June 13, 2011

‘Tis the Season

Summer’s here, and there’s more to it than beach bumming and barbecues. Yes, I’m talking about wedding season. Love it or loathe it, you’ll be sucked into it, and you need to be prepared. Wedding gift rules on spending are not set in stone, so trust yourself to be the judge of just how generous you’re feeling. Here are a few ideas to let your creativity shine beyond the bone china.

Totems are Trendy

Totem bowls and mugs

We’re not going to get into an appropriation debate here—let’s appreciate the fact that the totem aesthetic has become so popular it’s now deemed fit for kitchenware. Rob Southcott, a Toronto based industrial designer, has created three beautiful works of white totem representations for the modern couple with a sense of humor. The real beauty in these items is that they won’t break the bank if you’re on a budget. These bowls and cups are stackable.

Bowls, $87 CAD, @ NextModernHome.com

Cups, $74 CAD, @ NextModernHome.com

The Spice of Life

Totem salt and pepper shakers
Salt and pepper shakers may seen like an ordinary object, but some renditions out there provide not only stunning table ornaments, they also spawn fun dinner conversation. The totem matching set, also by Rob Southcott, could round out the clean, white, modern aesthetic of kitchenware you‘ve already purchased. While the recycled glass totem versions are more true to Pacific Northwest style design and are designed by BC artist Mark Garfield. And they’re eco-friendly for the more socially conscious couple.

Totem set, $35 @ NeatoShop.com

Recycled Glass Set, $114/pair, @ PacificNorthwestShop.com

Pendleton Blanket

Pendleton Pride

For the couple who love to keep it traditional, a Pendleton blanket might just put have you covered. This version is the “Tree of Life” pattern, which is a traditional Navajo rug design dating back to the 1840s. A tree usually springs from a wedding basket in Native American tradition and the birds represents the children from the marriage. Nothing says abundance like the gift of family.

Tree of Life blanket, $208 @ Pendleton-USA.com

Oh Deer

Wooden and resin deer wall sculptures
Traditional modern couples might not want to have actual animals on the wall, but may enjoy the campy kitsch of a modern deer sculpture. For a more contemporary style, try the handcrafted woodcarving to give the couple that cozy cottage feeling every day. The white resin version is definitely a “get the look for less” nod, while still bringing an urban flair to any residence. These stylish additions are ideal for the younger pair who enjoy simple, clean lines in their home.

Noble Deer Modern Trophy Head Wall Sculpture. $590 @ Nova68.com

Deer Trophy Wall Sculpture, $98 @ UrbanOutfitters.com

ICTMN style maven Lisa Charleyboy is Urban Native Girl.

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October 10, 2011

An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day

Here’s a submission we received from a concerned member of the Santee Sioux nation; it’s a letter addressed to the CEO of Urban Outfitters that raises some compelling moral and, interestingly, legal issues with some of the store’s native themed clothing and accessories:

Dear Glen T. Senk, CEO Urban Outfitters Inc.:

This past weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of visiting a local Urban Outfitters store in Minneapolis. It appeared as though the recording “artist” Ke$ha had violently exploded in the store, leaving behind a cheap, vulgar and culturally offensive retail collection. Plastic dreamcatchers wrapped in pleather hung next to an indistinguishable mass of artificial feather jewelry and hyper sexualized clothing featuring an abundance of suede, fringe and inauthentic tribal patterns.

In all seriousness, as a Native American woman, I am deeply distressed by your company’s mass marketed collection of distasteful and racially demeaning apparel and décor. I take personal offense to the blatant racism and perverted cultural appropriation your store features this season as “fashion.”

All too often industries, sports teams and ignorant individuals legitimize racism under the guise of cultural “appreciation”. There is nothing honorable or historically appreciative in selling items such as the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask, Peace Treaty Feather Necklace, Staring at Stars Skull Native Headdress T-shirt or the Navajo Hipster Panty. These and the dozens of other tacky products you are currently selling referencing Native America make a mockery of our identity and unique cultures.

