Calgary Circle the Wagons festival organizers vow rebranding over 'offensive' name
By Shawn Logan, Postmedia
First posted: Wednesday, August 02, 2017 06:52 PM EDT | Updated: Thursday, August 03, 2017 01:56 PM EDT
One of the organizers of a Calgary food and music festival says it's in for a name change in response to charges its moniker is steeped in racial undertones.
Circle the Wagons, a "travelling food, beer and music carnival," first launched in 2014 as a collaborations between Village Brewery, YYCFoodTrucks and BassBus, is gearing up for its fourth annual festival next month.
But as it kicks off in Currie Park in southwest Calgary Sept. 9, co-founder Jim Button said they will first be taking to the stage to announce a new name after hearing from members of the Indigenous community who were concerned the term "circle the wagons" hearkens back to a painful era of North American colonialism.
"I'm happy to change the name I'm bummed out people took offense and I fully respect them," Button said.
"Through careful thought we realized that the name was offensive to certain people so we're going to change it."
The Village Brewery co-founder said the name came together innocently enough, evolving from the need to have a fenced in area to serve alcohol. The decision was made to ring the area in food trucks to comply with city bylaws.
But Button acknowledged he began to hear rumblings of discontent about the festival's name last year, though the idea of a rebranding wasn't considered at the time.
Calgary Indigenous artist and educator Lee Deranger said she stumbled across it on Facebook, still with the same "offensive" name, after hearing last year some had raised the issue with organizers. From there, it spiraled on social media including on the event's own social media channels with some demanding the name be dumped.
"I was quite surprised they were still using that name I know that they had been asked to change it quietly and politely in the past," she said.
"Using a term like circle the wagons has historic triggers, especially in these days, and we need to change that in this country."
Deranger said the idiom evokes the image of settlers who were encroaching on ancestral lands, circling their wagons to fend off attacks from Indigenous people.
Michelle Robinson, a Ward 10 council candidate and former president of Aboriginal Peoples Commission of Alberta, said she and a handful of others raised the issue last year but didn't seem to make any progress.
She said she's pleased they've finally decided to recognize the problem and its effect on some people and hopes it will serve as an opportunity to further bridge the cultural gap.
"We're at a special time where we're doing a lot of education about Indigenous issues at the end of the day, nobody has been taught these things," Robinson said.
"Now there's literally been a cultural shift and we're beginning to see the fruits of that now."
For Deranger, she hopes in addition to the name change there will also be a public apology and acknowledgement the event is taking place on traditional lands.
Button said organizers will do everything in their power to assuage any hurt by the festival's name, though he noted they still need some time to change promotional materials, social media properties and even their foundation and bylaws.
"You really do have to be thoughtful and think about what everyone's perspective is," he said.
Calgary Circle the Wagons festival organizers vow rebranding over 'offensive' na