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  • Can Capitalism Be Decolonized?Recentering Indigenous Peoples, Values, and Ways of Life in the Canadian Art Market

Capitalism and colonialism are so deeply intertwined that it seems that efforts to decolonize capitalist markets are necessarily doomed to failure. However, some Indigenous businesses do attempt to function according to decolonial and Indigenous values and principles, even though they exist within and interface with a larger capitalist context. This article examines such efforts in the Indigenous art market in Canada—a market that raises issues of both economic and cultural imperialism. It is based on fieldwork conducted in two contexts: (1) in Vancouver, British Columbia, with Northwest Coast artists and entrepreneurs whose objective is to gain greater control over the commodification of their cultural heritage, and (2) in the Upper Mauricie region of Québec with members of the Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok Nation who are working to develop their art market in a way that respects their values and nurtures their ways of life. These two examples provide ethnographic grounding to the following questions: What do on-the-ground attempts to decolonize and indigenize capitalist markets look like? What is the difference between making market relations "less colonial" and making them "more Indigenous," and what is the interplay between the two? To what extent can these processes cross over from reform to the actual dismantlement of colonial power structures and institutions?


Indigenous art, capitalism, art market, decolonization, indigeni-zation

Imperialism is the political expression of the accumulation of capital in its competitive struggle for what remains still open of the non-capitalist environment. … [W]itness the immense masses of capital accumulated in the old countries which seek an outlet for their surplus product and strive to capitalize their [End Page 306] surplus value, and the rapid change-over to capitalism of the pre-capitalist civilizations.

—Rosa Luxemburg

The horizons of the settler colonial nation-state are total and require a mode of total appropriation of Indigenous life and land, rather than the selective expropriation of profitproducing fragments.

—Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang

Few would argue against the notion that capitalism and colonialism are deeply intertwined. There is little question that the worldwide rise of capitalism relied on colonial expansion and that, in turn, the perpetuation of colonialism has been directly enabled by the structures of capital. Proponents and opponents of colonialism have both argued as much. This deep entanglement is, in short, what Marxist theory encapsulates in the very notion of "imperialism" and what neoliberal economists might simply call "globalization." From this, one could conclude that capitalism as an economic model is inextricably tied to the expansion of Eurocentric power and ideas and that efforts to decolonize such a model are therefore necessarily doomed to failure. At the same time, there are a great number of institutions—museums and archives, universities, schools and educational systems at large, (academically sanctioned) science and research, and the justice system, for instance—that were developed by and directly support settler-colonial states, and this has not stopped some Indigenous people from calling for and working toward their decolonization.

While the effects of some of these institutions are not as far-reaching and all-encompassing as those of capitalism as a system, especially in the latter's neoliberal and globalized iteration, these institutions have nonetheless resulted in extremely significant—and often devastating—developments in Indigenous communities. It is significant, then, that even as some believe that decolonizing such institutions is inherently impossible, there are Indigenous-led initiatives to attempt just that. This suggests that it is perhaps not as futile as it first appears to ask questions such as "Can capitalism be decolonized?" for even if we already foresee [End Page 307] the answer to this question (in the absolute sense, no, it most likely cannot), meaningful decolonial practices, strategies, and sensibilities can be highlighted and even emerge from taking this potentiality seriously.1 By discussing decolonization not as a metaphor but as a scenario, the plausibility of which is carefully examined at every junction, we can perhaps throw into sharper relief the limits of what our reality currently allows.2 This in turn could help us better imagine the changes required in order to effectively challenge these limits and achieve, if not decolonization as such, at least a deep decolonial reform akin to what Ho-Chunk scholar Amy Lonetree described regarding museums:

Some Native American scholars and activists have questioned my decision to study museums and their potential to serve as sites of decolonization. "Aren't museums just colonial sites that should basically just release our stuff?" My two decades of experience leads me to see more. Yes, museums have a terrible history as places intimately tied to the colonization process. Of course, ancestral remains, associated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony should be returned to those to who they belong, and I remain deeply committed to repatriation efforts. However, righting wrongs is only the beginning of decolonizing. The possibility of decolonizing and indigenizing museums lies in transforming these sites of colonial harm into sites of healing, and restoring community well-being. Decolonizing is powerful not only because it ends and mends harms, but also because it opens opportunities. What was impossible for generations is slowly becoming possible. Sites of oppression have the potential to transform into sites of revitalization and autonomy.3

The premise of this article is that, to state the obvious, the contemporary world is generally operating within a capitalist organization of the economy. However, it is useful here to distinguish this idea of "capitalism as context" from the notion of specific market relations functioning according to capitalist principles, or "capitalism as a model." It is understood that today most businesses bear some connection to the global capitalist system and function to one degree or another according to capitalist principles. However, I would like to examine the possibility that a market, or a specific business within this market, could function according to decolonial and Indigenous values and principles, even [End Page 308] though it exists within and interfaces with a larger capitalist context. In practice, it is arguably impossible to fully extirpate any such market (as "niche" as it may be) or business (as "alternative" as its model may be) from the global capitalist system.4 This is not the same as to say, however, that it is nowadays altogether impossible for a market or a business to be modeled after decolonial and Indigenous principles and values. In sum, if colonial market relations can be defined as when a business draws on Indigenous resources while prioritizing the interests of non-Indigenous peoples and reproducing power structures that are unfavorable to Indigenous sovereignty, what might decolonial market relations look like? And to what extent can such relations challenge settler-colonial states' drive to achieve a "total appropriation of Indigenous life and land"?5

With these questions in mind, this article moves from the perhaps too general but hopefully generative starting point—the decolonization of capitalism—to concrete examples of Indigenous people seeking to shape and transform the specific market relations in which they are embedded in order to render them better aligned with their own laws, values, and worldviews. More specifically, I will be drawing on my fieldwork in the Indigenous art market in Canada—a market that raises issues of both economic and cultural imperialism—to provide ethnographic grounding to the following questions: What do on-the-ground attempts to decolonize and indigenize capitalist markets look like? What is the difference between making market relations "less colonial" and making them "more Indigenous," and what is the interplay between the two? To what extent can these processes cross over from reform to the actual dismantlement of colonial power structures and institutions? Thus, rather than merely stopping at the truism that, no, capitalism cannot be decolonized, this article examines what it means and what it does when we ask, What if it could be?6

I have been conducting research about the Indigenous art market in Canada since 2009, when I moved back to Canada, where I was born and raised, from France, where my family is from. Until 2014 my work was primarily focused on what is commonly known as "Northwest Coast art"—a much-written-about category that anthropological and art historical scholarship usually defines as encompassing the arts of the Indigenous peoples of the coast of the North American Pacific Northwest, from northern Oregon to southern Alaska.7 More specifically, during my fieldwork in Vancouver, which sits on the unceded territories of the [End Page 309] Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, I studied the relationships between Indigenous artists and the companies that reproduce Northwest Coast designs on products of everyday life, such as T-shirts, mugs, and cushion covers, as part of what I call the "Northwest Coast artware industry." This industry, along with the Northwest Coast fine art market, forms one of the most developed Indigenous art markets in Canada and even worldwide. However, and despite Indigenous artists having played an important part in this market's development from the start, its configuration has long remained primarily aligned with the interests of its non-Indigenous stakeholders. As I will further develop later in the article, over the last several decades, Indigenous artists' and entrepreneurs' increased involvement and active lobbying and advocacy have significantly transformed this field, resulting in greater concern and returns for local Indigenous communities. One way this has manifested is in the fact that relational accountability and practices of redistribution are slowly but surely gaining traction within the industry.

