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Cultural Appropriation in Canada: Tempest in a Potlatch

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posted on May, 15 2017 @ 04:48 AM
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Cultural appropriation is an interesting issue.

It has gone on a long time and it will continue. It's a good thing. It has enriched all of the cultures of the world, but it is also problematic.

The current controversy in Canada, as I understand it, focuses on cultural appropriation as an instrument of the continued marginalization and exclusion of indigenous people from having a legitimate place and voice in the Canadian cultural context.

There's the rub.

Jumping out of the Canadian context for a moment, one can say that Afro-American musicians have been the victims of massive cultural appropriation by the mainstream, mostly "white", musical "community".

Elvis Presley and some other early pioneers of "rock and roll" music led the charge in appropriating what was a hugely appealing aspect of Afro-American musical culture, the transportation of African musical styles to America and the Americanization of them by African slaves.

The Americanization of African musical styles led to a counter appropriation of "white" European musical styles by Afro-American musicians, which was an integral element in the development of the blues and ultimately in the development of the crown jewel of musical culture on this continent, Jazz, the American "classical music", as it has been called.

People familiar with modern rock and roll, modern blues and modern jazz will be familiar with some of the cultural twists and turns involved in the process of appropriation and how this process wound its way back to the originators of these musical styles in the marginalized Afro-American community, which was their ultimate source.

Many musicians from the marginalized Afro-American community came into mainstream prominence through the efforts of their "appropriators". The relationship between the Rolling Stones (and also very importantly, Johnny Winter) and Muddy Waters is probably the most well known example of this phenomenon.

There were numerous other examples, though, on a smaller scale, on the coffee house circuit and in college auditoriums where well known white "blues" artists drew attention to and were sometimes partnered with the Afro-American musicians they idolized.

It seems clear that Canadian authors should consider creating a cultural discovery or recognition prize, rather than an appropriation prize in connection with marginalized artists.

Maybe, as in the case of rock and roll, appropriation precedes recognition and acknowledgement.

This begs the question, "Are well meaning representatives of marginalized cultures and their defenders in the mainstream, actually blocking recognition and acceptance of their cultural efforts by attempting to block their cultural appropriation by mainstream artists?"

It's something to consider.

This is a very big topic and it stretches from the Acropolis in Athens to the Giza plateau and all across the North American continent and really all around the world. There are cultural battles going on everywhere.

Just to take one extreme example, the Egyptian government has for quite a long time, been restricting access to the pharaonic monuments in the country, much to the frustration of numerous non-Egyptian archaeologists and scientists, who would like the freedom to thoroughly explore and elucidate the mysteries of those ancient remnants.

They are routinely condemned for doing so, by the avid followers of archaeological discoveries around the world, but one could make the case, on the basis of condemning "cultural appropriation" that the Egyptian government has every right to lock up those sites so that they might be completely explored by Egyptian archeologists, in due time, who will then tell what is essentially and rightfully the Egyptian story revealed by them.

The world might have a long wait for that story to be told. The world might have to wait for the maturation of an archaeological tradition in Egypt that could take generations. It might have to wait for political turbulence in Egypt to settle. It might have to wait for the Egyptian economy to generate large amounts of discretionary income to be spent on archaeology or for the right Egyptian philanthropist to appear.

Abjuring cultural appropriation would have a price.

Of course, "mainstream" culture is appropriated with alacrity by indigenous people around the world. Some people fear that too. It could mean, it has meant the destruction of numerous autochthonous cultures.

Are there any truly autochthonous cultures? People have been butting heads and wandering around for a very long time. They have been changing and adapting for a long time too.

