Select Page

I Was Raped. Speaking Out In Honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Picture of a dark blue journal

(Trigger warning: sexual assault)

My Story

I was raped. When I was 15 years old, an adult male who was 10+ years older than me raped me. Sadly, it was not the first time I was sexually assaulted. When I was in elementary school an adult neighbor sexually assaulted me. In both instances, I knew the adults.

In both instances, I was told that the offenders were really good people and that they couldn’t have possibly sexually assaulted me. As a kid, I remember sitting in a counseling session showing over and over again what this adult neighbor did to me, continually pointing to body parts on a doll. I was frustrated and embarrassed – why would they not believe me? The continued questioning essentially accused me of lying.

Many years later as a 15 year old, it hurt even more when people I trusted, church leaders and others close to me, didn’t believe me and defended the behavior of the man who raped me. A church leader told me to reconsider pressing charges because of the impact it would have on the rapist’s life and to their family. I was encouraged to repent before entering the Temple. In a group counseling session, I was led to feel that because I knew the man who raped me, versus being raped by a stranger, that I didn’t have it that bad. Even the prosecutor for my case initially told me that my case wasn’t really rape since I knew the man despite the fact that I was a minor and DID NOT and COULD NOT consent.

For the longest time, I felt shamed and silenced even though I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I still am battling feelings of guilt for deciding to discuss this publicly. And perhaps people who know me and my situation(s) might be saying – why is she bringing up old issues, I thought this was behind her and that she moved on, you were doing so well, why is she drawing attention to our family, that’s not what really happened, what were you doing or wearing, well the man really was a good guy – all of which are part of a culture that silences victims from coming forward and survivors from speaking about their experiences whether it be to a counselor or someone they trust.

It is actually for those reasons, feeling ashamed and guilty, that I am speaking out because I was made to feel that way by people I had encountered in my journey towards justice and healing: friends, family, people in my church, acquaintances, police officers, counselors, lawyers, and the judge. Those feelings made me feel powerless and that I should stay silent. I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.

Over time, I’ve learned that my feelings of injustice are in part because of legal and criminal jurisdictional challenges in Indian Country that limit a Tribe’s ability to prosecute rape charges. Learning more about these challenges and the high rates of sexual assault in Indian Country helped me to realize that I’m not alone in my experience. Perhaps by sharing my story it may encourage someone to seek help, to gain confidence in their ability to heal, and hopefully to shift a culture of silence surrounding sexual violence in our communities, or in other words help others to stop shaming and blaming victims.

Sexual Assault in Indian Country

1-in-3 Native American women will be raped in her lifetime, which for Native American women is twice the rate of sexual assault than the national average[i]. Sexual violence persists in Native American communities and coverage of sexual assault, rather than sensationalizing crimes, calls for responsible reporting in media and continuing conversations within our communities to prevent and end sexual violence.

In Indian Country, the federal government through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office still investigate and prosecute most major crimes and crimes committed by non-Indian offenders. While Title IX Safety for Indian Women of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 has strengthened American Indian Tribal jurisdiction over certain domestic violence crimes against Indian women, regardless of the perpetrator’s Indian or non-Indian status[ii] there is still the need to strengthen Tribal jurisdiction over major crimes, such as assaults against minors under the age of 16 and in cases when the offender is non-Indian[iii][iv].

But when approximately 67% of sexual abuse and related offenses in Indian Country are declined for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office[v] this broken justice system further impedes real shifts in changing a culture of sexual violence that results in victims not finding justice and closure, and the consequence of offenders remaining within the community.

This injustice haunts me. As a rape survivor part of my healing process is feeling safe within my own community as well as feeling supported in my claims of sexual assault. This type of support is paramount to creating a safe community that seeks to end sexual violence.