Since 2015, after moving from Vancouver to Montreal, I have been working with members of the Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation, whose traditional and unceded territory, the Nitaskinan, is centered on what is now known as the Upper Mauricie region of the Province of Québec. As part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers in design, management, and anthropology, I have been involved in participatory-action research with Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok artists and youth in a project called Tapiskwan. It is named after the Tapiskwan sipi, also known as the Saint-Maurice River, the Nitaskinan's central artery and a waterway of great importance to Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok lifeways. Our research team has been working with community members to develop design workshops that reinforce intergenerational cultural transmission and nurture youth self-expression and creativity. Tapiskwan is one project among several in the community that aim to advance those objectives; while our activities were initially centered on culture rather than on economics, over the years the participants have also expressed their interest in selling and, in the long run, making a living from the works they produced. Thus, while the members of Tapiskwan continue to work toward refining its workshops' culturally grounded, context-specific design pedagogies, it has also begun exploring avenues for the sale of the artworks and products that come out of these workshops. The premise of this endeavor is the idea that the Indigenous art market's existing [End Page 310] structures in Québec are both insufficient and inadequate and that Tapiskwan ought to develop itself according to a different entrepreneurial model, one that would be adapted to the community's contemporary realities and be centered on Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok values and ways of life.

On one level, the Northwest Coast art market is the story of a market's progressive decolonization, while Tapiskwan's story foreshadows the creation of an indigenized business model, both within a larger capitalist context. However, if these two examples do concern the decolonization and indigenization of market relations to different extents, together they show that these processes seldom, if ever, occur independently from one another. The latter part of this article will delve deeper into these two examples and the specific contexts in which they are situated. As a preamble to this discussion, I will first very briefly recall some key elements of the historical relationship between colonialism and capitalism in Canada and, second, provide a succinct overview of the principles and processes to which the concepts of "decolonization" and "indigenization" usually refer.

capitalism, colonialism, and indigenous economies in north america

As explained by Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Porou (Māori) scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith, at the same time as colonialism around the world "opened up new materials for exploitation and new markets for trade, at a cultural level, ideas, images and experiences about the Other helped to shape and delineate the essential differences between Europe and the rest."8 In North America, Indigenous lives have been affected by such forms of imperialism for a very long time, in some regions for several centuries now. Beginning on the Atlantic Coast in the sixteenth century and expanding and intensifying into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries all across Canada, Indigenous hunters and trappers, as well as artists and artisans, established trade relationships with private explorers, government representatives, and corporations that sometimes acted as governmental proxies, such as the Hudson's Bay Company.9 Indigenous art and material culture soon became part of the repertoire Canada used to affirm its regional and national identities.10 Indigenous peoples soon played a crucial role in the nation's resource and wage economies.11 In [End Page 311] turn, Indigenous peoples' active participation in capitalist markets, but also their subsequent marginalization from this economy, has had an impact on their own economic systems and related social structures.12 Furthermore, the establishment of reserves and Indigenous peoples' confinement on less than 0.2 percent of the territory within Canada's borders has seriously threatened their ability to live, let alone live well, from the land. As the late Secwepemc intellectual and leader Arthur Manuel has argued, "With this distribution of the land, you don't have to have a doctorate in economics to understand who will be poor and who will be rich."13

In addition, most legal provisions that concern the rights of Indigenous people to hunt, fish, and gather berries and other plants on their own territories frame these activities in terms of "subsistence," denying the possibility that these activities also have played and could continue to play a role in the creation of wealth beyond a "moderate livelihood."14 Gitxaała anthropologist Charles Menzies and Caroline Butler have argued that this constitutes a misreading of what many Indigenous economies are actually like—a misreading that is based in great part on the glossing over of any system in which products are harvested or made expressly to generate economic benefits as "capitalist" (and therefore, the reasoning goes, necessarily "not Indigenous").15 There is even a tendency in popular representations and opinions to place indigeneity and wealth in opposition altogether. As Jessica Cattelino has observed, Indigenous people often face a double bind that is set up by "the economic politics of settler colonialism, in which it is only a short step from wondering whether Indians with gaming are losing their culture to skepticism over whether indigenous people with economic power can and should remain legitimately indigenous and sovereign."16 This attitude is most prominent in relation to communities that are engaged in economic activities such as those of the gaming or oil and gas industries, but it also more generally permeates societal representations of Indigenous people and culture.17 This holds true for critiques of the Indigenous art market, which often frame it as a "selling out" of culture by artists who "bought into" and profited from its commodification, with the additional offense of supposedly diminishing the authenticity of their works and of their own identity by engaging with the art market explicitly in the pursuit of money paid by outsiders.18 "When the political subject is Indigenous," writes Mohawk anthropologist Audra [End Page 312] Simpson, "citizenship takes on a temporal and economic form due to the societal expectation that Indians belong in a certain relationship to capital accumulation, that they be in another time (while simultaneously being within this world), and that they be poor."19 In other words, in a world already set up to enable the wide-scale appropriation of resources from Indigenous people, those who still find ways to be wealthy face attempted expropriations of their very indigeneity, as if the automatic ransom of being rich was to renounce one's Indigenous identity. In that sense, decolonizing capitalism would require not only changing the very concrete ways in which resources are allocated and utilized but also, on a more conceptual level, dismantling the idea that concern for the accumulation of wealth is inherently "not Indigenous" and that Indigenous economies can only concern subsistence and never growth.

In addition to pervasive economic imperialism, Indigenous people in Canada have faced various forms of cultural imperialism that are in many cases officially sanctioned by law and governmental policy. For instance, in the first half of the twentieth century, Canadian industrialists were directly encouraged to draw on Indigenous art and design in order to develop and promote a "distinctively Canadian" aesthetic and further the country's economy.20 Not only did the proposed use of these images disregard Indigenous intellectual property regimes, it was also done without ensuring there would be concrete returns for these images' originating communities. Adding insult to injury, this use was occurring at a time when, through such laws as the infamous "Potlatch ban" (1867–1951), Indigenous people themselves faced fines and imprisonment for practicing their ceremonies and upholding their laws, as gathering to carry out their protocolary exchanges of wealth was considered a criminal offense.21 During that same period Indigenous children began being forcefully sent to residential schools and day schools, where they were chastised and brutalized for speaking their own languages, and the education they received was driven by an explicitly assimilationist agenda, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada found had amounted to cultural genocide.22 Meanwhile, over the course of the twentieth century, report after report cited "arts and crafts" as a field of activity that ought to be further developed in Indigenous communities, but little was being done to counter one of the major issues Indigenous peoples had been encountering in their attempts to develop these activities, namely, the absence of adequate protection of their cultural and [End Page 313] intellectual property.23 Here, cultural imperialism clearly overlapped with economic imperialism in that Canadian property laws were seen to supersede Indigenous ones, thereby contributing to thwart Indigenous communities' efforts to prosper from their own cultural resources.

The two examples I discuss later in this article illustrate this entanglement of economic and cultural imperialism. Both examples concern processes of cultural commodification: the transformation of a group's identity and creative expressions into resources that can be turned or incorporated into commodities.24 However, instead of focusing on examples of cultural commodification unilaterally imposed on Indigenous people by outsiders, this article examines Indigenous groups' efforts to harness commodification processes in a way that does not deplete but, on the contrary, helps reinforce and renew their cultural resources and at the same time generates wealth in their communities.25 Indeed, the Indigenous artists who are at the center of these two examples believe that the art market can help them uphold their communities' ways of thriving, both economically and culturally, and that this potential could increase severalfold if this market were further decolonized and indigenized.

