London, Ontario May 17th, 2017 – In the opening pages for ‘Write’ magazine former editor Hal Niedzviecki wrote a very flippant article pushing for cultural appropriation. These words are bad enough on their own but the encouragement for an appropriation award is salt on the wound. The debacle occurs not long after the use of the headdress in the Toronto Caribbean Carnival or a young artist saying she was ‘inspired’ by indigenous artwork. The difference is which one is appropriation and which is inspiration.
The magazine theme for that issue was for indigenous writing however, Mr. Niedzviecki’s words “anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities,” and that he did not believe in cultural appropriation. This kind of view, even made as a joke or sarcasm, leads to the encouragement of forced assimilation and modern colonization. This in turn results in the continued attempted eradication of the indigenous form of life and culture in Canada.
A.I.A.I. Deputy Grand Chief Denise Stonefish comments “When I first brought attention to the headdress worn by women for use at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival as a themed costume, it was about the derogatory messaging that continues to perpetuate sexualized violence against Indigenous women and the disrespect of the sacred significance of the traditional headdress. While the mas Band apologized after accusations of cultural appropriation, the damage has been done in reinforcing the stereotyping and misrepresentation about Indigenous peoples.
As you can see by all of the articles about “Cultural Appropriation” has surfaced and this speaks volumes about the larger picture whereby there is little understanding of First Nations’ history, culture and traditions. This is not about artistic license or a freedom expression or an appreciation, it is about the continued exploitation and discriminatory practices against First Nations. I believe this controversy has contributed to increasing the educational awareness, but there still is a long way to go.”
The big picture is that this is not an isolated incident of one person writing an inappropriate article to just get some clicks or views. This is one instance of many where a large collective are trying to defend their actions by freedom of expression. By hiding behind this excuse they blind themselves to consequences of their actions and not realizing the pain they are unknowingly inflicting on others. The easiest solution is to reach out to those you wish to write about and do the research. As Jesse Wente says it’s not restricting people from being creative or make new worlds but it doesn’t mean ‘you can create without critique’.