Skip to Content

An African roast and a British high tea
New York

UN urged to launch ‘cultural appropriation’ wars

Indigenous advocates worldwide were calling on a UN committee this week to ban the appropriation of Indigenous cultures as soon as possible.

Published: June 19, 2017, 6:40 am

    Read more

    Delegates from 189 countries were gathered in Geneva, attending the meeting of a special international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organisation (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.

    Concern about the rights of cultures to control their own goods has been at the forefront of the meetings.

    James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said on Monday that the UN’s 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.”

    The committee has been working on three draft documents for 16 years already, and member states as well as some Indigenous leaders say they are frustrated and disenchanted about the committee’s future.

    “We are only halfway through 2017 and yet the number of occurrences of misappropriation happening to Indigenous Peoples in all regions of the world seems relentless with no relief in sight,” complained Aroha Te Pareake Mead, a member of the Ngati Awa and Ngati Porou tribes in Wellington, New Zealand. “We asked the international community to help deal with a problem that traverses international boundaries and are still waiting.”

    The Navajo Nation however had launched a legal battle against a US company for trademark infringement in 2012 after a clothing company labeled several designs on products “Navajo”. The case was settled out of court late last year.

    A US designer Tory Burch was forced to change the description of one of her coats for women after Romanians protested that it had been described as African-inspired when it actually appropriated a traditional Romanian garment.

    One member told CBC News that WIPO has what she called “one of the lowest” rates of Indigenous participation. “The issues being discussed at the [Intergovernmental Committee] are also being discussed in Indigenous organizations and communities all around the world on a regular basis. So why are there not more Indigenous representatives here?”

    Indigenous groups from around the world taking part in this round of negotiations, including groups from New Zealand, Kenya, Mexico, Colombia and the United States. No representatives from Canada’s First Nations were present, despite a heated debate over cultural appropriation and free speech that had boiled over in Canadian media also this week.

    The controversy began when a white novelist and former editor of the Writers’ Union of Canada’s publication, Hal Niedzviecki penned an editorial in Write magazine under the headline “Winning the Appropriation Prize” in which he argued that he did “not believe in cultural appropriation” because writers should write “what they don’t know”.

    He was quickly forced to resign as editor and had to publicly apologise after his editorial sparked outrage from members of the Indigenous community. Not only was Niedzviecki fired, but the backlash over the article has led to a number of retractions, resignations, and reassignments of some media heavyweights. Even the managing editor of CBC’s “The National,” was reassigned less than a week after tweeting about the issue.

    “The theft of our story is the loss of our culture, is our assimilation. That’s why in the arts it actually matters to us as much as anything else,” Jesse Wente, a Toronto-based culture critic, told the Canadian Press. “This is as important as the pipelines, as sovereignty, as water. They’re all interconnected.”

    “Barbecue is a form of cultural power and is intensely political”, because “it was made by enslaved Africans with inspiration and contributions from Native Americans struggling to maintain their independence” argued Michael Twitty in the Guardian in 2015.

    A group of Palestinian chefs said Israeli chef Shalom Kadosh had launched a “flagrant Israeli attack on our culture” after he cooked falafel.

    Keep ​your language polite​. Readers from many different countries visit and contribute to Free West Media and we must therefore obey the rules in​,​ for example​, ​Germany. Illegal content will be deleted.

    If you have been approved to post comments without preview from FWM, you are responsible for violation​s​ of​ any​ law. This means that FWM may be forced to cooperate with authorities in a possible crime investigation.

    If your comments are subject to preview ​by FWM, please be patient. We continually review comments but depending on the time of day it can take up to several hours before your comment is reviewed.

    We reserve the right to del​ete​ comments that are offensive, contain slander or foul language, or are irrelevant to the discussion.

    • geoh777

      No more Black, Hispanic, etc. people lightening their hair color.
      .

    • Kalium_Chloraat

      What about the appropriation of the scientific process, the remains of the Socratic process that came from Western culture?

    Europe

    Pressure from Flemish anti-immigrationists increase in Antwerp

    AntwerpThe city of Antwerp is monitoring a total of 557 people in their fight against radicalisation and terror, the mayor Bart De Wever from the New Flemish Alliance party told the audience during an interview on Van Gils & Gasten, a Flemish TV talkshow.

    Polish MP asks BBC: ‘How many terror attacks have you had in London?’

    LondonA Polish MP from the ruling Law and Justice Party wasted no time in correcting his BBC host on the threat of open border immigration.

    Central Europeans mull civil-military alliance against migrant influx

    PragueDefense ministers from Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Croatia met in Prague earlier this week to discuss the details of Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC).

    French parliamentary elections see the rise of veiled Islamic parties

    ParisDuring the legislative elections in France, several candidates appeared veiled on their election posters. They all belong to parties that do not hide their proximity to the Islamic religion in a "secular" state.

    Italians furious about bill granting citizenship to foreign children

    An Italian Senate debate on a bill granting citizenship to foreign children born in the country ended in violence last week, with the leftist education minister allegedly being treated in hospital.

    German minister denounces ‘German inbreeding’ but welcomes inbreeding migrants

    BerlinThe German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, believes closing EU borders "would lead to inbreeding". The minister warned that closing Germany’s borders would "ruin" the country, The Independent reported. But is the minister not aware of the high rates of inbreeding in migrant populations?

    Breaking: Angry crowds storm Kensington Town Hall after London fire

    More police are being called in to contain the situation in London, after the people stormed the Kensington Town Hall chanting "murderers", and demanding answers.

    Being a patriot is becoming a sin to leftists worldwide

    According to thefreedictionary.com, a patriot is “a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests”. The derision of patriotism is going mainstream in the US, Europe and Australia, in an effort to say goodbye to borders.

    Oliver Stone suggests US military-industrial complex wants war with Russia

    MoscowThe US military-industrial complex (MIC) is responsible for deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia, according to US film director Oliver Stone. He likened the MIC to a money-devouring "monster".

    Witnesses contradict police after car runs over eight people in Amsterdam

    AmsterdamDutch Police have ruled out terrorism after eight people were injured when a car outside Amsterdam train station ran into them. But witnesses have given a different account to the official police statement of what happened and have described the incident as "terrifying".

    Go to archive