Posts tagged ‘stereotypes’

Zara shows leadership, apologizes, removes offensive product

Zara_NativeAmerican_BeddingSetI have received a response from ZaraHOME regarding my concern over the sale of their “Native American Bedding Set”.  It was send corporately from their Customer Service Department but they do want to speak to me in person.  The produce is still online, but they did commit to removing it.  To me, this is a very encouraging response from a company who appears to care about the views of their customers.  I wish that was the case with other companies.  When I speak to them, I will also talk to them about point of sale tax exemptions, and perhaps working with First Nations designers.

Please resume shopping with Zara.  Making changes, one company, one person at a time.  Miigwetch for your support on this campaign.

Here is our e-mail exchange:

From: Goulais, Bob
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 12:19 PM
To: Zara Home Canada
Subject: Zara Home Case ID:874 (#8629-424627490-2867)

Good day:

Thank you do much for your reply and kind consideration. I really appreciate you listening to my views and the concerns of some of our First Nations people. I certainly appreciate that your designers and buyers may not understand of appreciate why our people take such offence to these kinds of products that depict our people in such a stereotypical way. It is truly hurtful, especially for our children. Your ability to apologize, reach out and take action is admirable and the right thing to do. Your action of removing the bed linen collection shows you respect your customers and our culture. Please pass on my personal thanks and appreciation to your management team. Your leadership in this matter is exemplary.

Miigwetch (thank you).

Bob Goulais
Nipissing First Nation
(416) 770-8567

From: Zara Home Canada
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 11:16 AM
To: Goulais, Bob
Subject: Zara Home Case ID:874 (#8629-424627490-2867)

Dear Mr. Goulais,

Thank you so much for your email. Customer’s opinions like yours help us to improve constantly. And in this case let us thank you for sharing your opinion with regard to this bedding collection of Zara Home.
As you say in your kind email, the collection aims to be a celebration of the beauty heritage of America, and let us add in a very naive way. First Nation is an integral and important part of your history and culture. The designs wanted to be a tribute to the First Nation people and a symbol of the America history. The images try to show the music, traditions and culture of the First Nation people – let us insist on this, in a very naive and warm way for children. We deeply apologize if it has been misinterpreted or if it could be perceived as offensive. We would be pleased to contact you by phone personally, should you allow us to reach you. We would call you to a number that you could kindly indicate us to share with you these point of views about what the designers had in mind with this Zara Home Kids Collection.
Having said that, we really appreciate your opinion so we are proceeding to remove the bed linen collection you referred from our website and stores.

Please do not hesitate in contacting us should you need anything from us.

Best regards,

Customer Service Department


RESOLVED! I was shopping online for a kids bedding set… & you wouldn’t believe what I found at Zara

UPDATE May 21, 2014 – This issue has been resolved.  Please see the response from ZaraHOME.

Our good friend Saga was doing some online shopping tonight and came upon the Zara Canada website.  Zara is an emerging retailer in Ontario.  They launched their Zara Canada online in 2013, and opened their flagship store at Yorkdale in Toronto.  The Spanish company has hundreds of stores worldwide.  As Saga was going through the Zara Home Kids section, she came upon the bedding section.  Her reaction, my wife’s reaction and my reaction were all the same.


The “Native American Bedding Set” is the most offensive, stereotypical item I have ever come across. It is on sale at Zara Home Kids.

OMG!  That’s unbelievable!  Shock!  Anger!  Sadness!  That is patently offensive! Did you have the same reaction just now?

Don’t believe me?  Here’s the link.

This “Native American Bedding” set, marketed to parents for their innocent but trendy children, features caricatures of the most negatively stereotypical nature. Cartoon representations of indigenous people in various states of pre-colonial dress, depicted in various activities.  The bedding set features totem poles, feathers, drums, Indians dancing around fires, riding horses, complete with headdresses, dreamcatchers, teepees, bows and arrows, tribal symbols and a sacred bird or two.

It absolutely makes sense that this is bedding because it sure seems like some slapping-the-mouth war-hoot, Sal-Mineo-Indian Brave, stereotyping nightmare of unmatched proportions!

To make matters worse, it’s intended for the enjoyment and delight of children.  CHILDREN!  What in the blazing, banana #&%$ are some people teaching their kids????  It’s mortifying.

I have no doubt in my mind that the kids that grow up with this bedding set will not to have any real respect or appreciation of our beautiful culture or see First Nations as persons, families and nations.  They’ll grow up thinking how great it is to “honour” us by wearing their Cleveland Indians ball caps and Washington Redskins NFL jerseys.  They will be the same people that debate our rights amongst themselves and write anonymous comments under online newspaper articles.  Sadly, they will also raise more kids with the same outlook and regard as their parents who bought them the Zara Native American Bedding set. Don’t let your kids miss out on appreciating various beautiful culture by using bedding sets from Zara. Follow the url and get the best review on mattresses to be able to make an informed decision.

They don’t realize that we are real people with real feelings.  I am a Anishinaabe. Hath not a Anishinaabe eyes? Hath not a Anishinaabe hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons?

My feeling quite hurt right now.  I’m have genuine pain lamenting on how far we haven’t really come in 500 years.  That there are people in this world that just don’t understand that stereotypes and ignorance of this kind is wrong.  That is it hurtful.

I’m envisioning the proud little owner of this sheet set, so happy and thrilled looking at the little Indians playing on his bed-linens.  His imagination takes him to a time, long ago, where his little Indian friends danced, in sight of cowboys and buffalo on the great plains.  As he readies for bed, he turns to his  visiting friend that he invited for a sleepover. It took some time to choose mattress for the guest. A little Anishinaabe, Onkwehonwe, Cree, Mi’kmaq, Dene, or Dakota boy.  He might be your son, grandson, nephew, little cousin or the boy next door.  He’s proud of his heritage but afraid to say anything – confused about why he’s feeling ashamed…

Something has to be been done.  See here.

We have to hold these retailers, manufacturers and designers to account for the decisions they make.  This type of imagery no longer has a place in our society.  It certainly has no place in our children’s bedrooms.

Don’t just boycott Zara.  Let them know how you feel.  Write them a letter or e-mail.  Stop by the Zara store and voice your concern with the manager.  Share this blog post with your friends.  Leave a comment.  Make it abundantly clear that this kind of stereotypical product is offensive and absolutely not acceptable.

Please write:

Maribel Santos, Managing Director
Zara Canada
200 McGill College Av., Suite 1550
Montreal, Quebec
H3B 4G7

Phone: (514) 868-1516
Fax: (514) 868-1522

Click here to send Zara a note.

CBC’s 8th Fire Has It Right

Wab Kinew has it right.  In turn, I guess, so does CBC.  But is anyone (other than Aboriginal people) watching 8th Fire (CBC, Thursday at 9 p.m.)?

In my lifetime, I don’t recall seeing any other TV special that comes close.  This four-part documentary series explores first-hand First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives, all the while providing excellent public education on contemporary Aboriginal issues.

I recall back in the 90s, the much-heralded historical documentary series called 500 Nations.  But it was aimed at being a historical and anthropological anthology rather than taking on the “how’s” and “why’s” of contemporary Aboriginal issues.

I think what’s most compelling about Wab Kinew’s storytelling is that he’s speaking directly to the non-native viewer.

In episode three of the series, the Anishinaabe hip-hop artist and story-teller from the Ojibways of Onigaming paddles up in his canoe, slightly winded and speaks, not to me, but specifically to non-native Canadians.  He often speaks of the interactions between “your people” and “my people”.  Although he’s being honest, he is also quite disarming through his kind and respectful approach to the telling of our story.  His approach and personality really sells it and makes him quite believable for these messages that are so often taken quite sceptically.