Your corporate website claims to “offer a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual”. If this is the case, then clearly you have missed the mark on your target demographic. There is simply nothing educated about your collection, which on the contrary professes extreme ignorance and bigotry.

Urban Outfitters Navajo Hipster Panties An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day

My primary concern with your company is the level on which you are engaging in cultural and religious appropriation. None of your products are actually made by Indigenous nations, nor were any Native peoples involved in the production or design process. On the contrary, you have created cheap knock-off trinkets made in factories overseas. Selling imported plastic and nylon dreamcatchers disrespects our history and undermines our sovereignty as Tribal Nations.

Did I mention that marketing inauthentic products using Native American tribal names is also illegal? The company’s actions violate the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts act of 1990 and the Federal Trade Commission Act. According to the Department of the Interior:

“The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. If a business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000”.

I doubt that you consulted the Navajo Nation about using their tribal name on sophisticated items such as the “Navajo Hipster Panty”. In fact, I recently became aware that the Navajo Nation Attorney General sent your company a cease and desist letter regarding this very issue. I stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation and ask that you not only cease and desist selling products falsely using the Navajo name, but that you also stop selling faux Indian apparel that cheapens our culture and heritage.

Urban Outfitters Inc. has taken Indigenous life ways and artistic expressions and trivialized and sexualized them for the sake of corporate profit. Your company also perpetuates the worst stereotype of Indians. This is theft of our very cultural identity, no less so than the theft of our traditional homelands that began with Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas. On this day that America still celebrates as Columbus Day, I ask that do what is morally right and apologize to Indigenous peoples of North America and withdraw this offensive line from retail stores.


Sasha Houston Brown, Dakota
Santee Sioux Nation

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October 14, 2011

What’s Next for the Urban Outfitters Navajo Case?

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,Navajo,News Alerts — Tags: , , , — Adrienne Keene @ 8:43 pm

By now, the news of the Navajo product controversy at Urban Outfitters has spread far and wide, from blogs to mainstream news outlets, and at times in the last few days it has seemed like the entire internet was abuzz with discussions of tribal trademarks and Navajo hipster panties. Santee Sioux tribal member Sasha Brown’s poignant and strongly worded Open Letter to Urban Outfitters has gone viral, bringing issues of representation and cultural appropriation to an audience who may have never before encountered these ideas in their lives.

The Navajo issue started for me at the end of September, when I spent time perusing the Urban Outfitters website looking for “Native” or “Tribal” themed products. One wordy post and quoting of a Navajo Nation cease-and-desist letter later, a controversy was born. What it boils down to is this: Urban Outfitters has over 20 products named “Navajo,” and that’s not cool—especially when the Navajo Nation owns 12 trademarks for various derivatives of “Navajo.”

And the problem is definitely not limited to Urban Outfitters; see Jezebel’s post “The Most WTF Navajo-Inspired Clothing And Accessories”, Rachel Kane’s takedown of Forever 21’s Native-Inspired sale items, or Beyond Buckskin’s discussion of Proenza Schouler’s creepy video for their new line for other recent examples of the tribal trend in action.

Most of the media outlets covering the back-and-forth between the Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters wonder if Navajo even has a case, and plenty of commenters dismiss the tribe and the concerns completely:

saeda: “I don’t think anyone assumes real natives made those panties.” (source here)

night crone: “Don’t you think bringing all the media attention to this, will only draw more people to Urban and sell more? Urban doesn’t care if anyone is offended, they just want to make money, and you’ve given them lots of free advertising.” (source here)

Merthyr Bong: “As a person of Scots ancestry I am offended by Scotch tape! How dare they! Using plaid even! Where can I get my money and 15 minutes of fame for being offended?” (source here)

Lynnie123: “What — no one else in the world could come up with those patterns? They’re probably angry because the Native Americans aren’t making money on the deal” (source here)

Jezebel posted a fabulous piece yesterday detailing the ins and outs of intellectual property law and fashion, tying in the Indian Arts and Crafts Act and other measures in place to protect Native artisans. They quote Susan Scadafi, a professor at Fordham Law, who says, of tribal trademark cases:

“It’s an issue when you have indigenous peoples…who have been subject to actual genocide, and then you come back around with what some people characterize as cultural genocide. The pillaging of land, the pillaging of personal property, followed by the pillaging of what could be considered intellectual property. It’s something that occurs against a background of a lot of other offensive actions.”

