Concerns of Cultural Insensitivity at Steele Indian School Park

Memorial Hall at Steel Indian School Park

Guest Commentary

Published March 19, 2017

The Lost Lake Festival, a 3-day music festival is coming to the Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix Arizona in October 2017. The Lost Lake Festival was announced on March 15, 2017. The creators of the Lost Lake Festival also created the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands Festivals; these festivals are known for not banning hipster headdresses. In particular, the Lost Lake Festival raises concerns as to the presence of hipster headdresses and cultural insensitivity as the Steele Indian School Park is the site of the Phoenix Indian School, a boarding school that opened in 1891 and closed in 1990.

Newly built Memorial Hall 1922

The Phoenix Indian School was a boarding school that operated for almost a century as part of the federal government’s forced assimilation of Native American youth. The assimilation tactics included the suppression of Native American languages, cultures, and spiritual practices.

Dr. Adrienne Keene, author of Native Appropriations has written about how misappropriating the Native American headdress is culturally insensitive:

Issues have been expressed online as to the presence of hipster headdresses at Bonnaroo and Outside Lands Festivals – the creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands are also producing the Lost Lake Festival. As of publication the Bonnarro and Outside Lands Festivals do not official ban the hipster headdress as it is not listed on either festival’s website as an item not to bring. In 2014, Allen Scott, executive vice president of Another Planet Entertainment, whose company produced Outside Lands stated, “We don’t have any policy on headdresses.”

Nicholet Deschine Parkhurst

This author reached out to the Steele Indian School Park Manager, on March 16th. A statement was requested on the Park’s position about possible cultural appropriation of Native American culture and whether the Park will require Lost Lake Festival organizers to implement an official festival policy that bans the hipster headdress. This request was forwarded to the City of Phoenix Public Information Officer Gregg Bach. Bach left a voicemail on March 17th stating, “I would really encourage you to reach out to, reach out directly to Superfly. They are the creators and the producers of the event, of the Lost Lake Festival, I’m sure they could probably answer your concerns.”

This author also reached out to the organizers of the Lost Lake Festival, on March 16th. A statement was requested on whether organizers intend to implement an official festival policy that bans the hipster headdress, given the nature of the site and the park’s historical connection to the assimilative practices of boarding schools that stripped away Native American culture from Native youth.  As of March 19, no response has been received.

Nicholet Deschine Parkhurst is Standing Rock Sioux and Navajo. She holds a Master of Social Work degree and is a graduate student studying public policy. She is author of

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