Indigenous gifts for Christmas: Cultural appropriation or revitalization?

As Christmas approaches, shoppers are hurrying to snap up last-minute presents — and that might include Indigenous-made or Indigenous-themed gifts.

U of S professor Robert Innes says it depends who makes the items

Porcupine quill jewelry made by Yukon artist Charissa Alain-Lily. (CBC)

As Christmas approaches, shoppers are hurrying to snap up last-minute presents — and that might include Indigenous-made or Indigenous-themed gifts.

In Saskatoon, items from Indigenous designers and artisans are increasingly available. In November, for instance, Wanuskewin Heritage Park set up a seasonal store on Broadway Avenue.

But after another year of controversial stories of cultural appropriation — from Coachella to the Washington Redskins — non-Indigenous shoppers are asking themselves whether it's ever appropriate to wear Indigenous-themed gifts like clothing and jewelry.

Well, it depends, said Robert Innes.

"When the items are created by Indigenous people, and clearly marked as being made by Indigenous people, this wouldn't fall under cultural appropriation," said the professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

It's about common respect and courtesy.- Robert Innes, University of Saskatchewan professor of Indigenous studies

Speaking to CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, Innes said gifts made by Indigenous artisans can help support revitalizing traditional culture.

"They're supporting those craftspeople in making those items and that means that person can continue making those items," he said.

Innes added he's glad the issue of cultural appropriation has become prominent. While he said there has been some pushback from non-Indigenous people, Innes said the topic is very important for everyone to consider.

"You wouldn't be doing something to someone you knew or loved that they didn't appreciate," he said. "Why would you do that to other people? It's about common respect and courtesy."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning