World Fair Trade Day: Remember Native Americans

World Fair Trade Day (WFTD) is recognized on the second Saturday in May, which this year it will be on May 8.  First recognized in 1989, but with roots dating back to the 1940s, WFTD celebrates sustainable production and the rights of workers who fight for it.

You may be asking, what is fair trade? The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) defines it as a “trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect.” Most importantly, fair trade is based on a people-and planet-first mentality fighting against poverty, climate change, gender inequality and other injustices arising out of unfair trade practices. WFTO member organizations are a global community actively changing the model of trading and raising awareness for trade issues that may be unfamiliar to the average person.

The 2021 fair trade theme is “Build Back Fairer” and rallies around the impact COVID-19 had on our trade system. If anything, the pandemic showed what we can achieve when we work together toward a common goal, such as flattening the curve. We can take the lessons learned from these efforts and apply them to other issues such as social inequity and climate change.

Fair trade is critical to Native American businesses too. In fact, a special challenge impacting fair trade for Native Americans is “cultural appropriation.” One example is the creation and sale of “Native- inspired” jewelry, artwork, clothing and other textiles marketed and sold by non-Native vendors. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 prohibits sellers from misrepresenting or even implying that a product is Native-made or associated with a particular tribe if it is not. For some tribes, such as Navajo, the tribal name may not be used, as in “Navajo-inspired.” A true Indian artisan is an enrolled member of a tribe or certified by the tribe as an Indian artisan.

Fair trade gives many small, disadvantaged designers, producers and vendors a better chance at sustainable livelihoods – and this includes Native-owned businesses. Joining in this year’s theme to build back fair can help raise awareness and combat the social injustices we see in the world today. Use the hashtag #BuildBackFairer to help showcase the local businesses that make your communities better, and if you know a great Native business in your community, be sure to spread the word.

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