That, to me, is the root of it all. This goes far beyond an issue of trademarks or truth in advertising. This is also an issue of representation, and an issue of power. I, personally, don’t care about a pair of socks called “Navajo,” but I do care about what they represent. They represent the appropriation of Native American cultures and lifeways, and the continued stereotyping of Indigenous Peoples. Most consumers look at that sock and can’t imagine that it holds any meaning beyond its $4.99 price tag. But I, and other Native people, look at that sock and see that the painful history that has allowed the vast majority of Americans to ignore our continued existence.

These “Navajo” products, and the thousands like them found at shops all over the world, relegate Native peoples to a stereotype. We are nothing more than a one-dimensional fictitious “Native American culture” represented by southwestern designs, fringe, feathers, and buckskin; when in reality we are a diverse, vibrant population of over 565 tribes and communities, each with our own traditions, languages and cultures.

We care about our culture, and it’s important to us to get it right – the same can’t be said of designers and the fashion media. A prescient Arizona Central article (“Neo-Navajo style: Trend or tradition?”) raised a red flag a few weeks ago:

“We wonder what the people who write product descriptions for Intermix were thinking when they penned ‘The new Navajo: ethnic Aztec inspiration’ (different country, different tribe). … And we are dying to hear from the Navajo people themselves—who would be well within their rights to have their Navajo hipster panties in a twist, considering the Telegraph newspaper in London told its readers to ‘channel your inner Pocahontas.’ Pocahontas wasn’t Navajo. She was from Virginia.”

We deserve the right to represent our own communities. The problem is, Urban Outfitters, in their position of power and privilege, has the ability to represent Native peoples however they choose, and Native peoples up until now have had no power to stop them.

The Navajo Nation has taken a bold step and utilized the legal system in an attempt to beat Urban Outfitters on their own terms. But is it practical for the Navajo Nation, or any tribe for that matter, to be constantly embroiled in long drawn-out trademark lawsuits that may or may not rule in the tribes’ favor? Maybe not, especially when they have the whole responsibility of, you know, running a sovereign nation.

But I hope you can see, we aren’t left with much of a choice. How else are tribes supposed to fight back against the misrepresentations that contribute to the continued stereotyping and invisibility of our peoples? I think if all the publicity around this issue shows anything, it shows that the stage might be set to take a stand against these widespread and egregious instances of misrepresentation, and fight back through whatever means necessary, whether it’s through slapping a lawsuit on every Navajo panty, or writing angry open letters to company CEO’s. I’d say it’s definitely about time.

Adrienne Keene writes about “the use of Indigenous cultures, traditions, languages, and images in popular culture, advertising, and everyday life” at Native Appropriations.

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January 28, 2012

On Tails of Navajo Controversy, Urban Outfitters’ Stock Plunges, CEO Resigns

RichardHayne On Tails of Navajo Controversy, Urban Outfitters Stock Plunges, CEO Resigns

Billionaire Richard Hayne, co-founder of Urban Outfitters, will replace Glen Senk, the CEO of Urban Outfitters since 2007.

Late October, Sasha Houston Brown, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation, wrote an open letter to the chief executive officer of Urban Outfitters, criticizing the company’s gross cultural and religious appropriation of American Indians’ traditional designs and sacred objects.

Among its Native-themed attire and jewelry, Urban Outfitters offered the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask, Peace Treaty Feather Necklace, Staring at Stars Skull Native Headdress T-shirt and the Navajo Hipster Panty.

“None of your products are actually made by Indigenous nations, nor were any Native peoples involved in the production or design process,” Brown wrote. “On the contrary, you have created cheap knock-off trinkets made in factories overseas. Selling imported plastic and nylon dreamcatchers disrespects our history and undermines our sovereignty as Tribal Nations.”

