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Cultural Appropriation: Make It Illegal Worldwide, Indigenous Advocates Say

Hilary Bird - CBC News
go to original
June 13, 2017

James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado is urging member states of WIPO to make Indigenous cultural appropriation illegal under international law. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Indigenous advocates from around the world are calling on a UN committee to make appropriating Indigenous cultures illegal — and to do it quickly.

Delegates from 189 countries, including Canada, are in Geneva this week as part of a specialized international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency.

Since it began in 2001, the committee has been working on creating and finishing three pieces of international law that would expand intellectual-property regulations to protect things like Indigenous designs, dances, words and traditional medicines.

Speaking to the committee Monday, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said the negotiated document should "obligate states to create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions."

Anaya said the document should also look at products that are falsely advertised as Indigenous made or endorsed by Indigenous groups.

That would mean products like those in U.S. based retailer Urban Outfitters "Navajo" line, Anaya said, including "Navajo hipster panties," a "peace treaty feather necklace" and a "Navajo print flask."

The Navajo Nation launched a legal battle against the company for trademark infringement in 2012. The case was settled out of court late last year.

Read the rest at CBC News

Related: Canadian Law Doesn't Protect Indigenous Culture, Lawyers Say (CBC News)

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