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Store responses to our investigation into Indigenous-themed souvenirs

We emailed, messaged or sent a letter to every store we visited, told them about our investigation into Indigenous-themed souvenirs and what we found in their store, and asked them to respond to our findings. Here’s what they told us.

Stores listed in alphabetical order:

Cedar Root Gallery

(What we found here: Only authentic Indigenous items.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 13, 2019:

Chic Winds

(What we found here: Only authentic Indigenous items.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 11, 2019:

Delane Canada

(What we found: At least one authentic Indigenous item carved by an Indigenous person, as well as one Indigenous-themed print produced by a non-Indigenous artist and several items whose authenticity could not be proven, since no artist was listed on the product tag.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 21, 2019:

Gandharva Loka

(What we found here: Only authentic Indigenous items.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 10, 2019:

Granville Island Treasures

(What we found here: Some hand-carved items in our sample clearly credited Indigenous artists, or came from companies that were able to confirm the work was produced by Indigenous artists. Other items in our sample were from a company that told us it did not collaborate with Indigenous artists on the items that we found.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 17, 2019:

In a follow-up email sent May 17, 2019, we replied to clarify:

Inukshuk Gallery

(What we found here: Both authentic Indigenous items, and items whose authenticity we were not able to verify. We also found some copper jewelry from a company whose non-Indigenous designer once worked with Indigenous jewelry makers but who now designs his own pieces without collaboration.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 17, 2019:

Jade Vancouver

(What we found here: Co-owner Brian Simmons told us in an interview that most of the store’s jade carvings are done in China, and not produced in collaboration with Indigenous people.)

Here is a screenshot of Brian Simmons’ response sent via email on May 13, 2019:

Michelle’s (73 Water St. and 137 Water St.)

(What we found here: Both authentic Indigenous items produced by or in collaboration with Indigenous people, and at least one item from a company, KC Gifts, that told us they do not collaborate with Indigenous people in the production of their goods.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 10, 2019:

Silver Gallery

(What we found here: Only authentic Indigenous items.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 10, 2019:

Smiley’s

(What we found here: Both authentic items, and items whose authenticity we could not verify at the time the letter was sent.)

Here is a summary of a phone call on May 14, 2019:

A representative from Smiley’s called The Discourse after receiving our letter, which detailed our findings and requested their store’s response. He asked for clarification regarding what we found. He noted that he is only the retailer, not the supplier, and requested a list of items whose authenticity we could not verify, so that he might look into them further. We told him which items we had catalogued in his store, and sent him a follow-up email to confirm our findings.

Tiamo’s Smoke and Gift Shop

(What we found here: We could not confirm that any of the items that we sampled here were authentically produced by or in collaboration with Indigenous people. We confirmed that at least one item came from a company that told The Discourse its goods are not produced in collaboration with Indigenous people.)

Here is a screenshot of the store’s response sent via email on May 15, 2019:

In a follow-up email sent May 15, 2019, we replied with photos and descriptions of two items we catalogued in their store:

  • A dreamcatcher from Royal Specialty Sales, where a manager told us they do not collaborate with Indigenous people to create their items;
  • An inukshuk keychain from Snowcap Trading whose authenticity we initially could not verify. The owner of Snowcap later told us he designs his inukshuks himself, without collaboration with Indigenous people.
  • We also clarified that we did not purchase any of these items and are not looking for any reimbursement. We are journalists who went to 40 souvenir shops in Vancouver and tracked 260 items from 40 suppliers, to determine how common authentic Indigenous-made items are in these shops. We’re reaching out to all of the stores to let them know what we found, and to request their response to our findings.

In a follow-up email sent May 16, 2019, Tiamo’s Smoke and Gift Shop stated:

In a follow-up email sent May 16, 2019, we replied: 

Wickaninnish Gallery

(What we found here: Nearly all authentic Indigenous items here, with the exception of Laurentian Chief moccasins produced by Eugène Cloutier. As part of our investigation, we called Eugène Cloutier. He told us that while he employs some Huron First Nation people, he designs and creates the moccasins himself as a non-Indigenous person. When we asked him if it would be correct to describe his products as authentic because some Huron people participate in their production, he said, “I don’t think so, no. I’m not sure.” It depends what counts as authentic, he said, noting that his shoes are not made on reserve.)

Here is a screenshot of their response sent via email on May 15, 2019:

This story is part of a series on fake Indigenous art in the tourism industry.

Editor’s note, May 22, 2019: This post was updated to add a response from Delane Canada.