A search for “Cherokee” on the Urban Outfitters website reveals 1 result. A search for “Tribal”: 15. A search for “Native”: 10. “Indian”: 2. But Navajo? 24 products have Navajo in the name alone.
This post started as a massive Urban Outfitters take-down, I spent an hour or so last week scrolling through the pages of the website, and adding anything to my cart that was “Native inspired” or had a tribal name in the description. I got through JUST the women’s clothes and accessories (no mens or apartment), and had 58 items in my cart. So, then, like any good researcher, I began to code my cart for emergent themes, and the one that jumped out far above the rest? Urban Outfitters is obsessed with Navajos.
I want to show you some examples, and then talk a little about the issues with using tribal names in products that are decidedly not-
Without further ado, some of the “Navajo” products to grace the pages of Urban:
2061748: NAVAJO Sportswear; namely, slacks, shorts, skirts and jeans.
2237848: NAVAJO Clothing; namely, tops, vests, shirts, sport shorts, polo shirts, golf shirts, * jackets, * T-shirts and sweat shirts.
3602907: NAVAJO Online retail store services; namely, on-line ordering services in the field of clothing—specifically, men’s and women’s sportswear, namely, jeans, tops, shirts, sport shorts, polo shirts, golf shirts, T-shirts and sweatshirts.
Your corporation’s use of Navajo will cause confusion in the market and society concerning the source or origin of your corporation’s products. Consumers will incorrectly believe that the Nation has licensed, approved, or authorized your corporation’s use of the Navajo name and trademarks for its products – when the Nation has not – or that your corporation’s use of Navajo is an extension of the Nation’s family of trademarks – which it is not. This is bound to cause confusion, mistake, or deception with respect to the source or origin of your goods. This undermines the character and uniqueness of the Nation’s long-standing distinctive Navajo name and trademarks, which—because of its false connection with the Nation—dilutes and tarnishes the name and trademarks. Accordingly, please immediately cease and desist using the Navajo name and trademark with your products.
As a Nation with a distinguished legacy and unmistakable contemporary presence, the Nation is committed to retaining this distinction and preventing inaccuracy and confusion in society and the market The Nation must maintain distinctiveness and clarity of valid association with its government, its institutions, its entities, its people, and their products in commerce.When an entity attempts to falsely associate its products with the Nation and its products, the Nation does not regard this as benign or trivial. TheNation remains firmly committed to the cancellation of all marks that attempt to falsely associate with the institution, its entities, its people or its products. Accordingly, immediately cease and desist using Navajo withyour products.
I haven’t heard what the response was from Urban, if any, but I think it is a bold and positive choice for the tribe to take matters into their own hands and push back on instances of misrepresentation and cultural appropriation.
What do you think? Should tribes go the route of Navajo and trademark their tribal names? Do you think this will be an avenue for positive change or just mean tribal courts will be mired in lawsuits, taking away time from other important tribal business?