A picture posted by mother Jennifer Dorner has started yet another conversation about why not to wear costume headdresses. She took the image while dropping her children off for their first day of school at Montreal’s École Lajoie on Monday, August 29. The image shows a Grade 3 teacher in a headdress in front of the children, and according to Dorner, smaller headdresses were being handed out for the children to wear.
Sarah Dorner, Zoe’s mother, told thestar.com that her daughter refused to wear the headdress.
“We have been teaching our children that costumes like that are inappropriate,” Dorner also said. “The other kids in the class were all wearing them.”
“A lot of children aren’t necessarily taught cultural sensitivity or have much awareness about indigenous cultures,” she went on to say. “But in our family we have many indigenous friends, so it’s a conversation we’ve had many times.”
Gina Guillemette, a Margeurite-Bourgeoys school board spokesperson, told news outlets that the two teachers seen sporting headdresses have backgrounds in anthropology and history and are introducing indigenous history into the curriculum. Guillemette also told CBC News the headdresses worn by teachers were a way for the kids to know which “family, or class, to go to.”
Guillemette told the Gazette that “the teachers decided to wear hats to symbolize that they were Native chiefs,” to separate their students from another Grade 3 class.
Right. So naturally, you could not be bothered, as educators, to thoughtfully choose a particular tribe, maybe one in your actual part of the world, find out what their traditional regalia might be, and actually ask members of that tribe if it would be okay to dress in a certain item. Oh, that would be bringing Indians into things, and I guess you can’t have that in a school, it might poison young minds with the truth or something. As Adrienne Keene wrote on Native Appropriations, this is not a lightweight matter:
Adrienne K of Native Appropriations writes that a non-Indian casually wearing an Indian headdress “furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It also places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but we still exist and are still Native.” She also draws attention to the deep spiritual significance of a headdress and maintains that when a non-Indian wears one “it’s just like wearing blackface.”
Getting back to the teachers at École Lajoie, they seem to not only miss the point, they are determined to miss the point:
“No offence was intended—if any parents were offended, we apologize,” Guillemette told the Gazette. “We didn’t want to offend anyone. It was the opposite; we wanted to sensitize the students to the contributions of native communities.”
Oh For Fuck’s Sake! What about the children you offended, do they not count? And there’s that magical if – if you were offended, words of the classic notpology. You sensitize students to the contributions of native communities by appropriating a headdress unique to specific tribes, and mashing up all tribal cultures into one messy clump? You sure as hell don’t sound like educators to me, you sound like flaming assholes who live to perpetuate stereotypes.
“How can they possibly be teaching an authentic understanding of indigenous culture? Dorner asked thestar.com. “It doesn’t help their cause to say that. If anything, it makes it even more distressing.”
This isn’t the first time Dorner has addressed cultural sensitivity with the school either. In 2014, “they were doing a play where Santa goes to Africa and gets Ebola and gets sick and the local tribes are dancing around him and my daughter was going to be in blackface,” she told the Gazette.
“We managed to convince the school not to do blackface at the time, but they still kept the story line. Santa ends up being saved by scientists who come from the North Pole.”
She met with the school multiple times in 2014, according to the Gazette to discuss “cultural appropriation and this kind of insensitivity and was hoping that we had come to some kind of understanding, but apparently not. Which is why I’m particularly upset this time. The message doesn’t seem to be sinking in.”
Canadians, please, wake the fuck up. This school, and its staff, should be shamed into the ground by a whole lot of very angry people. Apparently, the open bigotry at this school strikes too many people as just fine, and that is seriously fucked up.
Full story at ICTMN.