I guess my problem with it being given a pass for being ‘art’ is that I come from a Nation with very close ties to the Cree. In fact, my community is extremely culturally Cree, and the particular headdress Rachel Dashae wears comes from the Plains cultures. I understand its meaning and the way in which it is treated with extreme reverence in our communities. I understand how it restricted and who can wear it. Rachel Dashae has not earned the right to wear it, anymore than any other woman not from our cultures. (in fact, very few women without our cultures have the right to wear it anyway)
To me, her native blood makes no differences in this, because it is disrespectful to take one of our restricted cultural symbols and use it, whether you are native, or non-native. We have not given permission for it to be used in this way.
Now on the other hand…I want to give you an example of someone who uses this headdress in their art, Kent Monkman: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Meet_Kent_Monkmans_flamboyant_twospirited_alterego_Miss_Chief_Eagle_Testickle-8303.aspx
Kent Monkman is Cree and wears a headdress as part of their performance art as “Miss Chief Eagle Testickle”. Monkman mocks stereotypes of indigenous peoples and turns it around on settlers, creating paintings and performance art that highlight settlers in unauthentic and bizarre ways, much in the way we have been portrayed for centuries. Because of the way Monkman uses the headdress to highlight these stereotypes and comment on them, and because he comes from a Nation where this symbol is used, he is approaching it as an insider, with an insider’s right to comment using it.
Monkman’s approach is very different than the ‘fashionable’ wearing of a headdress by literally thousands of ‘artists’, most of whom are non-native, some of whom are a little native…none of whom actually have the right to do this.
I don’t think anyone can claim to respect our culture when we’ve said many times “we find this disrespectful”. I understand where you’re coming from on this, but I cannot discount the way in which our symbols have been outlawed, stolen, displayed, sold, taken out of context and profited from, all within a wider context of ongoing colonialism. It’s not the worst thing we’re facing, but it’s an important part of the attitude that justifies the continuation of the colonial mindset.
Anyway, my thoughts.
Edit: I notice you mention at one point that she wasn’t wearing a ‘real headdress’. What makes something a ‘real’ headdress is not just how it is made or who makes it, though these things matter…but who wears it. If, by definition, no headdress is ‘real’ unless worn by someone who has earned it, then heck, anyone could wear one no problem.
But that isn’t true. The symbol itself is being appropriated here, we’re not discussing a headdress that was snatched from the head of someone who’d earned it.