Soon after Brown’s letter appeared on Racialicious and was subsequently picked up by numerous blogs and media sites,  the Attorney-General of the Navajo Nation sent a cease-and-desist letter to Urban Outfitters, attesting the name “Navajo” is the Nation’s intellectual property, reported the RetailCustomerExperience.com. The letter cited The Federal Indian Arts and Crafts act of 1990 and the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibiting U.S. retailers and manufacturers from misleading costumers in any way that a product is Native American-made when it is not.urban outfitters printed hipster panty On Tails of Navajo Controversy, Urban Outfitters Stock Plunges, CEO Resigns

Urban Outfitters responded to threats of legal action by removing the word “Navajo” from its merchandise.

But the controversy has weighed heavily on the clothing retailer’s performance. Urban’s net income has decreased four quarters in a row. On January 9 Glen Senk, CEO since 2007, abruptly resigned. The company’s announcement of Senk’s departure late in the following day caused Urban’s stock in after-hours trading to tumble by 14 percent from the day’s close, reported Forbes. Billionaire Richard Hayne, the 64-year-old co-founder of Urban, has assumed Senk’s former position. But the corporate shake-up still caused Urban’s shares to drop 18.6 percent.

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February 29, 2012

Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters

In a sequel to the drama that unfolded in the fall, the Navajo Nation has sued Urban Outfitters for trademark infringement and violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Last year, the Navajo Nation sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter demanding it stop promoting items in its store such as socks, underwear and plastic trinkets as “Navajo.” A public furor erupted in October when a member of the Santee Sioux nation distributed “An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day.” With bloggers hurling outrage and mainstream media picking up the story, Urban Outfitters quietly pulled the controversial items from its website.

The Nation’s lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, addresses Navajo-branded items in Urban Outfitters catalogs and sold by different arms of the Philadelphia-based company, such as Free People.

The lawsuit states, according to an AP report, “The fame or reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the ‘Navajo’ and ‘Navaho’ marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed.”

At press time, a search of FreePeople.com for “Navajo” yielded seven results: One was a “Hacienda Bag” that was not explicitly labeled Navajo and the other six were vintage jewelry items. The latter are identified as being between 30 and 80 years old and could, conceivably, have been made by Navajo craftspeople.

Or perhaps Free People is simply using the word “Navajo” to mean “Indian-looking.” It may be up to the courts to sort this out. Let the games begin.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comIs Chris Brown Native American? Grammy-Winning Singer Tweets Heritage, Names Tribe - ICTMN.com.

March 6, 2012

What’s In a Name, Urban Outfitters?

Although the specific legal principles involved may differ, use of the terms Icewine, Roquefort and Navajo all have something in common. They tell you something about what you are buying, and right now, the Navajo Nation wants to ensure that consumers are not associating the term “Navajo” with “random south-west inspired hipster fashion.”

You may have heard of the recent lawsuit launched by the Navajo Nation against clothing giant Urban Outfitters. I’d like to provide some more legal context. Please bear with me.

Icewine is pressed from grapes that freeze on the vine, and is an incredibly sweet and expensive dessert wine. Canada is the largest producer of authentic Icewine in the world. A 375ml bottle will cost you about $45 Canadian here, but can go up to a couple of hundred smackarooneys on foreign markets.

Fake icewine started popping up fairly early both here in Canada and abroad. To deal with this, B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia set up special provincial legislation under the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) to regulate the production and quality of Icewines produced in those regions.

The VQA is a wine appellation system, meaning that certain terms applied to wines can only be used if the product meets specific criteria. It is illegal to use those terms otherwise.

Appellation laws have existed in many countries for centuries. Champagne originally enjoyed widespread legal appellation protection under the Treaty of Madrid (1891), which stated that only sparkling wines produced in a specific area of France could be called “champagne.” This has been affirmed in various treaties and laws since.

Alcoholic beverages are not the only products to enjoy such legal protections. Cheeses are another fine example, using something called a Geographical Indication (GI) to describe where the product comes from, guaranteeing everything from quality to specific production methods.

In Europe, these kinds of labels have to do more with where the product is made. Thus when you buy Roquefort cheese, you know it comes from a specific region in France.

