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Navajo Items for sale at Urban Outfitters?

There is a new trend in the fashion industry. Why do archaeologists care? Because this “trend” is infringing upon the cultural property of Native Americans, the Navajo Nation specifically.

Source: Edie Harry

In June, the Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter regarding the chain’s appropriation of the Navajo name.

On Columbus Day, Sasha Houston Brown of the Santee Sioux Nation wrote a letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Glen T. Senk regarding the appropriation by Urban Outfitters of Navajo cultural property.

The company’s initial response was dismissive, “Like many other fashion brands, we interpret trends and will continue to do so for years to come,” company spokesman Ed Looram said. “The Native American-inspired trend and specifically the term ‘Navajo’ have been cycling through fashion, fine art and design for the last few years.”

However, they have since ceased using the word “Navajo” on their products.

The legal request to cease and desist from the Navajo Nation did not seem to have an effect on Urban Outfitter’s use of the tribe’s name on their trinkets. It was only when an outraged Santee Sioux woman wrote a letter to the CEO on a public forum that the change was made.

Urban Outfitters was in violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, and also in violation of Navajo trademarks.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 is a “truth-in-advertising law”:

“All products must be marketed truthfully regarding the Indian heritage and tribal affiliation of the producers, so as not to mislead the consumer. It is illegal to market an art or craft item using the name of a tribe if a member, or certified Indian artisan, of that tribe did not actually create the art or craft item.

For example, products sold using a sign claiming “Indian Jewelry” would be a violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act if the jewelry was produced by someone other than a member, or certified Indian artisan, of an Indian tribe. Products advertised as “Hopi Jewelry” would be in violation of the Act if they were produced by someone who is not a member, or certified Indian artisan, of the Hopi tribe.”

“If a business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000.”

–US Department  of Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board

Navajo Trademarks are easily found through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Trademark Office has an online database that is easily searched, I typed in the word “Navajo” and came back with 150 results. One of which discusses ornaments for personal wear.  I am not a lawyer, I don’t know if this trademark is applicable to the Urban Outfitters/Navajo Nation controversy, I just wanted to illustrate how easy it is to find Navajo trademarks on the Trademarks Electronic Search System (TESS). Which is exactly what Urban Outfitters should have done before attempting to pass their items off as Navajo, items not even made in North America.

Urban Outfitters continues to sell Native-style items:

Source: Urban Outfitters

and is probably continuing to break the law by calling this item “Tribal”:

Source: Urban Outfitters

Real Navajo Dreamcatchers look better made, and are also more affordable:

Source: Foutz Trading Co.

There are lots of places to buy real Native American made items. There are also many places to learn about Native American culture, the Navajo Nation Museum in Arizona, and a number of museums in California (if you’re from here like me).

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California Archaeology Month

Source: Society for California Archaeology

There are lots of events going on.

I will be at Archaeopalooza on October 15th- hopefully- probably. They have some famous archaeologists presenting:

This guy.
As well as this controversial figure.

The Society for California Archaeology is encouraging archaeologists across the state the get involved.  They have lots of suggestions for what to do:

  • Ask your City Council or County Board of Supervisors (or both) to recognize Ocotber of each year as California Archaeology Month as part of a statewide effort to encourage respect, appreciation and a better understanding of California’s diverse cultural heritage. Annmarie can provide a draft of a mini–speech for you to present, and a draft resolution that you can provide to the board. Present each council or board member with a poster. To avoid duplicate efforts in one county, please tell Annmarie if you plan to talk to your city or county administrators.
  • CRM firms are encouraged to have an open house or create a display from recent work that can be placed in a public area.
  • Arrange a talk at a public forum in your town; give a show–and–tell at a local school.
  • Create a display for a local library, school, a mall, town hall or other public forum. Is the poster you created for the SCA poster session — this year or last — usable?
  • Organize an essay contest (for example, “Why is knowledge about the past important to us now?”) or create a bookmark contestat local schools, focused on archaeology. Possible prizes: cash; a book about archaeology; tickets to a museum (ask a museum to donate them); something the school suggests (tickets to homecoming? Prom?). Consider allowing a winner to visit a site where you are working.
  • Contact a local museum and volunteer to help with a display.
  • Help your local library display archaeology or California Heritage books.
  • Work with a local organization like Girl or Boy Scouts to do something like the above projects.
  • Please put any on–going events (visiting Speaker’s, open–houses) on the SCA Archaeology Month Calendar. Contact Annemarie Cox (760) 291-0370 to put an event on the Archaeology Month Calendar.
  • Get the event listed in the local newspaper calendar, and the public radio and TV calendars.
  • Write an article for the local newspaper.


Source: Society for California Archaeology

Have a Great Archaeology Month!

Final note- October is a great month for archaeology month, why? You can dress up as an archaeologist for Halloween!

Source: Disney Costume Ideas

Or dress your dog up…

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New Books!

“The legendary El Dorado- the city of gold- remains a mere legend, but astonishing new discoveries are revealing…” blah blah blah. This sentence is the best hook I have ever seen. I hooked you didn’t I? The rest of the sentence is long and poorly structured. Okay, maybe not poorly structured, but it sure is loonnnnnnggggg. I hate long sentences. I get lost/bored in the middle.

Here’s the key part: “major civilization in ancient Amazonia.” Now that is cool! When I was in college, they were just starting to find things in Amazonia. Now there’s a book about it! Awesome.

If you can’t tell, I just got an email from Left Coast Press, Inc.  They’re having a book sale! And also they sent their Fall Catalog.

The interesting books from the catalog (so you don’t have to flip through it and take up your own busy time):

Bridging the Divide: Indigenous Communities and Archaeology in the 21st Century

That title speaks for itself. I want that book. It’s $34.95 $29.71 in paperback. It’s on SALE! Available in September.

Source: Left Coast Press

Sacred Geologies of Ancient Amazonia: Historical Ecology of Social Complexity

This is the book just told you about above. It’s $69 $48.30 hardcover! ALSO ON SALE! Available in September.

Source: Left Coast Press

Okay the REASON these books are on sale is because they’re on pre-order. Left Coast Press is having a 20% off sale on pre-orders right now. Read the FINE PRINT. Duh.

Anyways- two more books:

How Culture Makes Us Human: Primate Social Evolution and the Formation of Human Societies

Kind of a boring title for what sounds like an interesting subject. I’m always interested in evolution. $22.95 $19.51 in paperback. Available in October.

Source: Left Coast Press

Video Game Worlds: Working at Play in the Culture of EverQuest

There’s a curve ball for you. $34.95 $29.71 in paperback. Available in October.

Source: Left Coast Press

Who’s your favorite publisher?

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New Lessons in Archaeology

As promised, yet a long time coming, Things I have Learned about bedrock mortars:

A bed rock mortar is a form of groundstone, used to grind things up (acorns, mice, paint, etc…).  Want to see a modern day version of this? Here is the one I have in my kitchen:

Source: My Kitchen

The key here is the interior- round and smooth, with a little exotic pepper residue from the last time I used it- gross. Back to mortars.

Source: waymarking.com

That’s a bedrock mortar. The interior kinda looks the same doesn’t it?  Do you see how it’s got horizontal rings in it? That’s one of the tells.

Here are a bunch of BRMs all on one rock together:

Source: archaeofieldtech

These were on the bank of a small stream. That’s another tell! That they’re near water. Most prehistoric sites are near water, but you knew that.

Source: archaeofieldtech

The above is NOT a bedrock mortar. It is also NOT a great photo. My apologies, I was hacking through low-bush-like oak trees at the time. And also, it was very hot.  This non-mortar is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just outside Sequoia National Forest.

Source: USGS (disregard "Storm Track" OR- click and find out what they're talking about)

These non-mortars are formed by erosion.  Water pools in the lowest area on a granite boulder. This water then seeps down into the rock, freezes and causes the rock to break apart.  Also- these can be formed by aeolian (vocab word of the day) erosion- meaning WIND. For some reason, these non-mortars are called “solution cups” – that’s just for all you terminology geeks. I don’t know why they’re called that. I even asked around. No one knows. If you know, please tell me!

How do you tell a solution cup/non-mortar from a bedrock mortar? EASY.

1: Is it smooth anywhere? If your answer is YES, then it’s a bedrock mortar (in the cultural sense).

2: Does it have weird cracks? If your answer is YES, then it’s NOT a bedrock mortar (sorry!).

3: Is it perfectly round? If your answer is YES, then it could be EITHER (I tricked you. HAHA).

4: Is there other CULTURAL material nearby? If your answer is NO, then it could be EITHER (tricked you again).

That was not particularly helpful. Here is how I determine whether or not a nice round hole in some bedrock is cultural or not:

a) Feel. If it’s super smooth, it is probably cultural. This is the easiest way to tell. However, even if it’s not super smooth, it could still be cultural. Erosion could have acted on an already present mortar to make it less smooth.

b) Surroundings. If there’s cultural material on the ground or nearby, it’s more likely that you have a cultural feature.

c) Appearance. This is the least useful determinant. Generally I use this to tell from a distance (within my 10m transect) whether or not a hole in a chunk of bedrock is cultural. If it’s not super round, or if it is sitting on top of a huge crack, it’s probably not cultural. Still worth checking out though, because you NEVER KNOW!

Do you have any other ways of telling whether or not a nice looking cup in a slab of bedrock is cultural? Comment or Email me!

Rock art is going to have to wait. This post is long enough! If you made it this far- gold star for you! No seriously- email me. I’ll email you a gold star.

Bonus material:

So, I went to that flintknapping course I told you about this past Sunday- more about that soon. But, I thought I would share with you a revelation I had today while practicing flintknapping.

Source: archaeofieldtech

That’s what I made. More importantly, take a look at the flakes around it. Can’t see them? Take a gander at this photo:

Source: archaeofieldtech

My Revelation: Most of those flakes would fall right through my 1/8th inch screen. This is IMPORTANT because today I was screening what I knew MUST be a lithic reduction site, and I wasn’t getting that much stuff. Just some bland looking rhyolite pressure flakes.

Source: Uwharries Lithics Research Conference

I was very upset, I thought, “My eyes are going! It’s too hot for me to focus! I need water! Is it lunchtime yet?”

Back to the point of this bonus material, the Revelation.  There are probably more flakes in the unit than I will ever see, no matter how good my eyes are, because they are FALLING THROUGH THE SCREEN!

I wish I had a photo of the screen to show you… Oh well- here is someone else’s 1/8th in. screen:

Source: Dr. Emslie's Antartic Blog

Now, those of you who are not archaeologists might just be like, “Well why don’t you get screens with smaller holes?” That would be impractical due to the amount of dirt we have to go through in one day. If the screen was smaller, say 1/16th inch, it would take a lot longer for all that dirt to go through the screen.

For those of you who are archaeologists, and also flintknappers, or maybe had a lithics class at some point, you probably already knew this. WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?

Finally: I recommend that you all learn to flintknap, or at least try it, sometime soon. It’s fun! It’s painful. It’s amazing what you can create! Look forward to the post about the flintknapping course I took.

Oh and, here’s some extra bonus material:

Source: archaeofieldtech

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