While he is telling his story, I find myself nodding away to him, wiping the occasional tear away like I’m right beside him while he’s affirming my story.  As we watch the occasional friend and colleague on the screen, I know my partner and I have Wab’s back while he educates my neighbours about the truth of our people.

This type of documentary filmmaking is also quite consistent with our time-honoured traditional approach to storytelling.

Not so long ago, our people would gather in our Anishinaabe lodges for ceremonies and discussions among Chiefs, Clan leaders, Elders and teachers.  Following our ceremonies, there would be long talks led by our teachers about our history and many seasons gone by.  Those talks would be filled with references to the Spirit and to Gchi-Anishinaabeg (the old ones).  They would also be filled with emotion and rife with our core values of honesty and respect.  The many people gathered around the fire could be seen nodding, wiping away their own tears as they all hear their collective story.

Wab does this eloquently, using video, new media, music and a host of contributors, experts and guests.  The simple storyline makes the point well-organized and easy to understand.  It’s difficult to find to many holes in his narrative.

Personally, I feel Canadians need to see more of that.  Honesty and truth in the telling of our story, rather than hard-line, one-sided positions, “he-said, she-said” perspectives.  It certainly beats the tired political rhetoric we are accustomed to.  We also need to see much more public education targeting all Canadians.

I challenge you to take a look at any news story about Aboriginal issues on the web.  Whether it be about Attawapiskat, the Crown-First Nations Gathering, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, or Tobacco issues. Check out any number of news sources: CBC, CTV, Globe and Mail, National Post, Sun Media, or even your local paper.  Turn your attention, please, to the interactive comments at the bottom of the page.

This is the place that “Mr. and Ms. Anonymous Canadian” can write to their heart’s content about their true feelings on Aboriginal issues.  These comments can be down right nasty.

But what strikes me most is how they are often simply ignorant, uninformed, and downright incorrect.

“When are First Nations going to start contributing to society instead of ripping off Canadian tax payers? It is obvious they can’t handle money as they have wasted all the tax dollars they were given and have nothing to show for it!”

“You know, that thing that First Nations are sorely lacking. Personal responsibility to pay taxes and become a contributor to society instead of a burden on society.”

“Get rid of the Indian Act, reserves and the chief system. Time they fended for themselves.”

“Does this mean they are prepared to work and pay taxes just like the non-aboriginal people?  I’m all for equality.”

Reminds me of this classic diddy from 1920:

“Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.” – Duncan Campbell-Scott, Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

All of these messages are rooted in prejudice and hatred.  However, the source of these messages can be traced back to certain special interest groups.  Many have such noble names like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality.  But it doesn’t change the fact that they regularly disseminate anti-Aboriginal propaganda and are regularly quoted in the media.  After years of unchallenged propaganda, Canadians now take these messages and corresponding media reports as fact.

It will take a lot of focussed effort, such as that presented in the 8th Fire, to change how Canadians feel about First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.  I feel the root of that change lies with public education.  As journalists, broadcasters, communicators and storytellers, our goal should be to slowly, patiently and systematically begin to change the public perception of First Nations people.  We need to replace our negative messages with positive ones.  We need to correct inaccuracies and challenge stereotypes.

We also need for all people to challenge racism and stand up for their fellow Canadians.  If it is unacceptable to say these comments aloud, it should be just as unacceptable to write them anonymously hiding behind the guise of free speech and freedom of expression.  Yes, you can say and write anything you want (within reason), but it doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong and hurtful.

It’s my hope that Mr. and Ms. Anonymous Canadian are watching the 8th Fire.  That they hear Wab Kinew’s brilliant storytelling and that a light goes off in their head.  We all need to challenge our own misconceptions and prejudices.  That change happens one person at a time.

G’chi-Miigwetch Wab and CBC for starting this conversation.  It’s up to all of us to carry on it’s message.

Day 14: Deciphering the Conservative Aboriginal Platform

The Conservative Party outlined their election platform today, and as expected, there was nothing nearly as compelling as what other parties are offering First Nations.

