'Cultural Appropriation' is a layered and nuanced phenomenon that many people have trouble understanding.

Cultural appropriation is especially egregious when: 

• It involves a lack of understanding for the historical context of marginalized Indigenous communities. 

• It is unauthorized. Parts of Indigenous peoples cultures are used without permission, or does not give credit to their original source. 

• Utilizing sacred or spiritual beliefs/customs/objects that do not belong to your own culture, inappropriately. Which disrespect their original, sacred meaning. 

• Uses aesthetically, as a result dehumanizes Indigenous communities. 

Cultural Appreciation 

seeks to acquire a knowledge and an understanding of another culture, honour and respect the culture, its practices and history. 

Appreciation asks permission, provides credit, and offers compensation.

Appreciation elevates the voices and experiences of members of a cultural group. It focuses on learning the stories and meanings behind cultural elements.

Cultural Appropriation has propelled issues of artistic freedom, intellectual property, identity politics, human rights, diversity and social inclusion.

In the fall of 2017, the Canada Council published a position paper entitled, 'Supporting Indigenous art in the spirit of cultural self-determination and opposing appropriation'. Adhering to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically Articles 11(1) and 31: 

Article 11 1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.” 

Article 31 1. “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.”

We have the tools to appreciate other cultures without simply grabbing at them recklessly. We can research their meanings, we can reach out to their creators and we can even work with those in the original communities to find the best way to honour, rather than simply appropriating.

It is vital to bring attention to and prevent culturally appropriated items, as well as protect Indigenous heritage, traditional knowledge, and exclusive rights to traditional cultural expressions for our self-determination.  

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