Reposted from a letter by Brian Thom, Negotiator of the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group
Our Olympic Image
Good morning chiefs. I am sure you have all been following the news of how the Hudson's Bay Company and the Vancouver Olympic Committee has knocked off the Cowichan sweater to produce their own version for the official uniforms for the 2010 Olympics, and which are being sold at the HBC stores for $350 each.
This rip-off is getting heavily criticized in the media, and Cowichan, I understand, is looking into their legal options with respect to their Trademark for Genuine Cowichan. This morning, the Hudson's Bay Company released a TV ad promoting their sweaters, and it is the most inflammatory, colonial, racist thing I have seen in a long time.
It tells the story of the coming of the white man to the new world, an empty place of rock and snow, which white man tamed and made into Canada. There is a half-second flash of seeing Cowichan-like sweaters hanging in some early settlement early in the ad, hinting that these came with the Europeans too. Through the ad, old Hudson's Bay Company symbols (blankets, chests, crests, etc) are flashed, as the white man expands their presence. The history told in this ad writes-out indigenous presence on the land.
It popularizes the legal fiction of Terra Nullius, the idea that North America was an 'empty land' here for the taking. It erases the whole place of indigenous people over the last 350 years, from the resistance to colonization, to the contributions made to the building of contemporary society. I believe that the political leadership of aboriginal communities should be aware of this vulgar portrayal of history by the Hudson's Bay Company, to promote their stolen sweater. The theft and profiteering off the genuine Cowichan sweater, along with the ironically parallel promotion of a re-telling of colonial history without indigenous people on the land, needs to be seen for what it is.
Please pass the information along widely to help generate what should be an anti-colonial response.