The art market can seem an odd choice in a discussion of capitalism since the way it works is perhaps less archetypically capitalist than the market for most other goods and services. Indeed, in contrast with the notion that capitalism places monetary wealth above all else, the art world is often believed to treat "pecuniary interests as antithetical to authentic creative pursuits."26 However, the art market arguably does exemplify the capitalist drive to commoditize just about everything, including things like culture and identity. Especially when what is sold as "Indigenous art" in the global art market is or draws heavily on things considered inalienable in their context of origin, then the process of commoditization that led them to be sold can be understood, at least in part, as a manifestation of a larger process of capitalist encroachment.27 To be sure, it is not in monetary transactions and in the concept of commodities as such that this advance of capitalism is located (as anthropologist Nicholas Thomas put it, "It is important to break away from the notion that commoditization need be associated with anything like an institutionalized market"); instead, it is in the pressure to commoditize things not already considered fit to be exchanged, combined with the [End Page 314] conditions under which these transactions are made to occur, that capitalism's grip can be found.28 For instance, this is the case when products that would normally be created on a seasonal basis are expected to be available for purchase year-round just like industrially produced goods or when objects that would normally be owned by one particular individual or family are reproduced in large series to satisfy mass-consumer demand.29

Furthermore, in the case of Indigenous forms of representation and expression, there are at least two other ways in which it makes perfect sense to take the art market as an example in a discussion of capitalism and colonialism. One is that Indigenous art markets' development has usually gone hand in hand with nationalist and often state-sponsored affirmations and appropriations of Indigenous identity.30 The other is that art has long been conceptualized and regulated through policy as a way for Indigenous people to make a living within the new colonial economic order.31 The pervasive idea that Indigenous art markets were to be supported as an opportunity for Indigenous individuals' participation in the market economy, with broader and longer-term goals of economic development in mind, has led these markets to be much further and more explicitly shaped by both welfare-state and capitalist logics than the so-called mainstream fine art market has typically been.32 Finally, it is important to point out that both markets I discuss below concern examples of Indigenous art that broadly correspond to what I call "artware": objects of everyday life adorned with Indigenous motifs often produced in series for the purpose of being sold.33 The market for these items developed in very close connection to that of "fine art," but the rapprochement of art and industry these items' modes of production and consumption operate arguably provides a particularly close look at the relationship between the Indigenous art market and capitalism.34

decolonization and indigenization

There is no single, agreed-upon way to define decolonization and indigenization.35 In addition to there being a variety of perspectives on these concepts, this is also in part the case because they do not necessarily look the same in every context. As argued by Gwich'in historian Crystal Fraser and Métis/Otipemisiwak anthropologist Zoe Todd, such [End Page 315] processes "require nuanced, thoughtful, and contextual approaches that tend to specific relationships, locations, histories and legal-political realities."36 However, scholarship that discusses the decolonization or indigenization of institutions such as museums, archives, and academia does point to some core common principles, to which I now turn.

At a minimum, decolonizing something requires the removal of Western concepts and values from its center in order to make room for Indigenous worldviews and knowledge. For instance, Anishinaabe anthropologist Sonia Atalay explains about the practice of archaeological research: "Currently, one value system and standard is used—one that views Western science, theories, and methods as the standard and goal with the aim of producing knowledge truths. Decolonizing archaeology entails researching alternative ways of viewing the past, history, and heritage and working to see that these are viewed as valuable and legitimate ways of seeing."37 However, many scholars, including Atalay, consider this to be merely one small step in a much larger and more structural overhaul of whatever it is that is being decolonized. As Amy Lonetree writes concerning the decolonization of museums, "A decolonizing project involves more than moving museums away from being elitist temples of esoteric learning and even more than moving museums towards providing forums for community engagement. A decolonizing museum practice must be in the service of speaking the hard truths of colonialism. The purpose is to generate the critical awareness that is necessary to heal from historical unresolved grief on all the levels and in all the ways that it continues to harm Native people today." Lonetree goes on to argue that as they become decolonized museums can become "a means for repairing colonization's harm."38 However, reckoning with and healing from the violence of colonization cannot be achieved if colonizing parties do not also relinquish the power they acquired through their oppressive policies and practices. As argued by Linda Tihuwai Smith, this divestment of colonial power is often slowgoing and needs to occur on several levels at once, from official protocols and language to behaviors and thought.39 For this reason, a scenario in which decolonization is taken seriously has to account for the factor of time, as well as the fact that, as thorough as it may appear, decolonization seems hardly sustainable when it is not also paired with a process of indigenization.

Choctaw historian Devon Abbott Mihesuah and Dakota historian [End Page 316] Angela Cavender Wilson say that to "Indigenize the academy" is not only to "carve a space where Indigenous values and knowledge are respected" but also to "create an environment that supports research and methodologies useful to Indigenous nation building; to support one another as institutional foundations are shaken; and to compel institutional responsiveness to Indigenous issues, concerns, and communities." Mihesuah and Wilson are thus aligned with Cherokee scholar Daniel Heath Justice's idea that indigenization means being "both responsive and responsible to First Nations goals of self-determination and well-being."40 From this perspective, indigenizing goes beyond making room for Indigenous people and their ways of thinking and being; it is a step toward affirming Indigenous sovereignty. As Mesquakie/Potawatomi scholar David Anthony Tyeeme Clark has argued, within academia such indigenization efforts are meant to lead us "to theorize, conceptualize, and represent Indigenous sovereignty so that our people may live well into the unforeseeable future."41 For those who wish to decolonize and indigenize capitalist markets, these processes would then be not only a way to ensure that Indigenous people continue to live but also a means for them to live well, and well into the future.

While decolonization and indigenization can go hand in hand, they are not one and the same. One involves dismantling dominant structures of power and oppression; the other involves reinstating and upholding Indigenous laws, relationalities, and values.42 Decolonization involves if not the departure of non-Indigenous people from a space altogether, then at least the decentering of the field of interaction and power dynamics away from them. Indigenization requires both the presence of Indigenous people in that particular field and a recentering of that field on Indigenous ways of structuring and inhabiting it. As Zoe Todd has remarked about the art world, "Decolonization requires that we change not only who is spoken about and how, but also who is present in intellectual and artistic 'buildings.' This is because there are so few of us, so few Indigenous bodies, within the European academy."43 In principle, the burden of responsibility to transform a colonial space in these ways does not fall solely on Indigenous shoulders; however, if non-Indigenous people attempt such a transformation in the realm of values and concepts but in the absence of Indigenous peoples or without their active participation, then the process is arguably more appropriative than it is decolonial.44 Indigenization "without Indigenous people," [End Page 317] as Nêhiyaw scholar Erica Violet Lee has framed it, can even fall under what Mi'kmaw educator Marie Battiste and Chickasaw lawyer James (Sa'ke'j) Youngblood Henderson define as "cognitive imperialism," or the "rush on Indigenous knowledge systems, teachings, and heritage by outsiders" who want to decolonize by using Indigenous knowledge and concepts to counterbalance the hegemony of Western thought but do so in a way that risks further marginalizing Indigenous people.45

Similarly, in the realm of economics, it is one thing to use Indigenous economic principles to counterbalance the excesses of capitalism; it is another thing when these principles are used by Indigenous people to recenter negotiations and exchanges on their laws and ways of life with the explicit goal of advancing their people's ability to thrive. As Atalay remarks in relation to the practice of archaeology, the participation of Indigenous people is not, in and of itself, decolonial either: "Archaeology on Indigenous land, conducted by Native people without a critical gaze that includes collaboration, Indigenous epistemologies, and Native conceptions of the past, history, and time or that neglects the question of the role of research in the community would simply replicate the dominant archaeological paradigm. Such a noncritical archaeology would be part of an imperialist practice."46 In other words, if decolonization and indigenization are defined as processes that are meant to not only positively affect Indigenous lives but also help advance Indigenous sovereignty in a much deeper sense, then they require the prioritization of Indigenous ideas and Indigenous leadership in these transformations; one without the other is a necessary but insufficient condition for the dismantlement of a colonial structure. A market that is going through a process of decolonization or one of indigenization may not actually be, as a matter of fact, "decolonized" or "Indigenous" but only less colonial than it previously was or more Indigenous than it would have otherwise been. In fact, this is arguably the case for many examples that have been framed in the language of decolonization and indigenization.47 However, the fact that even modest decolonial reform tends to run up against significant amounts of resistance and require relentless efforts not to succumb to the (seemingly) easier ways of the dominant model suggests that these changes do constitute a threat to the status quo. [End Page 318]