The United States takes a different approach to some of these issues, where certain terms or names are considered a form of intellectual property, specifically a trademark.

Brian Lewis, an attorney with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, says the group wants Urban Outfitters to stop misappropriating the “Navajo” name and trademark.

That’s right. The Navajo Nation has trademark ownership of the name ‘Navajo’, just like Urban Outfitters owns the trademark to its name. The Navajo Nation has the legal right to stop people from using its trademark to describe products that have not been approved.

Urban Outfitters responded with this back in October:

“Like many other fashion brands, we interpret trends and will continue to do so for years to come,” he said. “The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term ‘Navajo’ have been cycling thru fashion, fine art and design for the last few years.”

This is true, but won’t save Urban Outfitters from being held accountable for their trademark infringement. “Everyone else does it” is not a legal defence.

But it could become one if the Navajo Nation does not enforce its rights.

In trademark law, there is a concept called genericisation, where once a trademark becomes overused, it can expire. A famous example involves the company, Xerox. Its trademark was threatened when people began to use the term “xerox” in the place of “photocopy.” Only an aggressive ad campaign saved Xerox from joining the ranks of trademarks lost to colloquial use.

There is also a statute in the United States called the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. There is no such equivalent in Canada. This law states that no person who is not an enrolled member of a federally or state recognised tribe can produce items labelled “Native American” or “Indian.” In addition, members of one tribe cannot pass their items off as coming from a different tribe, so if your goods are labeled “Hopi,” you’d better be a member or a certified artisan of the Hopi.

If you think that this case is frivolous or interferes with “freedom of expression” and so forth, please ensure that you are not singling out indigenous peoples with this criticism. If you take issue with intellectual property law, with appellation statutes, or geographical indication laws, then your concerns are not limited to us and need not focus on this case.

If however you just want to be able to call your stuff “Native American” or “Navajo” with no consequences, I’m afraid you’ve got some explaining to do.

Chelsea Vowel is Métis from the Plains Cree speaking community of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. She lives in Montreal. Her passions are: education, aboriginal law, the Cree language and Roller Derby. A version of this article was published on the author’s blog, âpihtawikosisân.

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March 30, 2012

Urban Siouxs Navajo Outfitters

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,Navajo,Navajo Nation,News Alerts — Tags: , , , — Cetan Wanbli Williams @ 3:00 pm

I find it ironic the Navajo Nation is suing Urban Outfitters for copyright infringement on a pair of underwear.

First off, I pledge total support toward the Navajo effort and anticipate the case will set precedent for future legal action by Tribes with regard to misappropriation. The American Indian Arts and Crafts Act is a weapon Tribes have yet to fully wield on the legal battlefield.

The irony is, the Navajo might themselves be guilty of infringement. My evidence is as follows:

A few months back I attended a large formal doings where the featured artist was famed Navajo flutist R. Carlos Nakai. The emcee informed the crowd that Mr. Nakai has sold over three (3) million albums worldwide. (That’s like triple-platinum in Indian country.) Mr. Nakai wore his hair parted down the middle, with braids tucked behind each ear. His evening attire included a fully beaded vest featuring geometric Plains-style designs.

As Mr. Nakai entertained the crowd, my uncle leaned over and quietly asked me, “When did Navajos start dressing like us and playing flutes?”

A few days ago, I repeated the question to a Navajo colleague; he told me he wondered the same thing when he first saw a Navajo playing the flute in the movie Windtalkers. The question sparked conversation on Navajo infringement.

Let me first present the icon of Pan-Indianism: Frybread. I’m not an expert on Frybread, but it seems in nearly every Skin community there is a Champion Frybreader. The thing about Skins is that we are a lot like Frybread; we come in various shapes, sizes, and shades of brown depending on the ingredients and region. Generally in most communities, the delicacy is known generically as Frybread. The exception is the Navajo, who specialize in “Navajo Frybread”.

Frybread is the essential component to another icon of Pan-Indian culture: the Indian Taco. Again, generally this term is accepted by most Skins, except for the Navajo, who claim the “Navajo Taco” as their own.

