Plastic Culture, Plastic Native Art

From Tim A. on Facebook

For sale in a store in Sitka. plastic copies of Northwest coast art made in Bali or Tiawan or your guess is as good as mine. The Tlingit carver in the pic is retired.He told me about the items and had nothing to do with them.

In the non Native world, there are copyrights and patents to protect intellectual property. The cost of enforcement is largely taken on by the state or federal government. For our native art, the cost of enforcement lies in the hands of we natives. Traditionally, we enforced it through cultural norms and mutual respect of each other’s clan property, including clan crests. Sometimes we enforced violations of crest images through war (though I imagine the theft of a clan crest was usually meant to be a provocation in response to some other issue.) So how do we enforce ownership of our crests, images and art today?

The above picture is an abomination. It cheapens who we are. It is profiting off of our internationally recognized art form. There was a time when a war party would have been dispatched against another clan that boldly claimed a clan crest that didn’t belong to them. Where are our warriors today?


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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