Deep Dive

Fake Art

Art is an integral part of Indigenous cultures: an expression of sovereignty, a record of history and law and, for many, a source of income. What happens when that art is threatened by cultural appropriation? This series explores “fake art” or Indigenous-themed art in the tourism industry that’s created without any collaboration with Indigenous communities.

Fake Indigenous art is a real problem in Vancouver stores

Investigation uncovers some knock-off Indigenous art is sold in 75% of Vancouver souvenir shops.

Stores commit to removing inauthentic Indigenous souvenirs after The Discourse investigation

Indigenous artists ‘should have their royalties,’ says one store owner who says she’s committed to selling authentic items.

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Canada’s Copyright Act failing Indigenous people, committee finds

Indigenous artist hopeful new report could help curb ‘the appropriation of our artworks.’

Why aren’t fake Indigenous art makers going to jail in Canada?

A groundbreaking case in the U.S. sent two people to jail last year for misrepresenting items as genuine Navajo art. Why don’t we have a law like that here?

Here’s how we investigated Vancouver’s Indigenous-souvenir industry

Details on the stores we visited, the samples we took and the manufacturers we called to determine which products were authentic.

Mass-produced magnets, bottle openers and figurines of Charlie James’s Stanley Park totem pole pop up in souvenir shops throughout Vancouver’s busiest tourist areas. Cloe Logan/The Discourse

The real story behind one of the most replicated totem poles in Vancouver

‘It's splattered all over. . . with no acknowledgement that that’s his work,’ says carver’s great-great-granddaughter.

Fake Indigenous art not Indigenous at all, artists say

Our artwork is ‘the way we write down our history, our worldview, our laws. It really is a written language,’ Shain Jackson says.

Why seeing a shelf full of fake totem poles makes me wince

From their randomly splashed designs to their strange choice of materials, fake poles miss every opportunity to honour our culture. And they’re just the tip of the fake art iceberg.

How can we compete with cheap fake art from overseas, Indigenous business owners ask?

‘I’ve seen these poor carvers that are trying to carry on their culture, and they’ve got to compete with something a quarter the cost that comes in from Indonesia,’ says Shain Jackson.

Legitimate Indigenous souvenir businesses squeezed out

If we’re going to turn the tide on the volume of fake Indigenous art sold in souvenir shops, we need to support more Indigenous-owned shops and designers in Vancouver.

Fake art hurts Indigenous artists as appropriators profit

Those dreamcatcher keychains and Indigenous-style souvenirs? They’ve been stolen, say artists and advocates.

3 tips to make sure you’re buying authentic Indigenous art

Knock-offs are everywhere. Here’s what you need to know to avoid buying a fake.

Connecting to culture in the city

Reflecting on why, as urban Indigenous people, we hold our culture so tight.