This is a very big topic. One could go on and on about it. I would suggest that the opponents of cultural appropriation consider focusing on indigenous cultural voices that excite them and start to promote them in "cultural recognition" rather than worrying so much about an appropriation process that might actually have a significant upside anyway.
edit on 15-5-2017 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)




posted on May, 15 2017 @ 04:57 AM
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There is no such thing as cultural appropriation. Only cultural appreciation.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 05:04 AM
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Every time I hear that word "cultural appropriation" I want to kick someone's teeth in. It's called cultural appreciation not the other way around.
edit on 15-5-2017 by 4N0M4LY because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 05:14 AM
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a reply to: ipsedixit

the indigenous people of Canada should not wear clothes drive cars or use anything invented in Europe and other parts of the world....fairs fair



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 05:26 AM
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a reply to: ItCameFromOuterSpace

I agree. Canada does have a peculiar cultural phenomenon that is involved in this controversy, though, and that is "tyranny by committee".

Canada is rife with it. At its roots it is about jobs and money in a country where it is hard to make money.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 06:48 AM
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If the World is supposed to be Multicultural, then 'Cultural Appropriation' has no place in it, 'Cultural Appreciation' makes much more sense..



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 06:58 AM
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I will say I appreciate the irony I've seen with this, growing up where I did in the USA.

The same asshole kids that were hollering at me while smacking their hands to their mouths and laughing hysterically and tugging on my braids or always coming up with "creative" native nicknames for me are the same assholes who grew up to go to EDM festivals with headdresses and dreamcatcher tattoos.

Hahahaha ohhh how the cards did fall, it's cool to be brown now isn't it?!

-Alee
edit on 5/15/2017 by NerdGoddess because: specify my experiences are in the USA only.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 07:15 AM
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Musicians artists architects writers and poets would call it influence.

Politicians call it appropriation.
edit on 15-5-2017 by 0racle because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 07:18 AM
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a reply to: NerdGoddess




Hahahaha ohhh how the cards did fall, it's cool to be brown now isn't it?! 


Unless you are subsistence living on a reservation in North Dakota in a community tbat lists alcoholism as a common problem.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 08:19 AM
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originally posted by: 0racle
Musicians artists architects writers and poets would call it influence.

Politicians call it appropriation.


Fail to 'recognize' minority 'contributions' to culture and one will be labelled racist, or at least, exclusionist/segregationist. Include? Incorporate 'multiculture activities'- which was born in Canada- and now the accusation of appropriation.

Screw 'em.
edit on 15-5-2017 by nwtrucker because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 11:25 AM
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originally posted by: butcherguy
a reply to: NerdGoddess




Hahahaha ohhh how the cards did fall, it's cool to be brown now isn't it?! 


Unless you are subsistence living on a reservation in North Dakota in a community tbat lists alcoholism as a common problem.


Which pretty much sums up my general feelings on all of this.

I understand appreciation because I appreciate a lot of cultures, learning about them, etc... but like the OP mentioned... That rub..... Making a costume or fashion out of a culture that seemingly the majority of those sporting such items don't give a damn about the struggles of the people, especially those still living on the rez.

-Alee
edit on 5/15/2017 by NerdGoddess because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 11:56 AM
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In the spirit of giving props and kudos to outstanding indigenous figures, I have to mention Brian Maracle, who came to my attention via the CBC radio program Our Native Land. I used to be a regular listener and loved the program. Oddly enough, to me it was not so much about indigenous values and culture which were different from my own, but rather about indigenous values and culture that were my own, even though my ethnic heritage is Irish Catholic.

Living in the cultural environment of Toronto, which is very multicultural, Our Native Land was like an oasis of "Canadian" values that I could recognize and relate to as my own. I always suspected that the show was canceled because it was too "Canadian" and not "multicultural" enough and that it was actually too effective at reminding natural born Canadians who they really were.

Here is a link to a brief biography of Mr. Maracle. It mentions a couple of his books, which sound very interesting.