decolonizing the art market on the northwest coast

Northwest Coast art is one of the most studied and collected Indigenous arts in the world, and today the region counts hundreds, if not thousands, of active Indigenous artists. However, among them, only some are able to make a good living from their art. While this is true of many if not most artistic fields, one thing that characterizes the history of the Northwest Coast art market over the last century is the efforts by artists and other community members to change this at a systemic level. Adopting an approach that places the issue beyond the question of individual "success," they have continuously argued that Indigenous ways of treating property, status, and relationships provide a model for how the Indigenous art market could better benefit the communities on whose heritage it capitalizes. As with most decolonization processes in Canada, the art market's transformation into a less colonial version of itself has been gradual, and it has met with resistance along the way. Recent developments in the world of Northwest Coast artware, such as the growing number of Indigenous-owned and -operated companies, as well as a greater understanding on the part of non-Indigenous companies that they have ethical and economic responsibilities not just toward individual artists but also toward these artists' communities, may seem like a product of the changing social and political climate of our present times. However, if these developments have indeed been fed since the 1990s by the ideology of Indigenous/non-Indigenous "collaborations" and "partnerships," as well as by the more recent "reconciliation" fever, they are also the product of a much longer process of activism, lobbying, and advocacy.48 As Lonetree has argued regarding the decolonization of museums, "What is happening in the museum world for Native peoples has not been a dramatic takeover but is the result of a long history of activism and a persistent push to honor and privilege Native voices, perspectives, and understandings."49 It is to a portion of this longer history as it applies to the Northwest Coast artware industry that I now turn.

The adornment of functional objects and the creation and circulation of large quantities of similar items are among Indigenous peoples' age-old practices on the Northwest Coast; these processes even play a crucial role in Northwest Coast societies as part of the potlatch. This Indigenous precedent is one of the reasons why some artists participate in the [End Page 319] artware market and why other community members purchase artware in bulk to redistribute them as gifts, notwithstanding misgivings they might have regarding specific companies' practices and the capitalization on Indigenous cultural property more generally. Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw artist Ellen Neel (1916–66) is an early example of an artist who both wholeheartedly embraced the idea of applying Northwest Coast designs on a great number of fashion accessories and home furnishings and worried about those who copied or imitated Northwest Coast art for profit. In addition to being an acclaimed carver, Neel was one of the first to have used silk-screen printing to reproduce her designs on textiles such as scarves. Neel enthusiastically noted the potential for "applying [Northwest Coast] art to everyday living" by using it "to stunning effect on tapestry, textiles, sportswear and in jewellery," as well as on "pieces of furniture" and in "public buildings" and "large restaurants and halls." However, she also highlighted the challenges Indigenous artists like her faced when competing with "cheap and rather shoddy imitations from abroad."50 She would have liked it to become mandatory for such items to be clearly labeled as imports so that consumers could easily distinguish them from Indigenous-designed and -made works. She also once suggested that a tax be levied on these articles in order to support development in Indigenous communities. "These Indian designs are popular and they deserve to be popular," she explained, but "they are morally the common property of the Indian people, and some of the profit from the exploitation of these designs should be used for the benefit of the Indians."51 Although Neel had connections to some of Vancouver's most prominent academics and businessmen, she does not appear to have had their ear when it came to advocating for greater protection and support of Indigenous artists' work—or perhaps she did, but they, in turn, did not have the required political influence or perhaps simply did not have the will to move things in that direction.

Another renowned Indigenous figure of the time, Nuu-chah-nulth artist George Clutesi, also spoke publicly about the need to ensure that the art market directly benefited Indigenous artists. Addressing himself to the government's Royal Commission on the Arts, Letters and Sciences (better known as the Massey Commission after its chairman, Vincent Massey), Clutesi explained: "We can no longer shoot what we want in the woods. We can no longer pick what fish we want from the rivers. Therefore, it is only fair to say that he [an Indian artist] would be [End Page 320] intensely interested if his efforts in the field of Art can be rewarded financially because he buys his bread and butter like the white brother."52

When the infamous "potlatch ban" was dropped from the Indian Act in 1951 (incidentally, the same year as the Massey Commission published its report), repressive legislation had for several decades been attempting to turn Indigenous art—at least in its publicly available form—into a secular income-generating activity severed from its role in ceremonial, legal, social, and political institutions in Northwest Coast societies. However, even within this restricted colonial framework, well-known artists like Clutesi found it challenging to make a living from their art. Tellingly, Clutesi had been called to speak in front of the Massey commissioners as one of the most well respected and successful Indigenous artists of his generation, yet, as noted in the commission's hearing transcripts, at the time he was working as a commercial fisherman. Just as telling is the fact that it is on the basis of a collective loss of hunting and fishing rights that he argued that it was "only fair"—conveying a sense of both expectation and justice—that individual artists would like to be able to make a decent living from their art. By connecting an individual's condition to collective experiences of dispossession in this way, Clutesi was drawing a direct line between colonialism and the effect of the market's configuration on the viability of Indigenous art practice at the time.

Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s, numerous reports were written about the Indigenous art market in Canada. With striking consistency, all the reports I was able to read identified the same line of tension: on the one hand, the need to further develop this market, and on the other, the need to better protect Indigenous cultural property to ensure that the market's development would benefit Indigenous communities.53 It is during this time that the Northwest Coast art market established itself as one of the largest Indigenous art markets in North America and the world. By the 1990s the Northwest Coast artware industry was ready to explode. However, concomitantly, effective provisions (legal or otherwise) to ensure that these markets would primarily benefit Indigenous peoples had not been established. An increasing number of individual Northwest Coast artists were making a living from selling their works in commercial galleries, and within the artware industry, a few Vancouver-based companies had begun working directly with Northwest Coast artists instead of relying [End Page 321] on non-Indigenous designers taking inspiration from illustrated books and museum objects. Still, on the whole, the market was having only a limited impact on Indigenous peoples' collective situation. By the time I started conducting my fieldwork in 2009, the assessments I was hearing from Indigenous artists regarding the state of the market can be summarized thusly: yes, the market was still shaped by colonial market relations; however, things had improved since Neel's and Clutesi's time, and while there was still room for vast improvements, there had been notable positive changes over the last several years.

These artists explained that, first of all, Indigenous artists are increasingly at the center of the industry, with more and more companies working directly with them and putting their names and identities forward on labels and other marketing materials and involving them in overall product design rather than only as providers of images suitable for reproduction. Second, in the last decade, the number of Indigenous-run and -owned artware companies has grown exponentially, and the positions they have occupied in the market has improved. Since the start of my fieldwork, I have counted the creation of at least four new Indigenous artware companies on the coast, all of which are still in operation today. In addition, some of these companies, along with Indigenous companies that already existed before 2009, have become leaders in the field and now represent serious competition for the non-Indigenous companies that had largely dominated the industry in the last several decades. All in all, compared to what was the case prior to the mid-2000s and even more so prior to the 1990s, the Northwest Coast artware industry's configuration has increasingly been shaped by the lobbying efforts of its Indigenous stakeholders. However, as we have seen, the growing presence and influence of Indigenous people within a system isn't necessarily a sure sign of this system's indigenization or decolonization. Indeed, the former requires not only a recentering on Indigenous bodies but also a recentering on Indigenous ways, and the latter comes with shifts in relational dynamics, including the relinquishing of power on the part of non-Indigenous stakeholders. In the artware industry, changes in this direction have primarily manifested in companies' responses to calls to "give back to the community."

