Russian skaters' Aborigine theme causes outcry
Condensed by Native Village
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
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
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
"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."