February 20, 2010

Give me your virtual beads and blankets

Earlier this week I participated in a little debate on Southern Fried Science. The original post, Twilight, Forks, and the Quileute - cultural identity theft? discussed cultural sensitivity, cultural property, and the negative impact of tourism on natural and native owned lands, in reference to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight book series.

I took some of the points and ran with them (see the comments section) definitely using the opportunity to herald artistic freedom. Facing governmental regulations determining who’s property my thoughts on someone else’s culture are, and where collective human experience begins and ends, made me turn slightly, uncharacteristically, Libertarian. Ugh…

As an afterthought, I wanted to see what these Quileute peoples had to offer. What’s their art even look like? Could I even buy art from them if I wanted to? I started by googling teh interwebz for “Native American arts”. There were a lot of good quality sites that featured the artists, and told about the cultures they were representing. That being said, when I googled "Quileute art", the only options were movie promo crap, mostly made in China. I searched through pages of goofy t-shirts and crappy nickel and plastic necklaces. I started really wondering just how much fans would pay to have something more authentic, something made by the actual people, something their friends might not have, something original. I think they would pay significantly more and they would actually buy it in large amounts. This is definitely a missed opportunity, on the part of the Quileute, in my opinion.

Selling things online is definitely something that native peoples and craftsmen should have long been on the ball about. For example, I may not be able to go to Africa in my lifetime, but I purchased two baskets from Botswana this past Christmas as gifts, and feel good that my money went directly to the people who made them. I would much rather buy things directly from people who put their all into creating, I don’t think I’m the only one. If environmental and social pressures are a problem to your small nature oriented culture, giving people what they want (stuff) while keeping them at UPS-able distance, could be your solution.

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