But there is plenty to be concerned about.

“Increased investment in First Nations Lands Management”:  In far-right-conservative-speak this means privatize Indian Reserves and offload responsibility.

The First Nations Lands Management initiative is actually a very positive thing.  This Liberal initiative began nearly fifteen years ago and was passed by the Chretien government in 1999.  Then, 14 First Nations, including my community of Nipissing First Nation, entered a process to opt out of the land management sections of the Indian Act in favour of a community-driven land management code.  I was pleased to be on Band Council when our Land Code was passed in a referendum.

However, the Conservative Party has always had ulterior motives when it comes to First Nations land and jurisdiction.  Time and time again, far-right-conservative types have openly advocated for private property ownership.  They feel that if First Nations owned their own land, they could use it as collateral, buy it, sell it… and probably for many, turn over vast quantities of land for the value of the resources underneath.

Private ownership of land isn’t a political issue.  Plain and simple, it is against our value system and beliefs.  No one can own land.  We are merely caretakers of the land for our future generations.  We can’t sell the land or lose it to the bank – because it doesn’t belong to us.  It is the birthright of the seventh generation.  For First Nations, land is not a commodity to be traded and sold.  She is our mother!  She gives us life.

I really feel this is the Conservative angle to their support of First Nations Lands Management.  They don’t want to recognize First Nations jurisdiction over the land – they want to offload responsibility and enable it’s use as an economic instrument.

“Controlling Spending and Cutting Waste”: In far-right-conservative-speak this means further cuts to First Nations programs and services, starting with post-secondary education funding.

From our experience with the Kelowna Accord, we know First Nations programs and services are not safe from the Harper straight edge.

Judging from their recent INAC “program review”, all things point to Conservative cuts in the post-secondary education support program.  Perhaps even a reclassification of the grant program to a loan program.  Can you imagine, Canada’s most marginalized people, with the lowest incomes and graduation rates, and the highest unemployment and incarceration rates, having the same opportunities as everyone else.  Meaning less grants and more loans.  For far-right-conservatives, “more equal” is always better when it comes to Aboriginal people.

You can get help with debt management quite easily online without having to pay a penny, but it is often worth paying for a one off consultation with a professional adviser to make sure that you can get advice tailored to your situation specifically.

“First Nations Financial Accountability”:  In far-right conservative-speak this means getting a few more votes from the racists and ignorants within the party.

Just as they have demonized refugees and Canadian Tamils through their assault on human smuggling they are looking to demonize First Nations Chiefs, Councillors and employees.  The Conservative campaign of fear now extends to First Nations leadership.

The Conservative government stated today that their will introduce a government bill that will require the disclosure of First Nation’s salaries.  From my perspective, this is a complete witch-hunt that will be used by far-right-conservatives to further reduce funding and governance support to First Nations.

Of course, equality is important for the far-right conservative.  This measure is being done, and I quote to “ensure they enjoy the same rights as other Canadians”.  More equal is always better!

Knowing the issue quite well, we will find that 90 percent of these salaries are very low.  I argue, they need to be increased in order to attract the best talent that First Nations deserve to govern their communities.  To remaining 10 per cent of high salaries will continue to fuel the fire that “First Nations are getting way too much funding” and are “probably better off than most Canadians”.  The reality is that per capita spending on First Nations is half the amount of average Canadians: $8,754 compared to $18,724.

It only fuels the contemporary stereotypes that state that First Nations are mismanaged, corrupt banana republics.  It only fuels ignorance of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.  Sadly, it also fuels racist attitudes.

Is the grass really greener in Peguis?

The grass is always greener on the other side.  I wish my new Palm Pre ran WindowsCE and had the same apps as my old Treo Pro.  I wish my hair was long and straight rather than curly.  Do we really wish we could be the Chief of Peguis First Nation and make $174,230 tax free.  There are many people wish they could be an Indian and have everything tax free, free education and free housing.

