No More War Bonnets at Glastonbury Music Festival

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In response to a Change.org petition that garnered a mere 65 signatures, England’s Glastonbury Music Festival has banned the distribution of Native American headdresses at their upcoming 2015 event.

The voice behind the petition, Daniel W. Round of Stourbridge, United Kingdom, stated, “There has long been consensus among indigenous civil rights activists in North America about the wearing of headdresses by non-Natives – that it is an offensive and disrespectful form of cultural appropriation, that it homogenizes diverse indigenous peoples, and that it perpetuates damaging, archaic and racist stereotypes.”

The appearance of war bonnets has become commonplace in popular media. From music videos to viral Instagram photos, non-Native celebrities have driven a piece of incredible cultural significance into mainstream fashion.

Performers who appear at major music festivals such as Glastonbury are not exempt from this vast list of offenders.

Singer Pharrell Williams donned a war bonnet on Elle Magazine’s July 2014 cover. The blatant atrocity sparked a huge buzz on Twitter as “#NotHappy” trended. An official statement reading: “I respect and honour (sic) every kind of race, background and culture” was quickly released from the singer’s camp.

In August, he performed at Budweiser’s Made In America Music Festival.

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Pop singer Lana Del Rey, who wears a feathered headdress in her “Ride” music video, has headlined at music festivals such as Coachella, Austin City Limits, and Glastonbury 2014.

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The complacency of these pop culture icons certainly plays into the widespread acceptance of war bonnets into non-Native wardrobes.

Native American blogger Chelsea Vowel addresses this harmful ignorance on her blog:

“Unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful…Even if you have ‘native friends’ or are part native yourself, individual choices to “not be offended” do not trump our collective rights as peoples to define our symbols.”

Glastonbury Music Festival’s move places Indian headdresses beside alcohol, cigarettes, and candle flares on the list of products restricted to trade without official authorization.

In a social climate where cultural appropriation has been normalized, this ban is a minor accomplishment. However, the festival’s statement has the potential to motivate other music events, publications, and faces of pop culture to rethink their ties to politically incorrect “fashion”.

Daniel Round’s accomplishment as an activist goes to show that individuals are capable of bringing about vital changes in the realm of media representation. We encourage everyone to speak out against the appropriation they may encounter in their own lives and support others in doing the same.

Tell us your thoughts on Glastonbury’s step in the right direction and feel free to offer any insights you may have pertaining to future solutions to popularized appropriation!

“One big difference between dressing up as a Native American as opposed to a pirate or astronaut or cowboy is that the latter are occupations, not societies. You don’t try out for a job as an Indian. It’s your culture; it’s your way of life.” -N. Bruce Duthu, Dartmouth College Native American Studies Dept. Chair

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