Aboriginal Authentic

January 26, 2010

Aboriginal Artists and businesses have grown weary of competing with art products which depict our designs but are supplied by non-Aboriginal companies and for the most part are produced overseas.  This practice is not only disingenuous to the buyers who would like to purchase something truly of our cultures, but it also redirects much needed resources away from some of the most marginalized and impoverished communities in the country.  This is a very serious social and economic issue which warrants immediate attention.

As individual Aboriginal artists, and as a group, we have begun a campaign aimed at gaining legislation to protect one of our most valuable sources of income; income which in the past has been instrumental in the survival of our people and our way of life.  Similar laws have been in place south of the border for 20 years in the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

While we engage in this fight for recognition, in the meantime, as Aboriginal makers of truly Authentic Aboriginal Products (those designed, produced, and distributed by Aboriginal people) we have developed a symbol meant to address the issue.

As we treat this as a social and economic issue, this symbol is designed to ensure the maximum realistic involvement of Aboriginal people in bringing our handcrafts to market, and therefore resulting in the maximum amount of resources being directed toward our communities where they are most needed.

Our movement is not meant to condemn other forms of Aboriginal involvement less than what we propose here.  We realize Aboriginal involvement at any level brings valuable resources into our communities. We simply ask that when a high level term such as “Authentic Aboriginal Product” is used, it is meant to signify the highest level of Aboriginal involvement.

Therefore, in order to carry the “Authentic Aboriginal Product” label, the item for sale must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be designed by an Aboriginal person – An Aboriginal person must have established the original design for the item being sold.  This means the artwork displayed on an item, in addition to the design of the item itself;
  2. Must be produced by Aboriginal people – This means that the item must have been created by the hands of an Aboriginal person.  This does not mean modern tools or technology cannot be used and that we are frozen in time in respect to our methods of production.  Nor does this mean every component of an item must be created by an Aboriginal person (such as beads, thread, buttons, and other materials) however it does mean that the main body of work must be created by an Aboriginal person here in Canada.
  3. Must be Distributed by Aboriginal People – This means an Aboriginal person is responsible for wholesaling to the retail market.  This segment is meant to address the exploitation which has occurred all too often in our communities when a non-Aboriginal actor takes advantage of needy conditions to purchase items for literally pennies on the dollar.  Although these items may be designed and produced by Aboriginals, the social and economic issues are not practically addressed

Until a formal body is able to take control of this regime, on behalf of willing Canadian Aboriginal artists, Spirit Works Limited will take responsibility of administering the Authentic Aboriginal Product symbol.  At present any Artist wishing to use the symbol need only send Spirit Works his/her assurance, in writing, that their products meet the above criteria, and we will send the symbol’s graphic to them for their use.  For those that do not have the means to print off their own symbols, we are currently working on stickers and tie-on tags that will be available for a small administration fee.  We will keep you updated as to how this initiative progresses.

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3 Responses to “Aboriginal Authentic”

  1. james Says:

    I never write in response to anything posted on blogs, but reading the news about Native souvenirs made in China made me livid! Especially as they are being passed off as made by the natives themselves! It’s an absolute disgrace. In fact, last year, before going to my home country, my wife thought that it would be a good idea to buy some “Native souvenirs”. However, when she returned home with them, I looked at the base and saw the sticker “made in China”. I was shocked and absolutely disgusted that this was the case. I would have returned them all back, if it wasn’t for the case of traveling the next day! I ended up ripping off all the labels before giving them as gifts. It’s really sad that it has come to this. We must support local Native made products, not those companies looking just to made a buck! Please can you inform me via email where I can buy authentic native made items as I am looking for them in my house. I live in the Toronto and GTA area.

  2. Caroline Says:

    Is this not an Infringement on a Copyrighted Product? I’m not a lawyer but this sure stinks of copyright infringement to me. Good luck to the Aboriginals with this matter, hope something is done by the Government before it’s to late. Probably not though, when it comes to Aboriginal or Native Peoples in this Country, they don’t even rate as second class citizens. They fall under Federal jurisdiction and Harper should be doing something about this – like yesterday. Hello Harper, do you even care at all? Or is Corporate Greed going to overtake this as it does everything else in Canada?

  3. Chris Says:

    I absolutely agree with the author.

    I live in Toronto and have looked at Inuit art. I’ve asked the shop owners if the products on the shelves is authentic Inuit art. I’ve also asked if any of the proceeds go back to the community. None of my questions were answered and I walk out of shops empty handed.

    2007 I invited an American friend to visit Canada. We both wanted take a tour of parliament – house of commons in Ottawa. At the end of the tour we were invited to buy souvenirs at the “Candian” gift shop. To my utter amazement not a single souvenirs we looked at was “Made in Canada”.

    What a fine example of the pride we must have in this great nation and its peoples by outsourcing to China.

    CRTC Protects Canadian airwaves enforces Canadian content rules.

    why can’t the consumer affairs have enough guts to enact the same measures?


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