Friday May 13, 2016
When 'Chief Runs with Paws' is anything but cute
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We received the request on Twitter Friday morning. It read, "Can CBC As it Happens do an investigation on who signed off on this at Hamilton Collection?" The listener is referring to a cat figurine named Chief Runs with Paws. It's being sold for $29.99 on the American collectibles website The Hamilton Collection.
If you're in Canada, you won't be able to view the site. The company's Canadian equivalent, The Bradford Exchange, isn't selling the figurine.
Sage Paul, co-founder of the Setsune Indigenous Fashion Incubator, calls the kitty "cultural appropriation." She says the name, Chief Runs with Paws, is "offensive."
"It reminds me of Bugs Bunny. Back in the day, when I was really young, there would be these images. They'd bring the Indians out and they'd kill people and they'd have these funny names that you'd think would be First Nations — they're not," Paul tells As it Happens host Carol Off.
A description of the figurine on The Hamilton Collection's website reads: "Wearing his majestic ceremonial headdress with pride and casting an all-knowing, green-eyed stare your way, this adorable kitty is the chosen guardian of the spirt world."
Paul says these are just a bunch of buzzwords.
"They're using these words to make it sound magical and mystical and beautiful," she says. "They're buzzwords. They're sell-words to buy people into this idea of Native-ness — which is appropriation and not right."
Paul has an exhibit coming up in June called Indian Giver that tackles the question of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry.
"We see it over and over again. To have to constantly speak out against this — it becomes exhausting," says Paul. "With this exhibition, I just wanted to work with a group of Indigenous artists who can respond directly to it and create work that comes from us."
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The Canadian branch of the company sells a number of similar products:
As it Happens reached out to The Bradford Group, the company that owns The Hamilton Collection, for comment. We did not receive a response before our deadline on Friday.
For more on this story, take a listen to our full interview.