'Headdress' is a doc you need to watch — especially on #NationalAboriginalDay

Filmmaker JJ Neepin aims to move the conversation of cultural appropriation forward.

Consider that National Aboriginal Day is barely two decades old, which in and of itself is telling, since it's meant to recognize Canada's First Nations people, the ones who were here when colonials showed up a mere 400 years ago, give or take. In some ways, cultural mindfulness is too new a struggle, and in other ways, long fought and hard(ly) won.

Moving forward isn't a straight march to progress. Today, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that a heritage building in Ottawa will be dedicated to Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities, the first space  ever, he noted, dedicated to Indigenous peoples in the parliamentary precinct. He also noted that we need to rename National Aboriginal Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day. The new nomenclature is meant to be more inclusive, encompassing all First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures, and move away from the term Aboriginal which has fallen into misuse and disfavour.

One of the conversations currently happening in the realm of cultural mindfulness has to do with cultural appropriation. If you're not familiar with the term, you may still be aware of examples of non-Indigenous people wearing Indigenous, traditional, feathered headdress as fashion. The problem, of course, is treating a ceremonial headpiece as a cute hat. Headdresses are heavy with cultural significance — to start, even within indigenous communities, headdresses come with responsibility: they're earned.

When Indigenous documentary filmmaker, JJ Neepin, spotted Pharrell Williams wearing a headdress on the cover of Elle magazine a few years ago, she was inspired to create her documentary, Headdress. Neepin herself is candid that she too was once guilty of treating the adoption of the headdress in non-Indigenous circles with a casual disregard. Her sense of responsibility on the matter has since changed, and it's one she now weighs carefully.

If you feel you could use a primer on cultural appropriation as it pertains to Indigenous people or just want to get in on the conversation many are already having, definitely check out Neepin's timely doc — a piece that aims to move the conversation of cultural appropriation forward.