Urban Outfitters has removed the word “Navajo” from the names of more than 20 products following a critical firestorm that began with a letter from a Native American woman who found the products offensive.
Sasha Houston Brown, 24, took action after going into an Urban Outfitters store in Minneapolis and seeing “Navajo”-labeled products that she claimed were culturally offensive, including a “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask,” “Navajo Hipster Panty” and “Staring at Stars Strapless Navajo Dress.”
After her letter was posted on the Racialicious blog, a website dedicated to issues at “the intersection of race and pop culture,” the Navajo Nation government got involved and the general public began to heavily criticize the company.
Though the products are still available for purchase, the word “Navajo” has been removed from all the names and replaced with words like “printed.”
Brown is “glad” to see that the product names have changed.
“It does make a huge difference and it’s something so simple that probably should have been done in the first place,” Brown said. “While they are still carrying all of these products that are kind of offensive, it is a step in the right direction by removing the words ‘Navajo’ and ‘tribe’ and other nuances.”
What she is really happy about is the fact that her letter ignited a national conversation.
“It recognizes the Navajo nation as a sovereign entity that is protected by federal legislation and law,” she said. “And, I think by them removing it, it does show also that it’s a serious issue that is much more than offensive.”
Brown never received a response from Urban Outfitters, but said the change is “still a victory.”
Urban Outfitters originally said they had “no plans to modify or discontinue any of these products.” That is, until the company received an official order to cease and desist from the Navajo tribe.
“We received a cease and desist about a week ago,” wrote Ed Looram, director of content and public relations for Urban Outfitters, in an e-mail to ABCNews.com. “As the matter is now in the hands of our legal department, I’m no longer at liberty to comment on this topic.”
A statement from the Navajo Nation’s Department of Justice called Urban Outfitters’ change “positive actions that are more consistent with the corporation’s responsibilities than previously demonstrated.”
“The Navajo Nation appreciates actions such as those recently taken by Urban Outfitters, and encourages other companies to take similarly responsible measures in the future,” the statement said.
Brown claimed the company’s items were illegal, in addition to offensive.
They violated the Federal Trade Commission Act and Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which “prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts produced within the United States” and states the following:
“It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.”
The Navajo Nation holds at least 10 trademarks that include the use of the tribe’s name for clothing, household products and footwear.