In my case, the prosecutor actually told me there was a backlog of federal rape cases and there was a high probability my case would not be picked up for federal prosecution. I was 15 years old and didn’t fully comprehend, like I do now, exactly what was going on. To further complicate the matter, the Tribe had received an extradition request for charges in another state. I was told that the other state’s charges and sentencing would be harsher than what the Tribe could sentence but it was a risk as there was no guarantee of conviction. Recently, the Navajo Times published a list of sex offenders who have let their registration lapse and their whereabouts are unknown; this man’s name is on it. It is my understanding this person is on this list not because of my case but for the other case, however I am not sure as I wasn’t present in court to hear whether my case move forward or if it was dropped.

Offenders of sexual violence could really be anyone: relatives, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers. Perhaps for some people it is easier to be fearful of strangers and to teach children of “stranger danger.” Strangers are people we don’t know and it is easier to associate a stranger with being a “bad” person. When we only think of offenders or perpetrators as strangers or “bad” people, in those instances when an individual, who one may know, really does something wrong, the act of trying to make sense of person X’s wrong behavior usually goes something like this: “But person X isn’t a bad person, they’re a really good person, because they do A, B, and C for me or the community. Person X can’t possibly be capable of that.” It is those types of statements that ultimately blame victims, which is counterproductive to ending sexual violence.

By only thinking of offenders as “bad” people, and rationalizing good people as not being capable of sexual violence (or really any crime), we as a community are in fact not holding individuals (and in my situation an adult!) accountable for their wrong behavior. And this is what keeps individuals, like me, silent or keeps other victims potentially from reporting crimes to the police. In fact, statistics show that when the victim knows the offender the victim is less likely to report a violent victimization to the police compared to when the offender is a stranger[vi]. This means as a community we need to assist in changing the cultural norms around sexual violence so that more individuals will report crimes to the police.

By sharing my survival story, I hope others don’t feel isolated and alone like I did and that they know there are resources available for victims for support. I also hope my story opens dialogue about how to support individuals we may know who have been victimized and who are survivors of sexual violence. I believe the biggest way to show support is to believe a survivor. Secondly, I believe that we need more people, family, friends, and colleagues to stop conversations that victim blame or joke about violence against girls and women and to educate people in our networks why we need to be supportive of victims and survivors.

It is important that victims and survivors have control over their story: whether or not to share, whom to share with, how often to share, and how others portray their story. While I feel ready to share my story sharing one’s story may not be right everyone (for a variety of reasons) and that is fine. Individuals should not feel pressured or forced to share their story. This post is dedicated to all of the individuals, over the years, who have shared their story of being a survivor of violence or sexual assault with me. I think of you often. Your strength has been my strength.

In honor and memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women everywhere.

-Nicky

If you are a victim of sexual assault you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (800-656-4673) to find help and resources – the call is free and confidential. For more information visit https://www.rainn.org

Learn more about what you can do to help and support victims in the event of sexual abuse. For more information visit https://www.nsopw.gov/en-US/Education/HelpSupport

References:
[i] Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. [U.S. Department of Justice] (2000). Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf
[ii] U.S. Department of Justice. 2014. Justice Department announces three Tribes to implement special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction under VAWA 2013. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-three-tribes-implement-special-domestic-violence-criminal
[iii] Horwitz, S. (2014, February 8). New law offers protection to abused Native American women. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/new-law-offers-a-sliver-of-protection-to-abused-native-american-women/2014/02/08/0466d1ae-8f73-11e3-84e1-27626c5ef5fb_story.html
[iv] Crane-Murdoch, S. (2013, February 22). On Indian land, criminals can get away with almost anything. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/02/on-indian-land-criminals-can-get-away-with-almost-anything/273391/
[v] U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2010, December 13). U.S. Department of Justice declinations of Indian Country criminal matters (GAO-11-167R). Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-167R
[vi] Harrell, E. [U.S. Department of Justice] (2012, December). Violent Victimization Committed by Strangers, 1993-2010. p.8. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/vvcs9310.pdf

Missing The Target: Target & BaubleBar’s #StealingNativeCulture Partnership

About a month ago, I wrote a Dear Torrid Letter about Torrid ripping off Navajo culture by selling a knock-off of the iconic Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace. Within two days Torrid apologized, agreed to stop selling the necklaces, and donated the profits to the Indian Arts and Crafts Association. Almost immediately after publishing the issue on my blog I was notified by friends and strangers of knock-off Navajo Squash Blossom Necklaces being sold at Walmart and other retail stores. Most recently, Target is profiting off stolen Native culture.

