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Cultural appropriation
via The Litost Publishing Collective

Indigenous people ask UN to outlaw cultural appropriation

Looking at you, headdress-wearing Coachella bros

Indigenous advocates are calling on the United Nations to make cultural appropriation illegal across the world, as a way of protecting intellectual property. Send those insufferable festival dudes wearing Native American headdresses and crying to Bon Iver down ASAP. 

A specialised committee has been working on the proposed set of laws for 16 years, which would expand intellectual property regulations to protect things such as Indigenous dances, words, designs and traditional medicines. Delegates from 189 countries have gathered this week in Geneva for the World Intellectual Property Organisation, where it will be discussed.

As CBC reports, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said the proposal by the committee would “obligate” states to introduce criminal and civil enforcement procedures to challenge “the non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions.”

Anaya was commissioned by the committee back in 2014 to provide expert opinion and review their negotiations to help indigenous rights. In a presentation this week, Anaya referred to Urban Outfitters’ ‘Navajo’ line, highlighting how major brands used ‘false marketing’ of communities like the Navajo nation for financial advantage.

Back in 2012, the Navajo community sued the American retailer over a collection, which included pants and accessories, which used the tribe’s symbols and name without permission. The Navajo nation registered the name in 1942. UO reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount last year

The committee, known as the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore will continue its sessions all this week. Indigenous leaders have spoken out about how frustratingly slow the process has been, spanning 16 years.

“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,"Aroha Te Pareake Mead, a member of the Ngati Awa and Ngati Porou tribes in New Zealand told CBC.

“We asked the international community to help deal with a problem that traverses international boundaries and are still waiting.”

Sessions surrounding the proposals will finish this Friday (June 16).