www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca...
edit on 15-5-2017 by ipsedixit because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 12:08 PM
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a reply to: ipsedixit
I'll play devils advocate with you.
Just what is culture? Culture as we know it is defined by the majority group. If the majority group dance around maypoles every mayday then that is the "culture" and the minority groups can suck it up.
Firstly your analogy of music as a cultural entity is erroneous. Music always has and always will be dictated by "popularity". ie. How many people listen to it and more recently how many people pay to hear it. A prime example of this is Motown.
Yes, a predominantly Afro- American phenomena. You would class that as Afro- American culture?
Wrong, go watch their own history video of how it started and how it was manufactured. Money, money, money.
Now my sincere apologies to NerdGoddess, The indigenous people of America and Canada ARE in the minority and will be swallowed by whatever majority "culture" is prevalent now.
The majority of indigenous people in the past lived very hard lives and the "culture" as you would like it was not the "culture" they portray today. It is culture seen through rose colored spectacles.
There is a few on ATS that would argue with me on their "culture" and identity in the UK. The Scots, Irish and Welsh try to define their "culture" by using and actually believing in mythological histories.
It is all to defend their separate IDENTITIES not "cultures", the identities that can make them feel special therefore the call for them needing special treatment whatever form that may take.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 12:08 PM
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a reply to: ipsedixit
This is what happens when people get obsessive about looking for grievances.

The usual understanding of "cultural borrowing" is the other way round- that the borrowing culture is allowing itself to be influenced by, and to that extent submitting to, the source culture.
The classic example is Greece and Rome. The Romans conquered the Greeks physically, the Greeks conquered the Romans culturally. Or the Romans later allowing themselves to be "conquered" by the Christianity that came out of the east.
The court of Louis XIV sneered at the court of Charles II, when the latter (as we may read in Pepys) tried to free themselves from French influence in fashions.
For that matter, every imperialist culture has at least tried to remodel conquered peoples in its own image.

One of the ironies is that every complaint about "appropriation" is being expressed in a language which the complainants have appropriated from the Anglo culture. Are we complaining about that?






edit on 15-5-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 12:15 PM
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originally posted by: DISRAELI
a reply to: ipsedixit
This is what happens when people get obsessive about looking for grievances.

Or not...I could not help but notice that among those here going "Oh, pshaw", there doesn't seem to be one Indigenous voice. How kind of you to dismiss these grievances on their behalf. You hear a lot about 'mansplain. This looks like 'whitesplain' to me.
Here's one of but many other takes: Art, appropriation and the damaging economic effect on Indigenous artists.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 12:19 PM
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a reply to: crayzeed

You are right to a degree, but you are describing the commercial culture and it is almost as if you are a victim of the corporatizing of life in our society. This is fascism. I think it has gone way too far. I don't think culture originates from commercial motivations but it is true that commercialism latches on to culture and tries to commercialize it.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 12:37 PM
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originally posted by: ipsedixit
a reply to: crayzeed

You are right to a degree, but you are describing the commercial culture and it is almost as if you are a victim of the corporatizing of life in our society. This is fascism. I think it has gone way too far. I don't think culture originates from commercial motivations but it is true that commercialism latches on to culture and tries to commercialize it.

And you are entitled to your opinion, but it is a white guy opinion. Ask some FN friends and get back to us. No cherry-picking, now!



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 12:42 PM
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a reply to: JohnnyCanuck

And you sir are a racist, but you are right about one thing. I am entitled to my opinion and so is everyone else, even a racist.



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 01:30 PM
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originally posted by: ipsedixit
a reply to: JohnnyCanuck

And you sir are a racist, but you are right about one thing. I am entitled to my opinion and so is everyone else, even a racist.

Sure, I'm a racist. You funny!
Actually, you fortunate, too! This issue must be of importance to you...all that typing, and name calling! You are actually in a position to validate your opinions on cultural appropriation!

Next nice day, hop in your car and head on up to Curve Lake First Nation, not far from Peterborough. It's about 2 1/2 hours from the T-dot. Follow the signs, and you'll find Whetung Ojibwa Centre. Go in, and ask for Mike Whetung, he's a nice guy, and he's generally around. Sit down with him in front of the fireplace and lay everything out just the way you have here. Listen to what he has to say. And report back.

Or you could pass...but that would constitute willful ignorance.

edit on 15-5-2017 by JohnnyCanuck because: indeed!



posted on May, 15 2017 @ 03:30 PM
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a reply to: ItCameFromOuterSpace

There is no such thing as cultural appropriation. Only cultural appreciation.

Or survival by assimilation, perhaps?



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