Native Village
Youth and Education news
February 2010 Volume 4

Russian skaters' Aborigine theme causes outcry
Condensed by Native Village

British Columbia: First Nations leaders want to talk to Russian skating champions about an ice dance routine that Australian Aborigines are calling cultural theft.

Oksana Domnina, 25, and Maxim Shabalin, 27, are expected to perform at the Winter Olympics wearing dark-skinned bodysuits covered with leaves, feathers, white patterns and red loin cloths. The skaters say they researched the costumes on the Internet. They did not, however, consult with any Aborigines about the costumes. Nor did they consult them about the dance routine which features them stomping their skates and waving their arms.

Tewanee Joseph, the CEO of the Four Host First Nations, said the pair needs
educated. He wants to meet with them before they perform.

"My first impression is I feel disheartened," Joseph said.  "I think the Russian team should have engaged with the Aborigines in Australia, ask them about their culture and make sure they're educated on it as well."

The Russian skaters depiction of aboriginal people stands in stark contrast with Olympic efforts to show how far Canada's First Nations communities have come.

Domnina and Shabalin are surprised by the criticism. They used the routine to win the Russian national championships and the European Championships. Soon after these wins, the pair learn that Australian elders were accusing them of stealing an aboriginal dance idea and causing serious cultural offense.

"We didn't know anything about it," Domnina said.

Shabalin said they had done their homework but had never intended it to be an authentic aboriginal dance. "We researched a lot of information on the internet. It's just from many thousands of years ago and it wasn't our goal [to be authentic]," he said.

Sol Bellear of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council said, "It's very offensive. We see it as stealing aboriginal culture and it is yet another example of the aboriginal people of Australia being exploited."


Part 1: Artist Seeks Powwow Dancer Who Inspired Mural
Part 2: Artist Finally Locates Native Performer from 1991 Powwow Featured in Portrait
Russian Skaters' Aborigine Theme Causes Outcry
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Haskell Offers Haven for Hidden Talent
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Cherokee National Youth Choir Release Entertaining, Educational CD

Lelani Munter's Gree Team Roars on to Daytona

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