#StealingNativeCulture

A fellow Instagrammer, Marissa Gonzales, notified me about Target selling Squash Blossom Necklaces branded by BaubleBar for Target’s “SugarFix” jewelry partnership.

⛔️STOP #stealingnativeculture!!! ⛔️

A post shared by Marissa Gonzales (@indigewitch) on

A quick search of Target’s online store shows they are actually selling six different squash blossom jewelry items as part of the BaubleBar SugarFix partnership, which launched January 31, 2017.

The product descriptions even use terms that would be associated with styles of Navajo Squash Blossom Necklaces: “antiqued silver beads”, “antiqued squash blossom necklace”, and “antiqued silver finish”.

Target Screenshot Stop Stealing Native Culture #stealingnativeculture

Screenshot of Target’s online store from April 26, 2017 showing a search for “squash blossom” items. The search returned six items, two sets of earrings and four necklaces.

SUGAR FIX by BaubleBar for Target

So, there are two situations happening here. The first is that BaubleBar designed (or bought and resold) necklaces that clearly resemble the iconic Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace design. Secondly, Target agreeing to sell and profit off these items.

What gets me is that the knock-off jewelry designs were most likely reviewed by a team of people from both BaubleBar and Target… and no-one on that team thought this concerning? Where are the legal experts to chime in that these designs may potentially be protected under a U.S. federal law, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act? Or that Urban Outfitters recently settled with the Navajo Nation for claiming products were Navajo that really weren’t and that Target/BaubleBar should reconsider? While BaubleBar and Target may think they can skirt this issue because they’ve branded the products Sugarfix by BaubleBar, in reality they are stealing a cultural design that Navajo artists rely on for their livelihoods. Despite the legal concerns (I’m not a lawyer!), ethically BaubleBar and Target are in the wrong.

Collaboration

Target is clearly open to collaboration as they’ve partnered with BaubleBar to create SugarFix. Advocates of American Indian cultural intellectual property rights have stressed that retailers, such as Target, Walmart, Torrid, etc., should seek out collaboration with actual American Indian designers. Although such designers may not be into exploiting an iconic design, such as the Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace, for “fast fashion” (come on that low quality manufacturing looks too cheap for the elegant Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace), there are many American Indian designers who have designed their own jewelry lines who I may guess might have interest in partnering with a big box company to bring their designs to a larger audience. Such partnerships can be a win-win for both the retailer, as then they may avoid issues of cultural appropriation, and for American Indian designers who get their name heard and their jewelry into the hands of more people.

In addition, these instances of cultural appropriation from big box retailers have me questioning the diversity of employees that work on these collaborations and product designs. It is not only American Indian culture that is appropriated but other cultures, who have histories of being oppressed, their significant and sometimes sacred items are being commodified often without input or benefit to those communities.

What Can You Do About This?

When I learned that Torrid was selling a knock-off Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace, initially I felt like it was too big of an issue for lil ol’ me to tackle. I for sure didn’t expect Torrid to respond in the positive manner that they did, although I had hoped they would. But I went ahead and made an effort as I knew that I couldn’t just let it slide by – the issue meant too much for me to stand by.

Similarly, I hope by bringing these issues forward that ultimately these companies will change their ways (but I’m not going to hold my breath) and perhaps more importantly that it inspires someone to take action. If you see a company ripping off your culture, go ahead and feel angry and upset, and then take action. Use those emotions to write a letter. Tweet or give them a call (although I don’t advocate yelling at people). And tell others to support your efforts.

