subtle. For instance, in 2013, award-winning playwright Colleen Murphy came under fire for her play "Pig Girl."

    why would anyone EVER think a play titled "Pig Girl" telling the story of Robert Pickton is a good idea? http://t.co/wFZuMQMubj

    Yeah. Pig Girl is about Robert Pickton, considered one of the worst serial killers in Canadian history, who murdered women at his pig farm in BC. More specifically, the four-character play focuses on Pickton's victims and, by extension, on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

    The play went on to win a Governor General award. But many people, including the family members of one of Pickton's victims, were not so quick to praise the performance. Mainly, because a white woman felt it was her place to tell the tragic story.

    And sometimes, cultural appropriation is just a slap in the face.

    School stands by decision to invite two white performers in headdresses to tell Indigenous stories https://t.co/apld01cFUf

    The Fort Nelson Secondary School recently stirred controversy after sharing photos to their Facebook page (which appear to have since been deleted) of white performers dressed up as... I don't really know what we call this.

    But it's a kick in the balls, especially considering "real" Indigenous people from the nearby Fort Nelson First Nation were never asked to present. Maybe because they don't have "costumes."

    Whether in the form of plagiarism, sexualization, or outright just being an asshole, cultural appropriation is still a Canadian phenomenon in 2017. Instead of worrying about an apology or deleting evidence from social media, why don't we just stop doing it.

    Okay? Okay.

    Cree. Canadian. Comedienne.

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