Sometimes, an artist makes a misstep that is so glaringly offensive, we are forced to consider whether we’re simply being trolled. Yesterday, Canadian-born singer Natasha St-Piere released a video for her latest single “Tous les Acadiens” to a flurry of anger, criticism and mostly, confusion. Teeming with the kind of tired aboriginal stereotypes you could only expect from a tragic elementary school play, the video seems to suggest that Acadians are essentially confused Native Americans.
St-Piere, a New Brunswick-born singer who has spent much of her life and career in France, took to her Facebook page to apologize for any offence the video may have caused. She claimed that the album, entitled Mon Acadie, is meant to be a celebration of Acadian culture and that the scenes in her video are based off her childhood memories in New Brunswick. Presumably though, St-Piere’s childhood in Canada was not full of dreamcatcher earrings, feathers, tipis and First Nations headdresses—all tropes that randomly appear in her video.
The video has left many Acadians with a sour taste in their mouths. Speaking to Radio-Canada Monday, René Cormier, president of the Société nationale de l'Acadie (SNA), said that although the organization does not dictate how Acadian culture should be portrayed by artists, it’s unfortunate that many of these harmful clichés continue to exist.
People will be quick to point out that Natasha St-Piere is neither a particularly big artist nor a highly relevant one. But her video, rife with disastrous cultural stereotypes, points to the tendency of Western pop culture to arbitrarily use pieces of First Nations culture in ways that are bastardized and profitable. Sony Music France, the label behind St-Piere’s album, happily promoted the controversial song on their Twitter page last week.
One Facebook commenter accused St-Piere of “selling out” Acadian culture to her French audience, citing an interview on Quebec television where the singer allegedly said “the European public wanted feathers so I gave them feathers.”
Whether or not this is true, the dark, impending question remains: why did an Acadian singer think it was acceptable to shoot a video about her Canadian childhood by pretending to be Native American? My guess is that Natasha St-Piere wanted to outdo Taylor Swift for most tone-deaf video of 2015.
Well congrats girl, you won.
Neha Chandrachud is a writer living in Montreal. Follow her on Twitter.