Defeathering Halloween: 3 things to keep in mind about headdresses

By Rosanna Deerchild, CBC News, Canada

Halloween is just around the corner.

I mostly love this celebration. I get to dress my kids up in crazy costumes and raid their Halloween candy as part of my ten per cent mommy tax.

I say ‘mostly’ because there is one aspect of Halloween that I do not love. That is passing by the rows of Indian Princess/Stoic Warrior headdress get-ups that pop up every year.

Seriously, why is this still a thing? I mean costumes are something you put on. Culture is not.

And while we are seeing the headdress being banned from music festivals, it still shows up every Halloween through DIY sites and costume shops.

 

Native headdress costumeA “Native American Headdress” is still an option at many Halloween costume shops. (CBC) 

So why should you not dress your little one up as an “Indian” or yourself for that matter?

Let’s de-feather the issue and take a naked look at the headdress. There are three things to know about the feather headdress.

1. Who wears them?
The headdress was sacred and still is to many indigenous cultures like the Plains Cree and the Lakota people.

2. How do you get one?
They were not just handed out willy nilly, you know.They have to be earned and gifted in ceremony. Only the most fearless leaders and warriors traditionally wore them. It is kind of a big deal.

3. Why is it important to First Nations cultures?
Again, because it is a sacred item. You don’t see people running around with yarmulkes or hijabs in colourful mockery trying to be trendy.

As the image of the stoic warrior and sexy Indian maiden became more prevalent in movies, advertising and pop culture, the more tarnished the headdress became. Until something that once symbolized accomplishment and position was merely a chicken feather hat to be worn as a costume, an accessory, a joke.

While we as a people try to regain the respect for the headdress, we must also still wrestle the image away from hipsters, celebrities, sports team owners and costume shops.

Throw away the war paint, use the feathers to stuff pillows and just say no to culture as a costume this Halloween. Your indigenous friends will thank you.

Not Happy! Natives Pan Pharrell’s Headdress Look on Elle UK Cover

 Photo by Doug Inglish. Source: facebook.com/ELLEuk

Photo by Doug Inglish. Source: facebook.com/ELLEuk

 

Pharrell Williams appears on a special-edition cover of Elle UK‘s July issue wearing a feather headdress, and Natives are not at all “Happy” about it. In fact, they’re tweeting their disgust on Twitter using the hashtag #NOThappy — a reference to Pharrell’s mega-hit “Happy.”

Pharrell earned smirks in January for wearing an enormous “Mountie”-style hat to the Grammy Awards — but he stuck with the look and it became a signature style. Which makes Elle UK all the more proud of themselves: “we persuaded ELLE Style Award winner Pharrell to trade his Vivienne Westwood mountie hat for a native American feather headdress in his best ever shoot,” reads promotional copy on the mag’s website. The photos were taken by Doug Inglish.

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The preview image was posted to Elle UK’s Facebook page, and has racked up hundreds of comments within a few hours. Offended Facebookers have also taken their complaints to Pharrell’s own page:

Pharrell Williams on the cover of the July 2014 collector's edition issue of Elle UK, shot by Doug Inglish.
Pharrell Williams on the cover of the July 2014 collector’s edition issue of Elle UK, shot by Doug Inglish.

 

Taino Ray: How can you do something so stupid and disrespectfulll.. you are not a Chief Pharrel.. The eagle feathers are sacred… Even if you are part Native the headdress is off limits… Its for Warriors and people of the plains culture.. You don’t have the right to wear that Pharrel… neither does Cher or Emerson Windy… You guys don’t get it…. You will learn the hard way by us Natives telling you so…

Gail Lichtsinn: You have no right to wear a headress that is so sacred to native people..Those headresses are earned and not worn to make a buck or draw attention..They have meaning and are worn by our men with pride and dignity..This is a mockery of a proud people..We are not a joke and take these things very seriously..Go back to wearing your OWN clothes

Sandy Johnson: I love your music! BUT…please don’t insult our Indigenous People by wearing a headdress. They are earned one Eagle feather at a time through acts of selflessness and bravery. Thank you.

And a few of the #NOThappy tweets:

gindaanis @gindaanis: Pharrell gets on the appropriation train. #NOThappy

Pamela J. Peters @navajofilmmaker: Idiot #NotHappy

Amy Stretten @amystretten: A Native American headdress is not a hat. Try again, @Pharrell. #NotHappy @ELLEMagUK @ELLEmagazine

We’ll probably have more on this story in the near future, as neither Pharrell nor Elle UK have commented on the controversy. As wrong as this sounds, it’s going to be said: You really should have stuck with the mountie hat, Pharrell.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/03/not-happy-natives-pan-pharrells-headdress-look-elle-uk-cover-155142