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Respecting Indigenous artists’ rights on Orange Shirt Day

Honouring the 215 © Chase Gray, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. All rights reserved.

Chase Gray’s artwork was previously stolen by a seller on Etsy and used without permission on t-shirts. Unlike the seller on Etsy, we got permission from the artist and the artist was paid fairly for the use of their image.

CARFAC condemns the unethical sales of stolen images from Indigenous artists during Orange Shirt Day.

On September 30th, people living on the lands commonly known as Canada are invited to show their support for Indigenous communities, especially for Residential School Survivors.

Wearing an orange shirt designed by an Indigenous artist can be a strong act of solidarity toward Indigenous communities. Orange shirt sales offer meaningful financial contributions to organizations such as the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. These sales also support Indigenous artists.

However, not all sellers have good intentions.

Some steal images from Indigenous artists and reproduce them on shirts without permission or payment. This undermines the true meaning of Orange Shirt Day and takes away from sales meant to support Residential School Survivors. It also perpetuates the damaging legacy of colonialism in Canada.

CARFAC calls upon all people living in Canada to purchase orange shirts from a legitimate seller.  

We also urge the Federal Government to adopt stronger legislative protection for Indigenous intellectual property and cultural expressions. This includes acting on Recommendation 5 from the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology’s Statutory Review of the Copyright Act report.

CARFAC is concerned about the fair treatment of artists. We promote greater understanding and compliance with copyright laws, and we advocate for better policies and legislative change that respect Indigenous artists and communities. Since 2019, we have worked alongside an Indigenous Advisory Circle on the ongoing development of Indigenous Protocols for the Visual Arts .

Indigenous Protocols for the Visual Arts helps Indigenous artists in several ways, including by:

  •   protecting their work,
  •   educating non-Indigenous individuals and organizations about respectful engagement and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, and
  •   providing tools to advocate for stronger legislative change.

Indigenous artists enjoy the same rights in the Copyright Act as other artists. Together, let’s ensure that Indigenous artists receive the respect and protection they rightfully deserve, on Orange Shirt Day and throughout the year.