Sorry to dispel these contemporary stereotypes.  Nothing is free in the world, it all requires hard work.  Most of us don’t get free housing or free money.  There are very few who benefit from the right to tax exemption – they must live and work on-reserve.  The majority of us, like you, pay taxes.  And very few First Nations students are “sponsored”.  We get student loans like everyone else.

To address another contemporary stereotype – First Nations do not make that much money.

In 2006, the average Aboriginal income in Ontario was only $26,000. The unemployment rate for First Nation people living on-reserve is 18 per cent – three times the Ontario average.

Given these statistics, I certainly can’t defend or substantiate the salary paid to the Chief and Council from Peguis First Nation.  Perhaps they were getting bonuses based on their recent negotiated land settlement or their own source revenue.  Perhaps, the Chief was paid a premium because he’s a professional engineer.  I have no idea why the Councillor is getting paid $310,000.  That’s is grossly excessive and actually turns my stomach.

However, having worked in First Nations politics for most of my life – I know with absolutely certainty that Chiefs and Councillors don’t get paid that much.  In fact, First Nations civil servants don’t get paid anything close to what they’re worth in relation to what they do for their communities.

In my experience, most Chiefs make between $40,000 and $60,000.

Check any First Nation audit.  These are easily obtained through a basic Freedom of Information Act request.  Yes, indeed.  I’m pleased to dispel another stereotype – First Nation governments are indeed quite accountable.

Of all the levels of government, First Nations not only have to file an annual audit to the Government of Canada, they have to file inordinate numbers of reports for every program and fund they access.  In fact, the Auditor General once criticized the sheer number of reports that must be filed, which averaged around 140 official financial reports, per band, each year.

First Nations have established their very own Aboriginal Financial Officer’s Association, a network of financial professionals who share policies and best practices.  Membership in the AFOA is quickly becoming a standard in the most accountable of First Nations band administrations.  Their members of AFOA need to be commended.

However, the Auditor General has also criticized First Nations stating that in too many cases, dollars intended for social purposes don’t always make it to those in need.  They were being used for administration and salaries, rather than helping the poor.  Peguis First Nation, despite their recent successes, remains one of the poorest First Nation in Manitoba.

I think First Nations need to re-evaluate their priorities when it comes to financial planning.  We need to merge our financial values with our societal values.  We’re a communal, socialist society.  These dollars need to be put back into the community, not just into the pockets of the leadership.

However, we also need to measure the value of leadership and the civil service.

In my experience, wages of First Nations program managers, financial administrators and program officers are HALF of what is being made by their counterparts in government.  On average, First Nations civil servants have to do a lot more than their jobs ask.  For the most part, First Nations have no executive assistants, special advisors, policy analysts or communications officers.

Sure, there may be a few First Nations leaders that make an exorbitant salary.  But I estimate that less than 1 percent of Chiefs across Canada make more than $100,000.  As I stated earlier, the vast majority make between $40,000 and $60,000.

On the other hand, I would estimate that about 10 per cent make less than $40,000.  There are still a few First Nations whose Chief is either part-time or done strictly as a volunteer, paid only by meeting honouraria.  Most councillors in First Nations are volunteers who only get honoraria, usually $100 to $200 per meeting, with perhaps a small monthly stipend.  Travel budgets for most Councils are quite low and not much of a financial incentive.

With statistics like these, why would an accountant, a lawyer, a financial planner or an MBA even consider working for their own community?  What incentive does a First Nation have to bring in the best, young university graduates?  Why would someone want to be Chief – one of the most stressful, ungrateful, often criticized position you can have in a small community – when they are making less than $50,000 per year?  And they have to worry about getting re-elected every two years, compared to four years in mainstream politics.

And it’s true.  First Nations are losing their best, young minds to urban centres where they can have housing, a better salary and a more comfortable life.  First Nations just can’t compete.

Before we are quick to paint all First Nations with the brush of contemporary stereotypes, we also need to work towards equity for the vast majority of First Nations civil servants.