August 30, 2016

Totem Vodka

Totem Vodka and Indigenous Cultural Appropriation

When, if ever, is it acceptable to adopt the cultural icons of an outside group?

By Alexandra Rodney
Totem poles are important symbolic creations of some First Nations families in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. They are symbols of family lineage that serve to document stories or histories of people, communities, or clans. The Totem Vodka bottle and marketing images erases these families while appropriating their symbols.

The bottle stopper is shaped like a Thunderbird, a supernatural bird that causes thunder and lightning according to First Nations mythology. The Thunderbird crest is traditionally carved on the totem poles of people from the Thunderbird clan of the Kwakwaka’wakw nations (on Vancouver Island).

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