One can find Frybread and Indian Tacos at a Powwow. Powwow itself has evolved into a Pan-Indian event, but the origins of the different song and dance styles are tribally or regionally specific. For example, the Jingle Dress is known to be Ojibwe in origin. Another example is the Grass Dance. And while the original societies often traded, bought and/or sold songs, style of dress, and customs, among fellow grassland Tribes, to my knowledge, prairie grass is not native to the desert.

Many Tribes have made unique contributions to the powwow arena. The southern plains spawned distinctive Traditional styles as well as the instantly popular Fancy War Bustle. In addition, the Omaha style of dress, Sioux style, Crow style, Woodlands style, the Chicken dance, and the Round Bustle have all been exclusive contributions by various Tribes throughout the powwow circuit. Other notables include the Smoke Dance of the Six Nations; the Cree style Round Dance, the Eastern Blanket dance, and the Short Fringe Dress of the Plateau tribes. But to date, Navajo people have not created a dance style that is found throughout powwow circles.

When I first started attending powwows in the Southwest, I noticed that while the competition was strong, the style was almost entirely borrowed. Our singers joked that it was like the Flea Market of powwows, and that everything looked authentic from a distance, but upon closer inspection it was mostly imitation and knockoff. It seemed to us that almost every champion dancer from the Dakotas, Montana, the Midwest or Canada had a “Bootleg Navajo” version. (HILARIOUS)

The infringement became most apparent at the World’s Largest Powwow: The Gathering of Navajos… Ah, I mean Nations. While the event attracts attendees from all over Indian Country, the majority of attendees are Navajo. Even the Gathering of Nations theme song is performed in Navajo. But to their credit, a good number of dancers have been brought into the arena in a proper manner, and the Navajo Nation continues to produce World Champion singers and dancers season after season.

Another thing about Skins is we really like to tease. In fact, the practice is considered formal etiquette among respected relatives. We tease as a playful sign of admiration, respect, and to reassure our relatives of their place within our circle.

So before anyone’s feathers get too ruffled, remember that Powwow is supposed to be fun. We clown to entertain, and to educate in a manner meant to heal, because laughter is good medicine. Too often the politics, the egos, the gossip, the money, and the competition shade the true nature and spirit of the circle. My favorite part of the powwow is the InterTribal, a time when everyone is welcome in to the arena. One doesn’t need an outfit, a category, or even a tribe, only the rhythm in their heartbeat, and a good song.

The importance of the Navajo case against Urban Outfitters is that if major corporations are making money using our names, designs, imagery, and culture, then Tribes could too. Of course certain aspects MUST NEVER be considered or valued as capital, and it is critical we protect those resources.

For Crazy Horse said, “One does not sell land upon which people walk,” but he didn’t mention anything about their underwear. (As a boy I would have loved Sioux-per Man Under-Rees made by Utes of the Loom.)

Albums on iTunes sell for about $9.99 each. I wonder of the three (3) million albums sold by R. Carlos Nakai, how much of the profit was kept by his publisher Canyon Records? $30 million dollars could be the change that sparks economic development in Tribal communities who remain in poverty despite revenue from gaming enterprise. This includes the urban Skin community.

Should the Navajo Nation be successful in gaining monetary compensation from Urban Outfitters illegal infringement, the resources should be used to strengthen the educational infrastructure that supports a growing number of Skin fashionistas. We must look to the successful endeavors of artisans like Bunky Echo-Hawk, Bethany Yellowtail, Sho Esquiro or Wabanoonkwe Cameron, and seek collaborative efforts with world-class corporations if we are to be taken seriously in the marketplace. We must no longer accept silk-screen printed t-shirts, and Native Pride hats, as the pinnacles of mainstream product design and marketability. Using the term Native in a product’s name can no longer be a free pass for authentication, nor can it be an endorsement of subpar quality. Including fashion, redefining our professionalism must extend to other forms of multimedia including art, music, film, and branding.

Given the uniqueness and diversity of the Made in Native America “brand”, and the history of the marketability of our art, culture, and image, even if we are currently just a pop culture fad, I highly doubt that being Skin will ever fade from being “in”.

