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White Indian Headdress in Little Girls Pink Nursery

Are these Replica Indian Headdresses Culturally Insensitive?

I’ve seen a bit of a war raging lately and I thought it was time to write about it on the blog.

If you’re a long-time reader, you know that I don’t tend to shy away from open and honest conversations on here (even if it does get me into hot water sometimes), and this time around it’s no different.

Boys Black and White Indian Headdress with Kids art Print

 

The question I’m posing today is: are indian headdresses culturally insensitive?

You might not have given this a lick of thought before now – and truth be told I hadn’t up until recently either – but it’s definitely a topic worth exploring.

As we see more and more headdresses being made locally (predominantly for kids rooms and dress-ups, as well as featuring in interior styling shoots), we have to ask ourselves if this is harmless fun or if there’s a bigger issue here that needs examining.

Pharell Williams Indian Headdress Elle Magazine Cover

I’m not going to profess to be an expert on the topic, but I have seen a decent amount of backlash on social media about it. Hashtags like #NotYourCulture and #ReclaimTheHeaddress have expressed outrage that anyone apart from Native Americans are wearing headdresses.

As recent as last year,  Elle Magazine in the UK landed itself in hot water when it featured singer Pharrell Williams on their cover wearing one, prompting fans on Facebook to speak out.

“You have no right to wear a headress that is so sacred to native people. Those headresses are earned and not worn to make a buck or draw attention..They have meaning and are worn by our men with pride and dignity..This is a mockery of a proud people”, said Gail Lichtsinn.

Pharrell later released a statement apologising for wearing the headdress.

White Indian Headdress in Little Girls Pink Nursery

In Australia I haven’t seen as much outrage, but I do know that online stores Down That Little Lane and Kreo Home have both encountered scenarios in which local creatives have expressed concern about it – be it artists working with Native Americans or consumers feeling offended that the headdresses are being stocked and sold.

“I was recently asked by a supplier who created headdress prints to pull the product off my website as they will no longer be creating them as they were now working closely with native Indians and felt they would be offensive to them,” Maggie from Kreo Home tells me. “Of course, out of respect I have done so, however my mother has recently returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and she tells me that the headdresses are sold in every gift shop”.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this in the comments below. Do you find the use of these in styling and kids bedrooms offensive? Or do you think they shine a light on Native Americans and celebrate their culture?

Like I said above, you might not have even considered this an issue up until now – but has this given you food for thought?

Drop a comment below and let’s talk it out!

Magazine cover courtesy of Elle Magazine. Other photos credits here.

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

Comments (8)

  • Creating a headdress inspired by the original is not insensitive at all. Nobody is pretending this is authentic, there is no hate connotation, it is just an interpretation of a design. We are lucky enough to live in democracy where freedom of expression is protected, and I don’t like the fact that anybody has to apologise for creating freely.

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  • I totally agree with you Eva! I believe that the headdress is celebrated throughout art today in a positive light and I find it hard to understand why it is considered offensive.

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  • Lisa

    it is inappropriate to say since these are replicas it’s all good. We hear from interior designers how replica furniture is inappropriate and if you can’t afford the original to bad. This headdress is a spiritual cultural icon. Not a prop to pop on a bed post. or play with in dress up time. I was stunned when I saw these is photo shoot. I’m new to OZ and wasn’t aware the enlightenment was yet to come. Finally!!

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  • I do offer these to sale in both children’s & adult sizing. I stay away from the traditional styling/ design & offer more modern colour schemes. Traditionally these are made from eagle feathers where mine are swan feathers. I believe they can be viewed in a positive light with children being made aware of the culture thru these pieces.

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  • child of the 90’s here…. didn’t Jamiroquai wear one of those headdresses for years? Don’t remember it being an issue then? That said, i think it becomes an issue as soon as someone is offended and alot of American Indian people obviously are, so time to tone it down.

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  • Tessa : Down that Little Lane

    You know my thoughts here.. I would never want to offend anyones religion or cultural history but you can come at this from so many angles.. when these replicas are in bright aqua colours or dusky soft pinks and worn for pretend play I think it opens conversations about other cultures and jobs.
    We could say they same of girls dressed up in kimonos is offensive to geishas, a child dressed as a surgeon, someone dressed as a priest?.. the list could go on.
    The issue is we live in this incredibly PC world were we can’t really do or say much without offending somebody and it is hard to know where to draw the line..

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  • Aja

    To be honest I haven’t though too hard about this particular topic (as i’m not a ‘fan’ of the trend as such) but, in my opinion too often do we label the reaction of a cultural minority as ‘politically correct’. If a person or group of people from a particular cultural background are speaking out about something being upsetting or offensive I think it’s our role as the dominant white culture to listen and change our behaviour/interaction with it. It’s just so difficult for us to comprehend what it must be like to come from a cultural group that have historically been victims of a genocide. It is not really for us to determine the cultural significance of items or clothing. There are plenty of trends that have been emerging recently around artisanal objects – Japanese ceramics etc and I love to feature elements of other cultures in my home as a measure of awe and respect but I, personally, would not knowingly feature something in my home that is culturally insensitive for a person of my background (white) to own.

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  • Natasha Andrews

    I love what Aja says above “personally, would not knowingly feature something in my home that is culturally insensitive for a person of my background (white) to own”

    In so saying I have not thought about this at all prior to reading this article – I guess the key word is “knowingly” – I would not have one in my home now that I know that it is an offensive thing to do from a Native Americans point of view.

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