Although the capitalist emphasis on accumulation continues to play an important role in the artware market, it is now being counterbalanced by an injunction to redistribute. Indeed, practices of redistribution are [End Page 322] becoming one of the artware industry's moral and practical imperatives in that companies' reputations and artists' willingness to work with them, which in turn impacts companies' status within the market, directly hinge on these companies' compliance with the obligation to "give back"—and to give back not at random but specifically to local Indigenous communities. Whereas companies that give back may appear to be doing a "good deed" through their practices and purchases, in the Northwest Coast artware industry, giving back is seen as a basic fulfillment of a social and legal obligation. This is the case not only because feeding wealth back into the communities whose resources are being capitalized upon would be the "right" thing do to from an ethical standpoint but also because this is the "normal" thing to do from the perspective of Northwest Coast economic principles and social structures. The redistribution of wealth during potlatches—including in the form of "gifts," which are also understood as payments of debt—is indeed an integral part of how Northwest Coast societies uphold their laws and confer status. Thus, artware companies that not only pay individuals artists but also give back to Indigenous communities by doing such things as setting up funds for Indigenous youth, contributing to existing Indigenous organizations, and partaking in advocacy efforts in relation to Indigenous rights are, in essence, abiding by the rules of local Indigenous reciprocity and accountability.

As in other fields, greater Indigenous involvement and greater respect for Indigenous concepts of property and relationality do not in and of themselves signal a shift in power dynamics within the industry. However, both have arguably helped change some non-Indigenous stakeholders' perspective and in some cases have led them to reconsider their responsibilities within the market. For instance, the argument that "business is business" (i.e., the seeming inevitability of deferring to capitalism's prioritization of the bottom line) seems to be losing ground as a justification for ignoring Indigenous artists' demands that the Northwest Coast artware industry function according to principles and values that are different from those of the mainstream fashion and home accessories market. It is thus becoming more difficult for companies to refuse to abide by some of the principles that are at the heart of the region's Indigenous socioeconomic model, even when these principles cut into the profits these companies could generate if they simply conformed to mainstream industry standards. This may not amount to an abdication [End Page 323] of power on the part of these non-Indigenous stakeholders, but it does imply a partial relinquishing of control in terms of who defines the market's terms of engagement.

indigenizing the art market in quÉbec

The Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation is one of the eleven Indigenous communities whose territories are located in what is now known as the Province of Québec. The majority of the nation's approximately 7,800 members reside in one of its three communities, Wemotaci, Manawan, and Opitciwan, or in one of the nearby towns. The nation's territory, the Nitaskinan, straddles the Haut-Saint-Maurice and the Lanaudière regions, in Central Subarctic Québec. The Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok had trade relations with their neighbors—the Cree to the north, the Anishinaabe to the west, the Innu to the east, and the Abénakis and the Mohawk to the south—thanks to a complex system of waterways, including that of the Tapiskwan sipi. While the fur trade was the main focus of their exchanges with non-Indigenous settlers, basketry and moose-hide clothing and accessories were also among the items they traded with them. During the early twentieth century, Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok artisans traveled at least as far as Gaspésie, the Lac Saint-Jean region, and the Outaouais region to sell their works to individual buyers or to the Hudson's Bay Company.54 Up until the 1960s and 1970s, the Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok could sell their pieces to trading posts and stores established nearby where groups of forestry and hydroelectric power company workers lived.55 Today, following the exodus of many of these company workers to the region's larger towns and cities and in the absence of arts and crafts stores in their communities, local outlets for the works of Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok artists are limited.56 Although the number of active Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok artisans was recently estimated at 285, the great majority of them do not rely on the sale of their works to make a living. Many in the community agree that a strong demand exists but that artisans have not been able to develop the market in a way that suits their current needs and aspirations, and they worry about the waning interest of youth in Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok arts. Between 2008 and 2013, the Atikamekw Nation Council (Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw, or CNA) was involved in the creation of an arts and crafts co-operative in hopes of addressing this very issue. The [End Page 324] goal was to create a model of local development that would be centered on culture and be viable economically. Unfortunately, the co-op was dissolved a few short years after it was created due to, among other things, challenges matching available resources to a wide and complex mandate.57 In parallel to these efforts, a group of community members and a team of Université de Montréal researchers have been working together since 2011 to develop a design workshop methodology that fosters intergenerational cultural transmission and innovation. (I joined the team in 2015.) In these workshops, experienced artisans and designers mentor youth as they study Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok iconography and material culture in order to develop contemporary products that are inspired by their cultural heritage. Every year, elders and other culture bearers are invited to the workshops to share their knowledge with the youth, who then learn a variety of design techniques so that they can reinvest what was shared with them directly into the creation of new artworks and products.58

After three consecutive years of workshops focused primarily on youth and training, the project's partners became eager to develop a market for the products that were coming out of the workshops and could be produced with the help of adults as well. Following from this, four individuals within the project founded a nonprofit organization called the Tapiskwan Collective, providing a structure to coordinate the design, production, and sales of an annual product collection.59 One of the primary stakes of this new endeavor has been to develop an entrepreneurial model that prioritizes Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok values and ways of life instead of using those of the capitalist context in which they now live as the "default" starting point. As the project moves forward, several principles for an Atikamekw-centered economic model are emerging.

The first principle concerns seasonality. Remarking that Atikamekw Nehirowisiw life is generally organized by the region's six distinct seasons—on the land, as seasons change, so do the activities and the items that are created to carry them out—it was decided that this rhythm ought to be taken into consideration when planning activities to design, produce, and sell Tapiskwan products.60 To start, taking part in Tapiskwan's activities should not come in direct conflict with hunting, hide tanning, blueberry picking, or birch bark gathering, for instance. Not only are these activities important ways in which the Atikamekw [End Page 325] Nehirowisiwok provide for their family, but they also represent privileged moments of cultural transmission and identity formation.61 It would thus be antithetical to the project's aims to put Tapiskwan workshops in direct competition with these activities. In addition, there are a number of other activities on the community calendar that have been taken into consideration when scheduling the workshops. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, periods known as "culture weeks" (semaines culturelles) are set aside so that families can take time off from work and school to spend time together on the land. The precise scheduling of these periods shifts in relation to each year's weather and its effect on seasonal activities. In the summer there is a two-week youth canoe expedition every year and Indigenous youth games (jeux interbandes) every other year, and each community holds its own powwow. While such considerations might seem merely logistical, the issue here is not only that of avoiding scheduling conflicts so that more individuals are available to participate. There is also a major stake in inscribing Tapiskwan into the Atikamekw Nehirowisiw seasonal calendar of today rather than encouraging potential participants to choose Tapiskwan over other cultural and economic activities. While it is understood that Tapiskwan could one day serve as a springboard for individuals who seek to have a full-time career in the arts, it is not meant to squeeze out from participants' lives their other gainful or otherwise meaningful activities. That is why Tapiskwan's activities take place at several times over the course of the year in short but intensive sessions that usually last anywhere from a few days to two weeks at most. By focusing each of these sessions on a clearly identified goal, their organization is similar to when a group leaves for a hunting trip or when families work long hours on their regalias during the last several days that precede the annual powwow.

With such a seasonal and modulated rhythm of production, Tapiskwan would not only align itself with Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok ways of life but would also push back against at least two capitalist norms: (1) that one should privilege full-time, year-round employment, preferably in one sector of activity; and (2) that shelves should be equally stocked with products throughout the year to meet consumers' expectation to be able to have access to all things at all times.62 Pacing things out in a way that challenge these norms may place limitations on the project's economic returns, but it will offer the kind of flexibility [End Page 326] community members require. While this may seem like a minor adjustment to capitalist norms, the counterassimilationist dimension of such practices should not be underestimated. These practices are similar to what Indigenous creators were already doing during the nineteenth century in the American Southwest and in northeastern Canada as a way to "resist Canadian and American government policies designed to transform them from nomadic hunters into settled agriculturalists."63 Art historian Ruth Phillips argues that the choice to produce and sell "art commodities" over other forms of labor and to follow seasonal patterns of production and trading were deliberate strategies on the part of northeastern Indigenous people to "maintain traditional lifestyles and to resist some aspects of Westernization they found incompatible."64