Are you seeing these knock-off Navajo Squash Blossom Necklaces in person at your local Target? If so, post a photo to Instagram or Twitter, use the hashtag #StealingNativeCulture, and tell @Target and/or @TargetStyle what you think.

-Nicky

5 Must Attend Events in April 2017

Redstreak Girl 5 Must Attend Events In April

I’ve gathered and listed here what I think are this month’s 5 must attend events based off my personal interests. Most of these events are taking place here in the Phoenix-metro valley. For more events follow my curated list of events on Facebook!

4th Annual Easter Eggstravaganza Hosted by the Blue Bird Pinups

Saturday, April 1, 2017 – Window Rock, AZ

I love the Blue Bird Pinups for their message of female empowerment and dedication to making a positive difference in Indian communities. They have an iconic Native fashion twist to vintage and vintage inspired styles of the 1940s and 50s. They are hosting their 4th Annual Easter Eggstravaganza for youth at the Navajo Zoo. ** Sorry, I realize this event is taking place the day this blog is posted but please give these ladies some support and thanks for their efforts and love for their community!

Phoenix Film Festival
Native American Directed Shorts

Saturday, April 8, 2017 – Phoenix, AZ
Monday, April 10, 2017 – Phoenix, AZ

I would like to make it to the Phoenix Film Festival this year to catch the Native American Directed Shorts. There are 5 shorts that are being screened on two different days. Single-screening tickets are $14.45 w/service fee. [See the Phoenix Film Festival’s website for more information about passes and tickets to the festival.]

These are the 5 shorts as quoted from the Phoenix Film Festival’s scheduler:

Legacy
Directed by: Mark Lewis
Synopsis: In the world of professional Mixed Martial Arts, Nikki Lowe stands out as one of the few Native Americans competing in the sport today.

The Gift
Directed by: Sunny Moodie, Natalie Ulman, Joshua Indenbaum, Tom BlueWolf
Synopsis: “This gift comes from the heart – as it must and as it should.” – Tom Bluewolf, Grandfather of The Muskogee Indian Nation & co-Director.

Sweet Oil
Directed by: Chris Cowden
Synopsis: Two daughters of a single mother use their creativity to overcome the hardships of life in Northern Canada’s once booming oil country.

Adzaa Doo Ats’a – The Lady and the Eagle
Directed by: Brian Young
Synopsis: A long time ago, two indigenous tribes were at war. From one tribe, a pregnant lady, Adzaa, prays for the safe return of her husband.

H.A.M
Directed by: Boise Esquerra
Synopsis: 16-year-old Peter must cope with his crackpot father who builds a HAM Radio that inadvertently catches the attention of an alien creature from outer space.

Sun Devil Fan Fair

Sunday, April 9, 2017 – Arizona State University, Memorial Union, Tempe AZ

I think community-baed geek/pop-culture/comic cons offer a unique space from the larger commercial cons for individuals to experience a con on a smaller and sometimes more personal level. While I do enjoy attending the Phoenix Comicon, sometimes the very large crowds and abundance of activities can be a bit overwhelming. Although, I’m not participating in the Sun Devil Fan Fair as a participant, I will be tabeling for the Geek Girl Brunch Phoenix Chapter as part of my officer duties. If you are at this event, come and say hi! Oh, the Sun Devil Fan Fair is FREE!

ASU Sun Devil Fan Fair Logo

ASU Sun Devil Fan Fair Logo

American Indian Culture Week at Arizona State University

Saturday, April 15 – Sunday, April 23, 2017 – Arizona State University

American Indian Culture Week at Arizona State University is not just for ASU students but is also a community affair. There are multiple events that are happening at ASU. To learn more about all of them visit the ASU American Indian Council for additional details. Here are a few of the events I am interested in:

Saturday, April 15 – 38th Annual Miss/Mr. Indian ASU Pageant
Thursday, April 20, 6pm – Barrett Indigenous Cultural Association’s American Indian Fashion Show
Friday-Sunday April 21-23 – 31st Annual POW WOW at ASU
Saturday April 22 – ASU Native American Alumni Chapter Spring Social

