First Nation headdresses banned at Edmonton Folk Festival

The Edmonton Folk Festival has become one of a growing number of music festivals banning patrons from wearing First Nations headdresses.
In recent years, some patrons of music festivals have taken to wearing First Nations headdresses, like this concertgoer at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

The Edmonton Folk Festival has become one of a growing number of music festivals to ban patrons from wearing First Nations headdresses.

Anyone who shows up at the gates with such items will have them confiscated by security, the festival said on its Facebook page Tuesday. 

"Such headdresses have a sacred, cultural meaning and we ask that you respect and honour that by not using them as a fashion accessory," the post read.

In recent years, some music fans have taken to wearing feathered headdresses at festivals. Many First Nations people consider the trend offensive, as it ignores the spiritual significance of the items and reinforces cultural stereotypes. 

The Winnipeg Folk Festival came under pressure to enact a ban after a woman was spotted wearing a headdress and face paint on the weekend. 

On Tuesday, the Winnipeg festival said in a statement it does not condone the wearing of headdresses, calling it "cultural appropriation."

"For the most part, our patrons are attuned to what is culturally appropriate and what is not," said Rebecca McCauley, the festival's manager of marketing and communications.

"We have been in conversation with members of our aboriginal community and see this isolated incident of a woman wearing a headdress as an opportunity for education and cultural sharing."

In future, she said, the Winnipeg festival will ask patrons to not wear headdresses.

Edmonton Folk Festival producer Terry Wickham doesn't believe anyone has ever worn a headdress at his event, but the Winnipeg incident prompted him to get ahead of the issue. . 

"I mean our audience is very intelligent, but it only wants to take one or two people to mess things up," he said.

The move was applauded by the city of Edmonton's aboriginal relations office. 

"This is a positive and proactive step by the Folk Music festival to bring awareness and education around issues of cultural appropriation, and how all within the city play their part in making all peoples feel welcomed and respected," said MIke Chow, director of aboriginal relations.

Earlier this week, Osheaga music festival in Montreal issued a similar ban.

The Edmonton Folk Festival runs from August 6 to 9th.


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