Finally a Music Festival Bans Native American Headdresses


As the battle over racist Native American mascots and cultural appropriation in professional sports rages on, another has resurfaced in the music industry.

Last month it was Christina Fallin, the lead singer of electronica band Pink Pony, who wore a Native American headdress on stage during a performance. Then Wayne Coyne, lead singer of indie-rock group ‘The Flaming Lips’ went a step further when he posted a since-deleted picture on Instagram showing himself, his dog, a friend and fellow music artist, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram all sporting the same Native American headdress that Fallin originally wore.

Image courtesy: Billboard

But now a music festival is trying to raise awareness and they’ve even connected one of the offending artists mentioned above with Native Americans.

Thanks to Lightning in a Bottle , a summer music festival in central California that starts this Friday, a line has been drawn in the sand over Native American cultural appropriation.

Lightning in a Bottle has set the standard for respectfully honoring Native peoples and their culture in a way the music industry and its fans can still enjoy. They have an entire section of their website which details their commitment to respectfully honoring Native peoples and the land on which their festival is held. When the organizers were approached by Chumash Indians who are from the area about her offensive behavior, Lightning in a Bottle created a dialogue between the two parties and Sarah Barthel of Phantogram changed her stance.

“There are some important things to think about when tossing on that war bonnet,” reads the “Headdresses and cultural appropriation” page. “Do you know which tribe uses that headdress and for what? Did the person who sold it have permission to recreate and profit from it?”, the site asks visitors.

This year’s festival features an Aztec dance group, sunset ceremonies with Chumash elders, as well as dialogue session on cultural appropriation and awareness. They have an entire section of their website which details their commitment to respectfully honoring Native peoples and their land.

Last week, The Do LaB, which runs Lightning in a Bottle , sent an e-mail to festival goers informing them that if they wear a headdresses it “means being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism.”

According to Russell Ward, Lightning in a Bottle publicist, the ‘no headdress/no cultural appropriation’ policy isn’t about enforcing a strict rule, but lovingly educating those who in an effort to ‘honor’ Native peoples unintentionally offend.

“In our dealings with Native American cultures and our understanding of the tribal way and the people who have come before us, we wanted to honor and be true to what we promised to these people,” he told Fusion. “We couldn’t, in good faith, ask from elders to get a sign off from elders, hoping for earnest respect, we owe it to them to walk the walk ourselves and it’s our hope that if we do so, the people who look to use will do similarly.”

Lightning in a Bottle has been a part of both advocating for cultural sensitivity and creating lines of communication between parties. It was Lightning in a Bottle who facilitated a respectful dialogue between Barthel and the Chumash people, causing her to have a change of heart and serve as an example of how to truly respect Native culture.


If you’re planning to attend Lightning in a Bottle or another summer music festival and really want to wear something with a ‘Native’ feel, head over to Beyond Buckskin for suggestions of awesome fashion designers who have got you covered!

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