Olympic “Authentic Aboriginal Products” Made Overseas?

Vancouver — Local Aboriginal producers of “Authentic Aboriginal Products” — those designed, produced and distributed by Aboriginal people in Canada — are dismayed by the lack of commitment to authenticity and accountability of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Games (VANOC).

“We took VANOC at its word when it promised unprecedented support for Aboriginal economic development as well as Aboriginal employment and training leading up to and during the 2010 Winter Olympics” says Shain Jackson, the owner of Spirit Works, a company making native jewelry and bentwood boxes and employing five First Nations workers.

Local Aboriginal businesses say they’ve found themselves on the short end of an unfair competition with non-Aboriginal companies who appropriate First Nations culture by selling products with Aboriginal designs on them, but originate overseas.  VANOC actually licenses these cheap knock-off products and allows them to carry the label of “Authentic Aboriginal Products”.

World-renowned Aboriginal clothing designer Dorothy Grant stated, “There is so much that can be said for the misuse of the word “authentic”.  And by combining this word with “aboriginal” misleads the public coming in from all parts of the world to believe that we are behind the products that VANOC has produced in China.” 

It is estimated that VANOC will profit in the tens of millions of dollars from the sale of the products produced overseas, while local Aboriginal businesses employing Aboriginal peoples will be left with minimal, if any, opportunities.

“Aboriginal businesses and artists serve and support many Aboriginal people and contribute to Aboriginal communities,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.  “They must be afforded a level playing field to compete but as the 2010 Olympic Games nears, it is apparently getting harder and harder for small businesses to stand with glowing hearts when faced with the goliath of the VANOC marketing machine.”

For more information contact: Shain Jackson, Spirit Works, 604-727-0018


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