ASU American Indian Council American Indian Culture Week

ASU American Indian Council – American Indian Culture Week, April 17-21, 2017 Flyer

Earth Day & March for Science

Friday, April 21, 2017 – ASU March for Science, Tempe, AZ
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Official March For Science – Phoenix, AZ

Earth Day is April 22nd and is also the date that Marches for Science will be happening all over the world. WOW! Here in Arizona there are at least 7 different sister marches, 6 satellite marches and 1 at ASU. I have no doubt that the current state of politics is impacting science and especially science related to our environments and the Earth. Click here to locate a satellite March for Science near you.

It's official! Save the date, everyone! On April 22, 2017 we march for science. #ScienceMarch #STEMonstration #ScienceMarchDC

A post shared by March for Science (Official) (@sciencemarchdc) on

 

Since the Blue Bird Pinup’s 4th Annual Easter Eggstravaganza hunt is today (the day I posted this blog), I figured I’d give ya’ll some more events to consider! These events are not in Arizona but in New Mexico. So, if any of you are heading to the Gathering of Native Americans taking place at the end of April, here are some events for you to consider attending! Maybe I’ll see you sometime that weekend?

Gatherings Happening in New Mexico

I’m certain there are announcements coming very soon for all of the different types of events that will go down in New Mexico for the very large gathering taking place. For example, my husband’s band Ethan 103 will have a show Saturday April 29th at Burt’s Tiki Lounge but a flyer and other details are still forthcoming. Meanwhile, here are two events happening that same week in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We have been attending the All Nations Skate Jam for a number of years and so if you’re around stop by and support the alternative sports.

Thursday, April 27, 2017 – Dear Patriarchy, Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM
Saturday, April , 2017 – All Nations Skate Jam, Albuquerque, NM

2017 Dear Patriarchy All Nations Skate Jam

Flyers: Dear Patriarchy & All Nations Skate Jam

Are you interested in any of these events and will you attend? While I would love to attend each and every single event, i know it’s not possible but I hope to make out to a couple of events this April! See you out there.
Don’t forget to see a listing of other events that may interest you over on the Redstreak Girl Facebook page.

-Nicky

Torrid Removes Squash Blossom Necklaces ** UPDATE to Dear TORRID: Stop #StealingNativeCulture. #NotmyTorrid

A couple days ago, on Wednesday March 22, 2017, I wrote a Dear Torrid letter to express my disappointment and discontent with one of my favorite clothing companies for selling a knock-off of the Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace (someone pointed out on Facebook that Torrid actually sold three products that have a Navajo Squash Blossom necklace feel to them). I am happy to report that today, March 24 2017, all three of those Squash Blossom related necklaces have been removed from the Torrid website. [Full statement from Torrid below].

Dear Torrid: Stop #StealingNativeCulture. #NotmyTorrid

Torrid Screenshot Stop Stealing Native Culture #stealingnativeculture

In the days immediately following my letter titled, “Dear Torrid: Stop #StealingNativeCulture. #NotMyTorrid“, I noticed Torrid taking the following actions:

  • Wednesday March 22nd – Torrid leaves a comment on Redstreak Girl’s Facebook Page post that shared this specific blog. Torrid’s comment states, “Thanks so much for your feedback. We sent it over to our accessories team. 
  • Thursday March 23rd – I checked Torrid’s website in the morning just to see if the products of concern were taken down. Nothing was, but Torrid did change the name of two products:
    • Squash Blossom Statement Necklace to Gemstone Statement Necklace
    • Squash Blossom Pendant Necklace to Statement Pendant Necklace

  • Thursday May 23rd – In the evening, I checked my email and noticed I had received a response from Kate Horton, Torrid’s Sr. Vice President, GMM [Full statement below].
  • Friday May 24th – In the morning, I checked Torrid’s website and see that all three of the Squash Blossom related necklaces have been removed.