The second principle at the heart of Tapiskwan concerns family. While the Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok are no strangers to cooperation and role-specific division of labor, it became clear that not all forms of collective work are suitable in the context of Tapiskwan.65 For instance, factory-style chain production, even at a small scale, does not resonate well with the project participants, as it actually involves little direct cooperation between them. Also, while the project is indeed a collective endeavor, it was important that it be structured around small units of people working together on specific products rather than on an attempt to involve as many people as possible in the community to work all together on the annual collection as a whole.66 Indeed, Atikamekw Nehirowisiw society is divided into familial clans, with a collective responsibility within each family to work toward the group's well-being. Although the clan does not function according to a strict hierarchical order, each clan designates its leader among its best providers.67 While this is well documented regarding activities such as hunting and fishing, we found that it also applies to the kinds of creative activities that are carried out in the context of Tapiskwan. Whether it is the ways in which participants recruit one another, the ways they teach one another, or the ways in which they collaborate, family is a powerful organizing force.68 For instance, in one 2015 workshop, out of fourteen participants, half of them were members of the same family. It turned out that one artist had recruited two of her children and their father, as well as one of her brothers, one of her sisters-in-law, and her daughter. In contrast to other participants who had come alone, this family not only collaborated extensively during the workshop—parents coaching their children, [End Page 327] siblings working together or assisting their parents—but also have involved other family members in Tapiskwan activities since. Similarly, a brother and sister who attended a 2016 workshop together returned the next year, this time bringing their little brother along. Contrary to the other youth involved that year who, despite their enthusiasm during the workshop itself, did not pursue similar activities after it ended, these siblings continued to produce and sell products afterward and have remained involved in the project.

In the context of Tapiskwan, acknowledging the importance of family does not mean impeding other forms of collaboration nor even necessarily discouraging more individual work; the goal is to ensure that the overarching model it follows is well suited to seizing and even creating opportunities for intergenerational interactions and cooperation. For instance, when the collective was contracted to make a series of printed canvas bags, such cooperation occurred organically: the artist who took on the order worked with one of her daughters to print the design that had been created by another one of her daughters. When the contract was fulfilled, they were paid for their work as a team. A chain production organized by an overseer and involving similarly experienced workers would have perhaps been more efficient, and it would have involved remunerating each person individually either by the piece or by the hour. However, in this case, what happened was that the artist acted as a leader, convening members of her family to partake in the activities according to their abilities, taking the time to continue training them in the process, and taking responsibility for time management and the quality of their collective output. Similarly to what a clan leader would do with the bounty of a hunting trip, she also saw to the details of how the contract payment was to be redistributed among participating family members and to pay for things they and other family members needed or wanted. Without excluding individual community members not already accompanied by kin from participating, the objective is for Tapiskwan to be modeled after such Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok systems of cooperation and redistribution.69

At the time of writing, this model has yet to be fully developed and fleshed out. Once in place, it will necessarily interface with many different aspects of the existing Indigenous art market, and it is as of yet unclear the extent to which the model developed internally for Tapiskwan will be shaped by the principles and practices of either "capitalism as [End Page 328] context" or "capitalism as a model." The hope is that the collective will be able to, on the one hand, buffer some of the capitalist expectations the art market places on Indigenous art and artists and, on the other hand, bolster this market's respect for Indigenous values and ways of life by becoming a positive example of what a less colonial, more Indigenous market can look like.


In her discussion of Indigenous corporations, Alexis Bunten remarks that these can be understood alternatively as "a mechanism by which to gain equal footing with the settler state while simultaneously reinforcing Indigenous values" or as "a smokescreen for the adoption of a materialist perspective, a sort of Faustian pact whereby Indigenous peoples finally benefit from their resources, but at the ultimate price of internal colonization." In other words, these Indigenous corporations are usually seen as representing either a promise of renewed self-determination "or the threat of further subsumption" into the global political economy.70 As Bunten points out, on the ground, few examples of businesses run by Indigenous people fall squarely on one side of this overly simplistic binary.

In what I have described above, Indigenous stakeholders are taking on the challenge of imagining and implementing a different, less colonial, and more Indigenous art market. In the first example, I have explained how Northwest Coast artists and entrepreneurs have been progressively reclaiming space and control in one of Canada's largest and most internationally known Indigenous art markets. In the second example, I have described current efforts led by Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok community members to develop an Indigenous business model within Québec' still relatively limited Indigenous art market. While the respective starting points of these two examples within the larger Indigenous art market in Canada are different, these efforts to decolonize and indigenize the field—with an emphasis on the former in the first case and on the latter in the second—have similar points of arrival: models that are less colonial and more Indigenous than they would have otherwise been but that are largely compatible with a capitalist context. The two examples discussed above beg the question: If imagining scenarios in which it is possible to decolonize capitalist markets leads to the creation of models designed to support [End Page 329] the betterment of Indigenous lives both economically and culturally, does this process represent a step toward the dismantlement of colonial market relations, or does it weaken the resolve to do so by allowing capitalism to wear a less threatening mask?

However, the alternative—refusing to consider such scenarios and to build such models at all on the basis that, no, capitalism decidedly cannot be decolonized—seems to provide few options to Indigenous people who wish to develop their own businesses in the present moment. The development of less colonial / more Indigenous markets such as the two discussed above is arguably not the sole and inevitable conclusion to which such efforts can lead; and to be sure, some believe that decolonizing and indigenizing processes ought to lead to much more radical undertakings. For instance, Eric Ritskes and Nêhiyaw / Dene Suline scholar Jarrett Martineau have argued in relation to the art world that "the task of decolonial artists, scholars and activists is not simply to offer amendments or edits to the current world, but to display the mutual sacrifice and relationality needed to sabotage colonial systems of thought and power for the purpose of liberatory alternatives."71

As emphasized by these notions of mutuality and relationality, decolonizing the Indigenous art market may not mean vacating it of non-Indigenous people altogether. While Indigenous people have and will continue to make art to use and exchange among themselves, they have also long sought and continue to seek interest in their creations from others, and there is reason to believe they will continue to do so in the future. The heart of the issue, then, will be to continue transforming those relationships in order to make them more ethical, against what Papaschase Cree scholar Dwayne Donald calls "fort pedagogy": "Universalized market logics that seemingly justify intensified resource exploitation … and voracious consumerism are indeed intimately connected to the violence—epistemic, institutional, and otherwise—that has been committed in accordance with fort pedagogy. It is the denial of connectivity that allows such violence and exploitation to continue. We require a new or renewed ethical framework that clarifies the terms by which we can speak to each other on these pressing issues of shared concern." Donald argues that, contrary to the notion that Europeans first built forts and Indigenous people established themselves outside these forts in order to trade, "most forts were established at places already made significant by Aboriginal peoples [End Page 330] and came to be considered meeting places where partnerships and alliances were fostered and renewed."72 Following from this, it should also be possible to conceptualize an art marketplace that is not the result of Indigenous people arriving where non-Indigenous people have settled to try to sell what they have made but instead to conceptualize it as a space where non-Indigenous people have come to see what the Indigenous people who are already there have to offer and under what conditions. In this paradigm, Indigenous artists would not be required to unilaterally adapt their terms to those of the middlemen and buyers they would have come to find, as suggested by the "business is business" argument that is so often held over their heads, as if there was only one, necessarily capitalist, way to "do business." Instead, it would be that these middlemen and buyers would first have to work to understand, recognize, and prioritize the terms of the people they have come to find in order to establish market relations before trying to find the best way of conducting business with them. However, the possibility and even the plausibility of such a scenario imply a much broader reconceptualization and reconfiguration of our existing relationships. May the decolonizing and indigenizing efforts such as those discussed in this article help us come together to imagine a path toward this much broader and challenging goal.

Solen Roth

solen roth is a cultural anthropologist currently working as a postdoctoral researcher and a sessional instructor at the School of Design at the Université de Montréal. She holds an MA in anthropology from Université de Lyon 2 and a PhD from the University of British Columbia. From 2010 to 2016 she cochaired the Commodification of Cultural Heritage working group for the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage research project at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of the book Incorporating Culture: How Indigenous People Are Reshaping the Northwest Coast Art Industry (UBC Press, 2018).


