"For a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of us all."

-John F. Kennedy in
the introduction to The American Heritage Book of Indians

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Glastonbury "Indians"

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts (link) is the largest music festival in the world.  In 2010, over 130,000 people attended the yearly event to watch such varied acts as Radiohead, Gorillaz, Muse, and Stevie Wonder.

Such festivals always attract the weird and wacky and Glastonbury 2010 was no exception.  The Boston Globe's website Boston.com has a very popular section known as The Big Picture which features recent news events as seen through the work of photojournalists.  It was on this site that I stumbled upon the following entry on the 2010 Glastonbury Festival:


and saw these two pictures with accompanying captions:

"The sun rises over tents at the 2010 40th Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 26, 2010 in Glastonbury, England. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)"

"Festival attendees wear Native American head-dresses as the temperatures remain high at the Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2010. (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)"

My thoughts:

The hipster headdress has officially made the leap across the pond.  This is no surprise considering how connected and global the hipster subculture has become.  Then again, those could be honest to goodness Yankees sporting the latest fashion trend on their weekend trip to the British Isles.  I wonder if they brought the headdresses with them or worse yet bought them at the Festival from a vendor?

The tepees are another thing altogether.  The fascination with the tepee goes way back to the Summer camps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Affluent white American children were sent away to Summer camp to get back in touch with the Natural world including a healthy dose of appropriated Native culture.  They played Indian games, made Indian crafts, and slept in Indian tepees.  This trend then exploded in the 1960s with the hippie and New Age fascination with everything Native including once again the tepee.

Are we in for a third wave of tepee appropriation among America's and Britain's affluent white young populace?

In my earlier blog post about survival training schools titled Cody Lundin and Surviving like an Indian, I introduced you to two British survival schools- Woodsmoke: Bushcraft and Wilderness Survival and Bearclaw Bushcraft which make heavy use of Native imagery and symbolism including the tepee.

I imagine the case at Glastonbury is similar.  Essentially, you have a bunch of young, white British folk who look to Native Americans as the ultimate symbol of the Natural, harmonious, simple lives they want to live.  They put up a tepee not for the practicality of it but because it screams Indian!  It says, "I'm hip!"  "I'm cool!"  "I'm down with Mother Earth! (just like the Indians were)"

It also says, "I didn't spend even one second thinking about the real culture and people behind this beautiful, unique, and culturally significant architectural wonder!  Hey look at me, I gotta tepee!!!"

(But then again maybe I'm wrong and an entire community of Lakota simply uprooted and moved to a random farm in western England for a weekend.  You never know... )

For more on the hipster headdress, check out these entries at the Native Appropriations blog:

But Why Can't I Wear a Hipster Headdress?:

Headdresses and Music Festivals go together like PB and...Racism?:

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