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Edmonton Folk Fest takes a stance on headdress faux pas

A festival go-er wears a headdress.
A festival go-er wears a headdress. Ollie Millington/Wire Image

EDMONTON – Edmonton Folk Festival organizers have decided to get a jump on a controversial issue before it even presents itself. Folk Fest Producer Terry Wickham issued a ban on wearing headdresses, stating they will be confiscated.

He said the festival attendee will have the option of taking it off and going into the festival or leaving the event with a refund.

“There’s no excuse for ignorance,” said Wickham. “You can Google it and I’ve done that, I’ve read about it. I am following up on the ban from Osheaga.”

The Osheaga music and arts festival announced its ban Monday.

“The First Nations Headdresses have a spiritual and cultural meaning in the native communities and to respect and honour their people, Osheaga, Heavy Montreal and îleSoniq ask fans and artists attending the festivals to not use this symbol as a fashion accessory,” a post on the festival’s  Facebook page reads.

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READ MORE: Osheaga music festival bans wearing headdresses as fashion accessories 

“When I read about it it’s actually – it’s an honour,” said Wickham.

“You earn the right to wear this in indigenous communities.

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“It’s mostly for elders, sometimes for ceremonies, but it’s not something you wear as a fashion accessory.”

A woman wearing a headdress and face paint at the Winnipeg Folk Music Festival prompted harsh condemnation on social media on the weekend.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Folk Fest headdress prompts angry backlash 

There has been reaction recently to culturally-significant pieces like headdresses being used out of context. Musicians like Pharrel and Andre’ 3000 have worn headdresses and David Guetta’s new music video has received negative backlash for using headdresses and totem poles.

Merle White, the executive director of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, is happy for the support of the Edmonton Folk Festival.

“That gives me some pride in that we are being recognized and being accounted as people,” said White. “Historically we weren’t and now this is bringing us up to a common ground…right? I applaud the festival.”

Edmonton’s Folk Festival runs August 6-9.

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