Stacy Pratt
April 26, 2017 1:43 pm
Education Images/UIG/Getty Images

When people didn’t understand that they shouldn’t wear Native American headdresses on Halloween, many outlets created content to teach them about cultural appropriation. Optimistically, one hoped they’d understand that meant they shouldn’t wear headdresses to music festivals either. After all, so many articles have been written about the cultural significance of headdresses, which are only to be worn by certain people at certain times.

Some of the best articles on the subject are by Adrienne Keene, the Cherokee scholar who founded the blog Native Appropriations to call out and combat appropriation of Native culture. Her post “But Why Can’t I Wear A Hipster Headdress?” from way back in 2010 lays it all out in easy-to-understand language. That one circulated all over the internet and resurfaces every festival season, but this week, Keene still found herself having to tweet the following:

People who hadn’t read her articles (or any others on the subject) suggested that maybe the wearers were Native themselves, to which Keene responded:

If you want to read the ensuing conversation on why it’s not appropriate for anyone of any ethnicity to practice cultural appropriation, you’ll have to visit @NativeApprops because it’s long. But among the respondents was Minh-Ha T. Pham, author of Asians Wear Clothes on the Internet, who wrote:

However, for once, this oft-repeated story has a somewhat happy ending that gives us a glimmer of hope.

Later in the evening, Keene tweeted that one of the offenders had apologized and taken down her pictures. Keene posted the apology on her Twitter:

The fact that we’re encouraged by the sincere apology of just one person in an inappropriate headdress goes to show what a long way we have to go, but we hope that one person admitting she was wrong and vowing to do better will inspire others to do the same.

So when you’re coming up with your fabulous festival outfits this summer (and we can’t wait to see them!), please remember to be conscious of your choices. If you really love Native designs, check out this post by Jessica Metcalfe, founder of the Native fashion blog Beyond Buckskin about how to wear them without being offensive.

If you’ve already made a mistake, learn from it, apologize, and remember what it felt like to be called out when it’s your turn to teach someone else.

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