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Over at Racialicious, guest contributor and Native American Sasha Houston Brown has written a letter to Urban Outfitters regarding several things, one of which includes the fact that they make a Navajo Hipster Panty. She begins her letter like this:
This past weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of visiting a local Urban Outfitters store in Minneapolis. It appeared as though the recording 'artist' Ke$ha had violently exploded in the store, leaving behind a cheap, vulgar and culturally offensive retail collection. Plastic dreamcatchers wrapped in pleather hung next to an indistinguishable mass of artificial feather jewelry and hyper sexualized clothing featuring an abundance of suede, fringe and inauthentic tribal patterns.
Her argument is that Urban Outfitters has been hella busy capitalizing on Native American culture with items such as the above mentioned panty, and that not only is it kind of annoying, it's also sort of illegal.
She cites the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which prohibits the "misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States." It goes on to say that "it is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States."
So yes, Urban Outfitters slaps "Navajo" on a ton of their products, but no one actually believes that these panties are made by Native American tribes, right? Apparently, these types of products were enough to warrant a cease and desist letter: According to Brown, Urban Outfitters has already received such a notice from the Navajo Nation Attorney General, who also doesn't seem too keen on things like a Navajo-print flask.
Why might these things be offensive? Brown says: "None of your products are actually made by Indigenous nations, nor were any Native peoples involved in the production or design process. On the contrary, you have created cheap knock-off trinkets made in factories overseas. Selling imported plastic and nylon dreamcatchers disrespects our history and undermines our sovereignty as Tribal Nations."
· An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day [Racialicious]
· Urban Outfitters is Obsessed with Navajos [Native Appropriations]
· Navajo Hipster Panty [Urban Outfitters]