header photo: annie ross
An audit + policy project to ensure that Indigenous-themed products being sold on Granville Island are authentically made or designed by Indigenous artists
Against Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous Art
The Craft Council of BC is conducting an audit of Indigenous-themed products sold on Granville Island, looking at how many are authentically made and produced by Indigenous artists.
The CCBC’s audit is looking at all Indigenous-themed products sold on Granville Island, and how many are authentically made and produced by Indigenous artists.
Once the audit is complete, we will compile our findings in a report and write policy recommendations to Granville Island on how to improve Indigenous representation and how to reduce the sale of fake Indigenous-themed items.
The goal of this project is to promote authentic Indigenous art, support Indigenous artists, and stop the sale of fake, appropriated or reproduced Indigenous symbols. The sale of fake or reproduced Indigenous art is a hugely common problem in Vancouver, especially in tourist spots like Granville Island, taking income and agency away from Indigenous artists.
Indigenous control over cultural symbols is vital to the protection of Indigenous identity and an important step in reconciliation, and is stated as a right in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We hope that the findings of this project will eventually inform a city and province-wide policy on the sale of Indigenous art.
Authentic Indigenous representation in the marketplace impacts the following:
- Creative Agency & Intellectual Property: Fake items distract customers from real art; fake items are disrespectful to the history and legacy of indigenous art forms which are passed on through generations and have significant, sacred meaning
- Economic Impact: the sale of fake items directly takes economic opportunities away from Indigenous artists, which in turn takes away economic development/sustainability from Indigenous communities
The Craft Council of British Columbia is a charitable arts service organization which supports all stages of artistic practice in the craft sector. Our office and shop are located on Granville Island, which is part of the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples–Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations. In preparation for this project, we have consulted and received guidance from Indigenous artists and community leaders, journalists and scholars from across the country.
Granville Island is managed by the Federal Government through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), whichapproved this project. Any implementation of the final policy recommendations will be up to CMHC.
From October to December 2020 and on an ongoing basis, we are reaching out to Indigenous artists and community members to talk about the importance of promoting Indigenous art that is produced by Indigenous artists, rather than the mass production of appropriated imagery. Feedback from these discussions will inform the parameters of this project.
We are visiting every store & gallery on Granville Island, looking at any Indigenous-themed products on sale, speaking with the owners, and record which shops have authentic and inauthentic items. We are then following up with manuafacturers and artists to get as much information on the authenticity of the products as possible.
Once the audit is complete we will compile the results of the audit into a report, and share them here on this webpage and directly with all the artists and stakeholders we’ve been in touch with.
Based on our community engagement, stakeholder guidance and audit results, we will write policy suggestions for CMHC on how to address the sale of inauthentic Indigenous art on Granville Island.
We plan to follow up with CMHC on any changes in policy, and share the results of our project widely to support other efforts in promoting authentic Indigenous art.
Our Policy Manager, Ainslee Beer, visited 81 shops, galleries and art studios on Granville Island between January and March 2021. Of the 81 shops, galleries or studios, 18 had products or items that were Indigenous themed or created by Indigenous artists. Of those 18, 4 had entirely authentic Indigenous products, 7 had both authentic and inauthentic products, and 7 either carried only inauthentic products, or the authenticity of the items could not be confirmed.
Out of the 81 businesses and studios, only 1 is Indigenous owned and none of the permanent artist studio spaces or galleries are occupied by Indigenous Artists.
This information is compiled in this report.
How are we determining what is "authentic"?
As a predominantly white, settler-dominated organization, it is not up to us to define “authentic” Indigenous work. We strongly believe that, while we are able and plan to use our privileged position as an organization to influence policy, the larger conversation about the definition of authenticity should be lead by the Indigenous artists who create these works. We aim to support and amplify the work already being done in this field.
During our community engagement we asked Indigenous artists for guidance on how to measure the authenticity of an item for the purposes of this project, and we consulted a number of resources and examples from other regions. In our Granville Island audit, we consider an item authentic if it falls within the following three categories (based on work previously done by Authentic Indigenous):
Artwork by Veronica Danes Waechter, photo by Alex Montes de Oca
Products are designed, produced and distributed by Indigenous artists or businesses.
Products are designed, approved and distributed by Indigenous artists but may be produced by non-Indigenous people or businesses.
Products bear the artwork of an Indigenous artist who has been fairly compensated for their work and has also approved of the final design. The producer and/or distributor need not be of Indigenous ancestry.
Other Resources & Supports
- Authentic Indigenous Art (archived content) – guidance received from Lou-ann Neel and Shain Jackson
- Reclaim Indigenous Arts – guidance received from artist Jay Soule aka CHIPPEWAR
- Tagging system for Inuit Art
- Planning insight at the beginning of the project provided by Cathi Charles Wherry, Special Advisor with First Peoples’ Cultural Council
More to be added
Banner photo: artwork by annie ross, photo by Alex Montes de Oca