 

This is great news! Here is the email I received from Kate Horton, Torrid’s Sr. Vice President, GMM:

Dear Nicholet,

 

We really appreciate your honest and heartfelt letter. Thank you so much for educating us on this; we really had no idea the origins of the Squash Blossom Necklace—ignorance isn’t an excuse, but it is the unfortunate truth. As a diverse company, we always hope to uplift and represent women of all colors and cultures.  But we make mistakes. And as unintentional as this was, it was a mistake. And we’re truly sorry.

 

We want to make this right. So we have removed the items from our online store (it takes 24-48 hours so it should be off tomorrow). Also, we love your idea of donating to the Indian Arts and Crafts Association Education Fund. The profits from the sale of the necklaces round up to $1000, and we will send a check for that amount to the IACA.

 

This is important to us. Once again, we want to apologize, but we also want to thank you for making your voice heard and educating us.

 

Sincerely,

Kate Horton

 

I want to say that I did shed some tears reading Torrid’s response because I am happy. I suppose in a strange way I’m not shocked that Torrid responded in the way they did; These are the actions of the Torrid I expect, of my Torrid. I am however relieved with their response because I know that when it comes to the appropriation of American Indian culture, and American Indians are only 1.7% of all people in the U.S., our voice is often unheard and not acted upon by large fashion companies.

I do want to say that I am not against cultural sharing and encourage it! I hope that in the future should Torrid wish to share American Indian culture whether it be through a fabric design, clothing design, or a jewelry piece, that Torrid collaborate with an American Indian artist to ensure the creation of an authentic American Indian art/clothing. There are many American Indian artists who I’m sure would want to take on this partnership.

Lastly, I want people to know that obtaining authentic American Indian art and jewelry is not unattainable. And by purchasing either directly from an American Indian artist or a vendor who can authenticate a product is an American Indian product you are also supporting the livelihoods of these artists and helping to ensure the continuation of a way of life.

Here are two of my Navajo relatives who are silversmiths and metalsmiths: Krystal and Floyd Parkhurst, and Milford Calamity. I am wearing both of their squash blossoms in these photos:

You can also purchase from the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise. They even have a section devoted to the Navajo Squash Blossom.

If you are looking to diversify your American Indian art and jewelry visit the Beyond Buckskin Boutique to shop from the many artists who come from different Native Nations.

I am happy with Torrid’s response and if you are too, I encourage you to tell them that they’ve made the right decision. Contact Torrid: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

-Nicky

Lost Lake Festival, From the Creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, to Implement a No-Headdress Policy at Steele Indian School Park

On Sunday March 19th, Native News Online.net published an article I wrote about the Lost Lake Festival coming to the Steele Indian School Park this October 2017. In the article, I discussed concerns of cultural insensitivity as to the presence of hipster headdresses in an area that has historical significance as to the erasure of American Indian cultures.

UPDATE: On March 23rd, I received a statement from Superfly, the company producing the Lost Lake Festival, that states, “Out of respect for Native American heritage and culture, and with respect to the Native American history of the park, we will not allow headdresses at Lost Lake Festival. Our code of conduct will reflect our commitment to creating a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for all festival-goers to have the best experience possible, and we’re happy to share that [code of conduct] with you once it’s finalized in the coming months.”

Concerns of Cultural Insensitivity at Steele Indian School Park

 

The Steele Indian School Park is the site of the Phoenix Indian School, a boarding school that operated from 1891 to 1990. Indian boarding schools assimilated Native American youth into mainstream American society through forceful tactics such as chopping off hair, physical punishment, restricting youth from speaking their Native language, and living life in a military-like regime. I recall knowing about Indian boarding schools from a very young age… in fact, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know about Indian boarding schools. To this day, in my academic career I write about the consequences of boarding schools and historical trauma on generations of American Indians, particularly the consequences to families, relationships, connections to Tribal communities, and ties to their cultural heritage.

