Fake Feathered Chiefs — Lets Talk.

David Guetta recently released an advertisement for one of his world renowned parties. His video features a slew of Indigenous misrepresentations and appropriations that have angered many Indigenous people, including myself.

Unfortunately, it seems that Guetta has been hiding in a cave somewhere producing his music because he has not received the memo that appropriating Indigenous culture simply is not cool anymore. Unlike Guetta, many people in the music industry are beginning to understand that this type of behaviour is pretty absurd and as a result we have seen music festivals the world over banning the wearing of headdresses by those attending the festivals.

Now while this whole Guetta situation frustrates and angers me, I am going to choose to address another related issue with the headdress that hits a little closer to home. Before I dive into it, let me just say that I am not trying to shift the conversation away from appropriation, rather I have always felt that there are many who are doing work addressing this type of appropriation and I have always felt strongly that we need to address issues inside our communities just as much as we address that happen outside our communities.

My issue is something that is sometimes talked about–but not really. It is always shrugged off as an issue of non-importance. However, to me, I feel as though if we are to tell the world to respect our culture (which includes our art forms, clothing and spirituality) then we must do the same. I have to say some of us, more specifically our “leaders”, have been doing a rough job at this. This issue is actually quite specific as well since it seems to happen among a select group of Individuals.

The issue is this: chiefs either wearing headdresses composed of fake feathers or chiefs from regions that never traditionally wore headdresses choosing to wear them as a symbol of their status. The double whammy is when you have a chief from a region that never wore headdresses choosing to wear one that is composed of fake feathers. Palm-in-face moment when I see that.

2013-08-20-08-39-30-chiefs

Example of First Nation Chiefs wearing fake feathered headdresses.

I will start this discussion by addressing the fake headdresses first. I simply do not understand why leaders would make this decision. I have seen first-hand chiefs marching with us during the many rallies I have attended only to notice the fact that their headdresses were made from cheap black and white dollar store feathers. Now I am not saying all are doing this. Far from it. Many leaders respect what the feathers and the headdress means to their people. However, to the ones who are doing this, I ask you, why? What’s the value? What’s the significance in wearing fake feathers? I feel as though these leaders either do not value the importance of eagle feathers or feel as though symbolizing their status as chiefs is more important then respecting and honouring the importance of feathers. So here it goes, I am going to say it: there is no difference between the bonnet that joe shmo wears at some EDM festival and the dollar store feathers I have seen on some chiefs’ bonnets.

They both hold little value as the feathers themselves are what represents the importance of the bonnet, not the wearer.

Chiefs come and go, however the power and spirit of those feathers lasts forever . It has literally become a status symbol to some leaders and I strongly believe this needs to be called out. The next time you see a chief wearing a fake bonnet ask them, “hey, tell me the story behind those feathers? I for one have little-to-no patience for photo-op Indians and I have strongly feel as though some leaders view the bonnet as just that a photo opportunity to showcase their chiefness to the world.

Now the second issue I spoke about was that leaders from regions that traditionally did not wear bonnets are choosing to wear them. This issue is a little more contentious and controversial. Mostly because many nations, especially in the eastern provinces, had our cultures immersed, mixed, and sometimes disintegrated by earlier contact with Europeans. Therefore, during times of culture revitalization throughout history, the war bonnet became a symbol of Indianness. Therefore, for some, the symbol (the bonnet) may be all they know about their own culture. However, that being said, many of us do know.

I believe a greater revitalization is currently happening. One that sees various nations breaking through the shackles of pan-Indianism and learning more about their own distinct cultures as distinct nations. This also means that people are beginning to represent that distinctiveness more prevalently. We see leaders who in the past may have worn war bonnets choosing to wear their own traditional head adornments instead.

Chief Isadore Day

Chief Isadore Day wearing an Anishinabe feather cap.

This was evident with Chief Atleo who would often wear his peoples traditional hat or with Chief Isadore Day who chooses to wear a traditional Anishinabe feather cap.

Therefore, for those leaders who simply are not catching on. You no longer have to look like a plains Indian to be an Indian.

Embrace your people. Embrace your distinctiveness and rock it with pride.

8 thoughts on “Fake Feathered Chiefs — Lets Talk.

  1. Honestly these feathers look like carefully hand picked Eagle feathers and not fake ones. I seen all three headdresses on these Chiefs, not a fake feather on them! Have respect for this Mi’kmaq Grand Chief and the 2 other Chiefs!

    Like

    • Honestly.I have been working with feathers for many years. Dancing, building bustles, building fans, etc. I am sorry to break it to you but these are not real feathers. Thanks for your input. Respect does not mean keeping your mouth shut when you see something that should be critiqued.

      Like

  2. There are many traditional types of regalia worn at powwows on the East Coast.Most of them are what plains First Nation wore. We never wore these big Chief headresses, but it’s common to see our chiefs wear them.Maybe someday young urban Black people will, say to our wannabe gang bangers.””Hey man stop stealing our culture.”

    Like

    • No, no ,no !!!! Maybe we should be teaching our youth and next generation, not making it seem like our culture is stolen! Gahh, I have been slowly teaching myself all these good interesting facts of our indigenous people because I didn’t get the opportunity to be taught properly the meaning of a headdress or the meaning of an eagle feather. Our next generation needs to always know WHY WHERE WHEN & HOW so we can collectively be involved!!

      Like

  3. Thank you for this and all of your blogs. With all of the nonsense that’s on the net, it is so refreshing to read your insights. Of course, your blogs only takes a few minutes to read however, the research and follow-up reading that your blogs prompt take many additional hours.

    Learning is good. Thanks. Franklin Milley.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  4. I have written a few times about the over use of the Eagle feather. I know what you are saying with wearing a “fake” Eagle feather. At the same time I think there must be a time when we stop killing so many Eagles. it is unreal the amount of Eagles being killed for “sacred” items. I think the Powwowow community is wear it needs to stop (not in ceremonial cases) because of the overuse. Look at some of the Bustles, 3 layers with having 2 Eagle fans? Not to take away from your point at all about Pan-indianness. I can see that.

    Like

  5. Being first nation we respect and cherish our sacred animals. We use fake feathers because of the simple fact that the eagle population is declining. who killed the eagles? Im sure fingers will be pointed at the first nations for their “over use” of feathers . No! Its is the pesticides and chemicals used for pest controle that find their way into the eagles food supply. Its the loss of habitat that pushes the eagles closer to extinction. Just like the whales. The native americans of Alaska have lost the traditions they used when hunting whales because of over hunting. do you think i a few natives single handedly over hunted the whale? NO! My point is yes we use fake feathers to make adornments. Not because we are lazy or to cheap. Its because we have respect for the eagle to seek out alternatives rather than disrespect the sacred eagle just so we can dance and be spiritual. The head dress is sacred to the first nations. My grand fathers is passed down and worn by selected family members, males! Its disrespectful for a woman to wear it. But my over all point is have respect for all religions, have respect for each other and have respect for the earth and its creatures. A little respect goes a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s