In the process of decolonization, the reclamation of our images, designs, and names, are the avenues to the rediscovery and restoration of our identity. Ultimately our identity is deeply connected to the places to which we are Native. When our land was infringed upon, so too was our identity; first by Hollywood, then by sports franchises, and today the process continues in the form of corporate exploitation.

Tribal communities must follow the lead of the Navajo Nation, and challenge those who seek to exploit our natural, cultural, and human resources. It is important and to the benefit of our future generations that we protect our identity, our sovereignty, and our land from any further infringement. This includes, of course, any infringement upon our underwear, no matter how ironic.

Cetan Wanbli Williams is a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe. He is a regular contributor to The Thing About Skins and his email is cetanwanbli@gmail.com.

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September 27, 2012

Urban Outfitters Seeks to Move Trademark Case to Pennsylvania

In February, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters for alleged trademark infringement and violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. At issue was a range of products sold by the retailer labeled “Navajo,” including, for example, a “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask” and a “Navajo Hipster Panty.” After quite a bit of negative press, Urban Outfitters renamed the products — at least on the company’s website.

The case is pending in U.S. District Court in New Mexico. According to an AP report, Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters, through its lawyers, is now asking the court to move the case to the eastern district of Pennsylvania. The arguments offered in court for the change of venue are that a Pennsylvania court would be more convenient, more experienced in matters of copyright law, and more expedient.

As a report at Albuquerque’s KRQE.com points out, there are no federally recognized Indian tribes in the state of Pennsylvania.

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October 5, 2012

So-called ‘Navajo’ Underwear — It’s Not Just for Girls Anymore

Jezebel noted today that online fashion retailer Asos has contemporary apparel on its site identified as “Navajo.” Asos carries products made by a number of manufacturers, and a search for “Navajo” on the site generated 372 results. Most of those, granted, were not explicitly labeled Navajo, and in fact “Aztec” is a more popular designation for products intended to be, essentially, “Indian-looking.”

A year ago, Columbus Day 2011, the popular retailer Urban Outfitters found itself in a heap of trouble — or if nothing else, bad press — when an open letter from Sasha Houston Brown of the Santee Sioux Nation went viral. Suddenly, Natives began protesting Urban Outfitters’ Native-themed products on a variety of blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter. One common complaint was that the items were cheap approximations of items with cultural or spiritual significance. A weightier charge was that certain items, particularly those branded “Navajo” — such as the infamous “Navajo hipster panty — violated copyright laws and even the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which made it illegal for non-Indian manufacturers or craftspeople to sell items they claimed were Indian-made.

The Navajo Nation eventually did file a suit against Urban Outfitters on jut those grounds. The case is still pending, and last week Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters put in a bid to have it moved from a New Mexico court to one in eastern Pennsylvania.

Below are some of the products labeled “Navajo” at Asos.com:

Denim Supply by Ralph Lauren So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Print Tank by Denim Supply by Ralph Lauren

mi pac navajo backpack So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Backpack by Mi-Pac

Reverse Navajo Cross Back Dress So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Cross Back Dress by Reverse

Reverse Navajo Pattern Midi Skirt So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Pattern Midi Skirt by Reverse

River Island Navajo Sneaker Liners So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Sneaker Liners by River Island

shades of gray contrast navajo blazer So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Contrast Navajo Blazer by Shades of Gray

Wings And Horns Navajo Jacquard Shorts So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Jacquard Shorts by Wings and Horns

Wings And Horns Polo Navajo Jacquard Collar Pique So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Jacquard Collar Pique Polo by Wings and Horns

worn by navajo print t shirt So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Print T-shirt by Worn By

Frank Wright Navajo Military Boots So called Navajo Underwear    Its Not Just for Girls Anymore

Navajo Military Boots by Frank Wright

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Suede Navajo Stitch Detail Shoes by F Troupe

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comAmerican Indian Kyle Lohse Pitches St. Louis Cardinals to Wild Wild-Card Playoff Win Over Atlanta Braves - ICTMN.com.

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