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August 14, 2022

Plan to raise awareness of cultural appropriation

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Gerard Williams, BBCC GM Paul Spooner, Delta Kay and Jason Campbell. Photo Byron Bay Gallery

Hans Lovejoy

A newly formed organisation focused on supporting Indigenous elders to bring awareness of cultural appropriation through an event protocol was launched last Friday at the Byron Bay Community Centre (BBCC).

Culture Aware is supported by local Arakwal representative Delta Kay, Kay’s friend Jason Campbell and Chief Arvol Looking Horse (of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations).

Chief Arvol is 19th-generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Ceremonial Pipe Bundle and spiritual leader of the Great Sioux Nation.

Kay told the gathering that while she doesn’t speak for all mobs, Culture Aware is an important step forward in respecting and recognising Indigenous traditions and ceremonies. She said she felt empowered after reading Chief Arvol’s 2003 Proclamation, which calls for an end to the cultural appropriation of the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations, and for an end to the abuse and exploitation of their ceremonial ways.

Taking from culture

‘I hope this conversation will lead to more awareness’, Kay said. ‘Appropriation is taking from culture.

‘My mum was removed from her land and we suffered and now our culture is abused for financial gain.

‘It’s not okay.

‘I congratulate the community centre for being the first venue to adopt Culture Aware’s code.’

Mr Spooner paid tribute to Kay and said there have been events ‘that have raised flags for us.’

‘This shouldn’t be difficult – it helps towards guaranteeing non-exploitation and acknowledges culture,’ he said.

Delta added that after she moved home 15 years ago, some festivals began using words like ceremony, sacred and shamanic.

‘These words are very special’, she said. ‘An elder once told me [Being] sacred is not meant for everyone.’

Gerard Williams, who is the Chief’s authorised representative for Culture Aware in Australia, said Culture Aware ‘may well be the first of its kind to address the issue of cultural appropriation within venues and events.’


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