Urban Outfitters Continues to Draw the Ire of the Navajo Nation

Earlier in the month we reported on a series of products Urban Outfitters had been offering through their online store and retail locations which included such gems as the Navajo Hipster Panty and the Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask. The reason that these Navajo products caused such a stir was that they had nothing at all to do with the Navajo Nation. While the print found on the items coincides with a number of native tribal prints, including many used by actual Navajos, the products themselves were neither designed nor manufactured by the Navajo Nation or any Native American Tribe for that matter.

It turns out that appropriating another culture’s designs for profit under the guise of cultural appreciation is not only a pretty dirty trick, but in the case of Native American tribes, it is actually illegal thanks to a law passed in 1990 to help protect tribal craft manufacturers from loosing a substantial chunk of their business to cheaply made or machined knock-offs. Well after a substantial amount of backlash directed at Urban Outfitters from bloggers, fashion writers and the Attorney General of the Navajo Nation the retail chain finally got the hint and gave their Navajo products the axe.

Just kidding, they dropped the word Navajo from the names, and that’s all, no apology, no offer to compensate the Navajo Nation for the use of their name. In a press release issued earlier in the week Harrison Tsosie, the Navajo Nation Attorney General told reporters that “the Navajo Nation is vigilant and takes appropriate action in society, the law and the market to protect one of its most cherished elements: the Navajo name. So when companies sell products that have absolutely no connection to the Navajo Nation, its entities or its people, the Navajo Nation does not regard this as benign or trivial.”

Is there a lawsuit in the future? Only time will tell on that one. But one thing is for certain, when it comes to righting the wrongs of their marketing department Urban Outfitters is right up there with American Apparel for how little they care. Someone should tell them that they are behind the times, stealing from Native Americans is so 19th century.

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