As festival season rages on and “new” names come to the forefront in electronic dance music, the notion that Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s Juno Award-winning First Nations/Native DJ/production trio A Tribe Called Red would be called upon to play at Westfest—a festival in their native Ottawa—would appear to be a significant achievement. However, when group member Ian “Deejay NDN” Campeau—an activist oftentimes at the forefront of issues regarding plausibly racist and thus entirely improper appropriation of Native symbols and iconography—was accused of being “racist” for among many things, wearing a Cleveland Indians logo-mocking “Cleveland Caucasian$” t-shirt in a press photo. Moreover, when A Tribe Called Red were then demanded to be removed from the Westfest lineup, it’s a moment that is intriguing and space to pause for reflection.
In an anonymous letter sent to Westfest organizers that Campeau copied to his Instagram, it’s stated that A Tribe Called Red are a “racist [and] hypocritical band.” Furthermore, Campeau was attacked for making a “human rights complaint,” and the writer continued that the “divisive band,” are “just asking for trouble,” “especially since alcohol and other aggressive behaviour inducing intoxicants [are] consumed at the fest.” In the letter being an ironic, bizarre and demeaning moment speaks volumes about just how far A Tribe Called Red have come, and also how much further they have to climb insofar as gaining mainstream acceptance of themselves and their up front and progressive take on the politics surrounding Native/First Nations civil rights issues.
Regarding the entire situation, Deejay NDN released the following statement to Do Androids Dance:
“I find it super unfortunate that people in my home town don’t understand how harmful these Native themed logos and nicknames are. I am very pleased that his narrow minded claims have sparked an important, continent wide conversation. I think if we’re ever confronted with anything like this in the future, we’ll approach it like we did this one. We have a soapbox in social media and have the power to confront racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. as a society.”