The epigraphs quotes are taken from Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (1913; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951), 446; and Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, "Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor," Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, September 8, 2012, 5,

1. Crystal Fraser and Zoe Todd, "Decolonial Sensibilities: Indigenous Research and Engaging with Archives in Contemporary Colonial Canada," L'Internationale (blog), February 15, 2016,

2. Tuck and Yang, "Decolonization."

3. Amy Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums: Representing Native America in National and Tribal Museums, First Peoples : New Directions in Indigenous Studies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 173.

4. This is a reality that most, if not all, enterprises face whether or not they are run by or employ Indigenous people. For a discussion of the challenges small familybased fishing enterprises and co-operatives face when they operate on the margins of capitalist development, see Charles Menzies, "All That Holds Us Together: Kinship and Resource Pooling in a Fishing Co-operative," MAST 6, no. 1/2 (1993): 157–79; Menzies, "Fishing, Families, and the Survival of Artisanal Boat-Ownership in the Bigouden Region of France," MAST 2, no. 1 (2003): 73–90.

5. Tuck and Yang, "Decolonization," 5.

6. In that sense, the premise of the discussion that follows is that we are located in what Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti and colleagues identify as the "beyond-reform space" of the capitalist system, but the two examples discussed below are situated somewhere between what they call the "soft-reform space" and the "radical-reform space" ("Mapping Interpretations of Decolonization in the Context of Higher Education," Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, May 27, 2015,

7. Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Jennifer Kramer, and Ki-ke-in, eds., Native Art of the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013).

8. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, "Colonizing Knowledges," in Indigenous Archaeologies: A Reader on Decolonization, ed. Margaret Bruchac, Siobhan Hart, and H. Martin Wobst, reprint ed. (Walnut Creek, CA: Routledge, 2010), 58.

9. Arthur J. Ray and Donald B. Freeman, "Give Us Good Measure": An Economic Analysis of Relations between the Indians and the Hudson's Bay Company before 1763 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978); Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Hunters, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660–1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005),; Aldona Jonaitis and Aaron Glass, The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), 15–33.

10. Leslie Allan Dawn, National Visions, National Blindness: Canadian Art and Identities in the 1920s (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2006); Michael Dawson, Selling British Columbia: Tourism and Consumer Culture, 1890–1970 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004); Jonaitis and Glass, The Totem Pole, 150–53.

11. Rolf Knight, Indians at Work: An Informal History of Native Labour in British Columbia, 1848–1930, 2nd ed. (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1996); Charles R. Menzies and Caroline F. Butler, "Working in the Woods: Tsimshian Resource Workers and the Forest Industry of British Columbia," American Indian Quarterly 25, no. 3 (2001): 409–30,; Menzies and Butler, "The Indigenous Foundation of the Resource Economy of BC's North Coast," Labour, no. 61 (Spring 2008): 131–49; John S. Lutz, Makuk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008), 190–94.

12. Menzies and Butler, "The Indigenous Foundation"; Gloria Cranmer-Webster, "The Contemporary Potlatch," in Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch, ed. Aldona Jonaitis (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992); Lutz, Makuk, 104–8.

13. Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson, Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call (Between the Lines, 2015), 8.

14. Douglas Harris and Peter Millerd, "Food Fish, Commercial Fish, and Fish to Support a Moderate Livelihood: Characterizing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to Canadian Fisheries," SSRN Scholarly Paper (Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, January 6, 2010),

15. For instance, in the case of the Tsimshian, Charles R. Menzies and Caroline F. Butler explain that fish may not have been stockpiled as a means to restrict access to a scarce resource, but it was indeed exchanged to generate economic benefits; furthermore, the important role wealth accumulation plays in contemporary Tsimshian societies long precedes the influence of capitalism on its economic system ("Returning to Selective Fishing through Indigenous Fisheries Knowledge: The Example of K'moda, Gitxaala Territory," American Indian Quarterly 31, no. 3 [2007]: 463–64).

16. Jessica R. Cattelino, "The Double Bind of American Indian Need-Based Sovereignty," Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 2 (2010): 248,–1360.2010.01058.x.

17. On how this double bind operates in the Northwest Coast art market, see Eugenia Kisin, "Unsettling the Contemporary: Critical Indigeneity and Resources in Art," Settler Colonial Studies 3, no. 2 (2013): 145,

18. Jennifer Kramer, Switchbacks: Art, Ownership, and Nuxalk National Identity (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2006), 45–65; Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios, "Joining the Dots: Analysing the Sustainability of the Australian Aboriginal Art Market," Diogenes 58, no. 3 (2011): 26,; Karen Duffek, "Value Added: The Northwest Coast Art Market since 1965," in Townsend-Gault, Kramer, and Ki-ke-in, Native Art, 597; Laura Fisher, "Some Reflections on Aboriginal Art's Relationship with Money," in Art and Money, ed. Peter Stupples, unabridged ed. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015), 37.

19. Audra Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 127.

20. Harlan I. Smith, "Distinctive Canadian Designs: How Canadian Manufacturers May Profit by Introducing Native Designs into Their Products," Industrial Canada, September 1917; George H. Raley, Canadian Indian Art and Industries: An Economic Problem of To-Day (London: G. Bell, 1935). Similar uses of Indigenous design and subject matter as part of national identity affirmation also occurred in the United States (see Molly H. Mullins, "The Patronage of Difference: Making Indian Art 'Art, Not Ethnology,'" in The Traffic in Culture, ed. George E. Marcus and Fred R. Myers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 166–98), in New Zealand, and to a lesser extent in Australia (see Nicholas Thomas and Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Possessions: Indigenous Art, Colonial Culture (London: Thames and Hudson, 1999), 95–127). According to Thomas (Possessions, 106), it is in New Zealand that Indigenous design has been mobilized most consistently as part of a nationalist agenda.

21. Douglas Cole and Ira Chaikin, An Iron Hand upon the People: The Law against the Potlatch on the Northwest Coast (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1990); Cranmer-Webster, "The Contemporary Potlatch."

22. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume One: Summary: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (Toronto: Lorimer, 2015).

23. See chapter 2 of Solen Roth, "Culturally Modified Capitalism: The Native Northwest Coast Artware Industry" (PhD diss., University of British Columbia, 2013),

24. For a global discussion of this phenomenon, see Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, Ethnicity, Inc. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

25. "Cultural resources" is in and of itself a semantically charged expression in that the very idea of culture as a "resource" can be considered a uniquely capitalist construct. In this sense, the decolonization of capitalism may also require a decoupling of the concept of "resources" from the notion of commodification, allowing us to consider the possibility that the specificity of capitalism lies in how it treats resources—not in the concept of "resources" itself.

26. Fisher, "Some Reflections," 37.

27. See Kramer, Switchbacks, 60–61; Charlotte Townsend-Gault, "Circulating Aboriginality," Journal of Material Culture 9, no. 2 (2004): 183–202,; Solen Roth, Incorporating Culture: How Indigenous People Are Reshaping the Northwest Coast Art Industry, 2018, 108–11,

28. Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 81. Jennifer Kramer speaks of the ambivalent relationship of many Nuxalk artists vis-à-vis the art market. They are caught between the perception that selling their work as a way to make a living is "selling out" and their own view that their participation in the art market is a good way to honor their culture, strengthening its recognition by outsiders as meaningful and powerful expressions of identity and authority. She argues that this seeming opposition between art as something that should not be sold and art as a commodity can be resolved using Elizabeth Ferry's concept of "inalienable commodities" ("Inalienable Commodities: The Production and Circulation of Silver and Patrimony in a Mexican Mining Cooperative," Cultural Anthropology 17, no. 3 [2002]: 331–58), which moves us past a reified distinction between precapitalist and capitalist societies. Indeed, Ferry invites us to consider that certain things can be "exchanged within market systems and simultaneously retain a connection to incommensurate and inalienable forms of value" (Kramer, Switchbacks, 351).