This is why, I became concerned when I learned about the Lost Lake Festival and that it was created by the same founders of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands – festivals unfortunately known for not banning headdresses. In my Lakota culture, the headdress is an important and significant item for the person who has earned it. And yet the appropriation of this cultural and spiritual item represents an act where American Indian culture is quite literally taken from American Indians, reduced to an accessory, and stripped of its cultural significance. This type of action, donning a headdress as a non-American Indian when one has not earned it, minimizes a complex history of assimilative practices that resulted in the culture of American Indians being forcibly taken away from them.

Implementing a No-Headdress Policy

The hipster headdress at music festivals has become a common occurrence but that doesn’t make it right. In fact, Dr. Adrienne Keene, author of Native Appropriations, regularly posts about headdress appropriation and even wrote about spotting this phenomenon at a 2011 Outside Lands Festival (remember Outside Lands is one of the creators of the Lost Lake Festival).

Thankfully, music festivals – at least in Canada – are implementing policies that ban the hipster headdress. In 2014, the Bass Coast Festival in Merrit, British Columbia Canada implemented a ban on feathered warbonnet or similar headdresses. In 2015, the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal Canada placed First Nations headdresses on their list of banned items.

While Superfly did provide a statement to me on March 23rd that indicates “… we will not allow [emphasis added] headdresses at Lost Lake Festival” they don’t specifically indicate how this will be conveyed to attendees (will the code of conduct explicitly state this or will it be on a list of prohibited items), how it will be enforced, or how such policy would apply to their vendors (will vendors be excluded from selling headdresses?). [Superfly’s full statement is listed in the first paragraph of this post]. Superfly’s statement on their code of conduct appears to be a general statement about promoting safety, respect, and inclusivity for attendees rather than specifically stating that headdresses are prohibited from the festival grounds (although I should note that the code of conduct still has to be developed). I responded to Superfly requesting clarification about how not allowing headdresses will be exactly implemented, asked to be part of developing their code of conduct regarding the headdress, and asked if the headdress ban will be on a list of prohibited items.

If the Lost Lake Festival follows through with their statement would they be the first festival in the United States to implement a ban on the headdress (If you are aware of U.S. festivals that do ban headdresses please let me know)? Further, would the creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands then make similar policy implementations in those respective music festivals? I want to hope so but I don’t know. Supposedly, the 2015 Outside Lands Festival banned the hipster headdress according to this photo posted to Powwow.com. However, the 2016 FAQs does not mention the hipster headdress on the official list of items not to bring into the festival as seen in this screenshot.

2016 Outside Lands Festival Official FAQ Hipster Headdress Not Listed on Items You Can't Bring

 

With its tribalesque aesthetic (look no farther than Lost Lake Festival’s promo video) and festival name of “Lost Lake” (indicating a body of water to be found, a limited resource in the Arizona desert) this event seems more and more a theme of discovery or westward expansion. Superfly co-founder and a producer of the Lost Lake Festival Rick Farman stated in an azcentral.com interview that the Steele Indian School Park is an “undervalued gem” and points out “It was surprising to us that we have this incredible jewel here and it doesn’t seem that a lot of people know about it. And having the lake in the middle of it was an interesting thing for us to play off.”

The impression I get from the Lost Lake Festival marketing is that the Steele Indian School Park is a rare, unknown, and untouched resource not unlike the myth of an untouched, unknown, and rare picturesque west, which was in part what fueled the westward expansion program. Yes, the settling of the west was a federal program that required the government to deal with Native American peoples by making them “disappear” to give the illusion of an untouched and free west to be discovered and found. While the Steele Indian School Park may be unknown to the festival organizers it is not unknown to me and a good number of other American Indians in the Phoenix metro area who are aware of its history and connection to the Indian boarding school days.

This is why it’s important that we hold the festival organizers to their word and ensure that American Indian cultures are not minimized to fashion accessories and that the Steele Indian School Park is given the respect it is deserved.

-Nicky