Headdress in advertisement: insult or homage?
Some aboriginal people in Winnipeg are upset about a television advertisement they say misuses the traditional native headdress.
The ad for Lakota pain-relief products shows people who appear to be non-native buying the product while wearing native headdresses. The headdress also features prominently on the company's website.
Ivy Chaske, a Dakota woman from the same First Nation as the Lakota tribe, says the ad offends her.
"It's disrespectful of my people. It's disrespectful of what this headdress means, and how people earn those things. Complete ignorance," said Chaske, who teaches aboriginal awareness for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
"I'm sure that my neighbours or my grandson's classmates would be sorely offended if I let him run around in a priest's cassock, doing a commercial. They would be incredibly upset."
The company that makes Lakota says it never intended to offend anyone. Company officials say they chose the headdress because it's an icon that conveys the power of native medicine, and the company wanted to honour aboriginal peoples' contributions to modern medicine.
"The headdress was chosen because it is symbolic of power, and because it is symbolic of freedom, and it's an icon that's instantly recognizable as native American," said company spokesman Dan McLeod.
McLeod says the company's founder, in fact, is Métis. But Chaske says that's no excuse.
"Maybe he's Métis. But I'm sure he would be offended, or the elders in his community would be offended, if I … took one of their sashes and made a bikini and I was dancing around. They wouldn't like it."
Officials with CBC, which has been airing the ad, say it meets the corporation's standards of good taste and cultural sensitivity. CBC says it will take note of people's complaints, but there are no plans to take the ad off the air.