29. It is important to note that not all mass production is antithetical to Indigenous ways: for instance, the kind of serialization brought about by the Northwest Coast artware industry has a strong precedent in Northwest Coast communities, in which the distribution of large quantities of very similar items is one of the potlatch's key protocols (Roth, Incorporating Culture, 142–43).

30. See, for instance, Marcia Crosby, "Indian Art / Aboriginal Title" (MA thesis, University of British Columbia, 1994); Mullins, "The Patronage of Difference"; Thomas and Thomas, Possessions; Dawn, National Visions.

31. Ruth B. Phillips, Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Art from the Northeast, 1700–1900 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998), 3–36; Fred R. Myers, Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 129–41; Duffek, "Value Added," 593.

32. For a discussion of how capitalism and welfare state policies affected the development of the Indigenous art market in Canada, see Roth, Incorporating Culture, 37–69. See also Myers, Painting Culture, 132–38; Ronald William Hawker, Tales of Ghosts: First Nations Art in British Columbia, 1922–61 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003), 66–99; Kisin, "Unsettling the Contemporary," 145; Susan Congreve and John Burgess, "Remote Art Centres and Indigenous Development," Journal of Management & Organization 23, no. 6 (2017): 803–8,

33. Roth, Incorporating Culture, 9.

34. Mullins, "The Patronage of Difference," 183; Duffek, "Value Added," 592–602; Roth, Incorporating Culture, 9–10.

35. On the different understandings of decolonization in higher education, see Andreotti et al., "Mapping Interpretations."

36. Fraser and Todd, "Decolonial Sensibilities."

37. Sonya Atalay, "Indigenous Archaeology as Decolonizing Practice," in Bruchac, Hart, and Wobst, Indigenous Archaeologies, 85–86.

38. Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums, 6, 171.

39. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 2nd ed. (London: Zed Books, 1999), 98.

40. Devon Abbott Mihesuah and Angela Cavender Wilson, Indigenizing the Academy: Transforming Scholarship and Empowering Communities (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 2, 5.

41. David Anthony Tyeeme Clark, "Not the End of the Stories, Not the End of the Songs: Visualizing, Signifying, Counter-Colonizing," in Mihesuah and Wilson, Indigenizing the Academy, 218–31.

42. Zoe Todd, "Indigenizing the Anthropocene," in Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, ed. Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 251–52.

43. Todd, "Indigenizing the Anthropocene," 251.

44. Tuck and Yang, "Decolonization," 3.

45. Erica Violet Lee, "'Indigenizing the Academy' without Indigenous People: Who Can Teach Our Stories?," Moontime Warrior (blog), November 9, 2015,; Marie Battiste and James Youngblood Henderson, Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage: A Global Challenge, Purich's Aboriginal Issues Series (Saskatoon: Purich, 2000), 12.

46. Atalay, "Indigenous Archaeology," 81.

47. For recent discussions about what "indigenizing" higher education means, see Elina Hill, "A Critique of the Call to 'Always Indigenize!,'" Peninsula: A Journal of Relational Politics, October 22, 2012,; Jason Warick, "'It's Not Just Add Indigenous and Stir': U of S's Indigenization Approach Raising Questions," CBC News, September 23, 2017,; Monique Giroux, "If 'Indigenizing' Education Feels This Good, We Aren't Doing It Right," Conversation, November 19, 2017,

48. Marcia Crosby, Nations in Urban Landscapes: Faye HeavyShield, Shelley Niro, Eric Robertson (Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery, 1997). Following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the publication of its final report in 2015, the word "reconciliation" has gained so much currency in public discourse and official government rhetoric that some argue it has been losing its meaning. For a critique of this phenomenon, see Arthur Manuel, Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, and Naomi Klein, The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy (Toronto, ON: Lorimer, 2017). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have specifically been criticized and even satirized for using the word "reconciliation" too liberally ("Trudeau Speech Consists Almost Entirely of Word 'Reconciliation,'" Walking Eagle News [blog], December 1, 2017,

49. Lonetree, Decolonizing Museums, 172.

50. Edwin S. Hall, Margaret B. Blackman, and Vincent Rickard, Northwest Coast Indian Graphics (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981), 50, 14.

51. Anonymous, "Ellen Neel," Indian Time, Spring 1953.

52. Fraser Canyon Indian Arts and Crafts Society, "Fraser Canyon Indian Arts and Crafts Society Hearing Transcript," 50–51.

53. Roth, Incorporating Culture, 37–69.

54. Karine Awashish, "Économie sociale en contexte autochtone: La création d'une coopérative d'artisanat atikamekw" (master's thesis, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 2013), 64, 46,

55. Peter Leney, "Annie Midlige, Fur Trader," Beaver, 1996.

56. A plan to develop a boutique in Manawan is currently under way. In Opitciwan, one of the high school teachers has set up a makeshift store in his office to sell works to tourists on behalf of the students.

57. Awashish, "Économie sociale," 24, 176.

58. For a full description of the workshop methodology, see Anne Marchand et al., "Culture as a Resource for a Sustainable Future in Indigenous Communities: Strengthening Atikamekw Identity and Economics through Design," in Design Roots, ed. Stuart Walker (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 131–46.

59. The founders of the Tapiskwan Collective are Karine Awashish (social economy expert, from Opitciwan), Christiane Biroté (artist, from Wemotaci), Christian Coocoo (Atikamekw Nehirowisiw historian and cultural expert, from Wemotaci), and Anne Marchand (designer and professor at Université de Montréal).

60. Awashish, "Économie sociale," 42. "En ce sens, le territoire offrait tout ce dont les autochtones avaient besoin pour vivre. À travers le cycle des saisons, les autochtones s'adaptaient à ce que le territoire pouvait leur fournir en ressources" (In this sense, the land offered all that Indigenous peoples needed to live. From one season to the next, Indigenous peoples adapted to the resources the land could provide them).

61. Awashish, "Économie sociale," 42; Benoit Éthier, "Nehirowisiw Kiskeritamowina: Acquisition, utilisation et transmission de savoir-faire et de savoir-être dans un monde de chasseurs," Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 44, no. 1 (2014): 49–59.

62. For a discussion of these kinds of expectations on the Northwest Coast and Nuxalk artists' responses to them, see Kramer, Switchbacks, 114.

63. On the American Southwest, see Mullins, "The Patronage of Difference," 173; the quote is from Phillips, Trading Identities, 52.

64. Phillips, Trading Identities, 256.

65. Awashish, "Économie sociale," 61–66.

66. In discussions about the creation of the Tapiskwan Collective, it was many times pointed out that the earlier effort to create an arts and crafts cooperative that would bring together as many creators in the community as possible failed at least in part because the project was not able to rally enough support community-wide. From this, it was concluded that it would be best if the collective started with a small number of members and grew organically over time.

67. Awashish, "Économie sociale," 182, 64. See also Norman Clermont, La culture matérielle des Indiens de Weymontachie: Images d'hier dans une société en mutation, Collection de monographies (Montreal: Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec, 1982), 2:100.

68. In broad terms, this corresponds to what Eric Wolf call a "kin-ordered" mode of production (Europe and the People without History [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982], 88–99).

69. For example, while the Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok systems of cooperation and redistribution are generally kin based, nothing precludes a leader from recruiting nonfamily members into their team; however, it is to that leader's discretion as opposed to a type of community-wide pool of cooperating members imposed by the collective's organizational structure. An individual member could also elect to form his or her own team to recruit other individuals based on other social or personal affinities.

70. Alexis Celeste Bunten, "A Call for Attention to Indigenous Capitalisms," New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry 5, no. 1 (2011): 61, 66.

71. Jarrett Martineau and Eric Ritskes, "Fugitive Indigeneity: Reclaiming the Terrain of Decolonial Struggle through Indigenous Art," Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, May 20, 2014, ii,

72. Dwayne Donald, "Forts, Curriculum, and Ethical Relationality," in Reconsidering Canadian Curriculum Studies, ed. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook and Jennifer Rottmann, Curriculum Studies Worldwide (New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2012), 39–46, 102–3, 96,

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