A few years ago, the Navajo Nation got some unwanted negative attention towards them, and it was practically unwarranted. Urban Outfitters was having some major problems at their Manhattan store when they were caught having bed bugs, and delayed on properly getting an exterminator. It took them months to actually get an exterminator to properly take care of it. Employees were begging for the company to take care of the bed bug problems so they could stop being bit.
Where the Navajo Nation comes into this mess is that they believe that Urban Outfitters breached the trademark and ended up violating the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. In the eyes of the Navajos, they inappropriately labeled items “Navajo Hipster Panty,” and “Navajo Flask.” Navajo people owns trademarks of the names and feels that Urban Outfitters offends their people naming these products without permission. These items are not what they stand for.
Urban Outfitters tries swindling out of it by claiming that they are using Navajo as a description of the product, not a name of the product. They have 21 items in their catalog with the word “Navajo,” so maybe it’s not as sure of a bet as they may like to believe.
The Navajo Nation files a lawsuit on Urban Outfitters. The consistent usage of Navajo in the name of their products is a little much to try to claim it as just a description of the products. Native Americans in particular were just as unhappy with Urban Outfitters as the Navajo Nation. Sasha Houston Brown, a Native American herself called Urban Outfitters collection of clothing names “vulgar” and “culturally offensive.” They had dreamcatchers made of plastic in proximity to feather jewelry, while all being with extremely sexualized clothes with tribal patterns that were fringey, unauthentic, and downright tacky. Sasha Houston Brown said she took personal offense to the racism and “perverted cultural appropriation” of the apparel in the stories.
Her argument is actually quite informative, and states a ton of points that certainly knock the problems of what people call “the cultural appropriation of the Native Americans.”
One of the biggest problems with this so-called “Navajo apparel” is that Urban Outfitters isn’t even supporting actual Natives. They import just about all of the clothing that has the word “Navajo” in the descriptor. They cheaply make their products although it’s not technically sold as authentic Navajo products, they do nothing to support the actual Navajos or paint them in a positive light.
The Federal Indian Arts and Crafts act of 1990 may even deem this to be illegal for them to name their products in such a fashion. The Navajo people actually hold practically all of the necessary trademarks that cover clothing and retail, so they covered themselves in that matter.
Following this lawsuit in 2012, Urban Outfitters and the Navajo Nation may have come to a resolution. The outcome is not reported, but federal law states that it could have been a minimum figure of $1,000 per day that each Navajo labeled item was for sale or displayed. That could come to a pretty high figure if this includes all 20 plus of the Navajo items multiplied by how long they were on display for. Urban Outfitters may certainly have taken a major hit for this one, but at least they settled.