October 07, 2009

Cowichan Tribes won't make Cowichan sweaters

Olympic sweaters are knock-off, say Cowichan Tribes membersThe Cowichan sweater is an iconic symbol of the West Coast, so it seemed a natural fit for outerwear for the Canadian Olympic team.

But when the Cowichan Tribes bid for the job, they lost.

Instead, The Bay opted for what some First Nations artisans are calling an expensive knock-off. The Bay is marketing its hand-knit sweater for $350, compared with $215 for the Cowichan original.

"I was disappointed our bid didn't get in," said Emily Sawyer-Smith, assistant manager of Hills Native Art in Duncan.
First Nation alleges Olympic rip-offThe art of knitting what locals call "the Cowichan sweater" has been handed down from generation to generation, Cowichan elder Jenny Martin told CBC News Wednesday.

"My mom taught me how to knit when I was 15 … and my mom had-made sweaters and ponchos," Martin said.

Martin said the Bay's version of the sweater has an elk and a maple leaf but lacks authenticity.

"It's not Cowichan-made," she said.
And:A provincial government spokeswoman defended the design.

"It was a matter of finding a quantity of knitwear in a time frame, and apparently it was a fair and open process," said B.C. Minister of State for the Olympics, Mary McNeil.
Comment:  For more on related subjects, see Musqueam Design on Team Canada Jerseys and Native Participation in 2010 Olympics.

Below:  "The design of the sweater worn by the woman in the centre in this photo has prompted First Nations allegations of a 'rip-off.'" (CBC)

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