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Maori Party Raises Issue of cultural appropriation

"Out out damn spot: Maori Party Raises Issue of cultural appropriation"

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party Press Statement On Geographical Indications Bill Thursday 15 December 2005

In considering the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Bill today, the Maori Party wants to raise the issue of the protection and rights over the regionally-based products and produce of hapu and iwi.

"Earlier this week I condemned the use of the Maori name in a brand of cigarettes called the I and M Maori mix brand, recently discovered in Jerusalem, Israel" stated Dr Pita Sharples.

"I was disgusted that our authenticity, our identity, our name has been associated with a killer disease".

"It was a blatant example of the appropriation of an indigenous word and race, for commercial gain by a multi-national corporation".

Dr Sharples referred to the draft declaration of indigenous peoples which states that:

"Indigenous peoples are entitled to the recognition of the full ownership, control, and protection of the cultural and intellectual property".

"That includes Maori words and names" stated Dr Sharples.

"Yet with this Bill introduced today, there is a real fear that the 'naming rights' attached to specific locations, could run rough-shod over Maori customary and intellectual heritage rights".

"We have heard today mention of the names of Marlborough as a brand, as a location. There are other names that existed in the same region prior to Marlborough".

"Maori names like Kenepuru, Te Tai Tapu, Te Wairau, Awatere. Will these names become ripe for the picking? I'll be crushed if they do".

"Let's look, as an example, at the registration of Awatere Terrace Vineyards in the Marlborough region. The Bill introduces the 'first-in-time, first-in-right' principle for determining which right has priority".

"First in time' in this case, was a company called Awatere Terrace Vineyards. Yet Tohu wines, the first indigenous wine company producing wine for domestic and export markets, would not be able to use the word 'Awatere' and the Maori Party would argue that they should have first refusal in terms of the intellectual and cultural property".

"The shareholders of Tohu wines are the tangata whenua of the area that we are now calling Marlborough. Their share-holders include Wakatu Incorporation who are descendants of the chiefs and families of four tribes - Ngati Koata, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa".

"The word Awatere comes from their whakapapa. Yet this Bill, might prevent them from using their own name, their name passed down along genealogical lines".

The Bill does state that in very limited circumstances, there is the potential of a later-filed geographical indication to be registered despite a pre-existing trade mark having priority.

In determining whether a later-filed geographical indication is to be registered, the Registrar considers such things as the legitimate interests of the owner of the trade mark and of third parties, and other factors, which may include international considerations.

"Yet given the appalling recent record overseas of this Government, in 'the increasingly hostile position towards indigenous peoples and our right to self-determination', one wonders if cultural appropriation would cause any concern" stated Dr Sharples. "Indeed, one wonders if the Government is opening the gate for cultural appropriation and the denigration of indigenous people to be acceptable".

[Dr Sharples was referring to a statement by the American Indian Law Alliance delegation from the discussions taking place in Geneva to discuss the Declaration on the rights of the World's indigenous peoples].

"Will this Government in the future, in suffering pangs of guilt, attempt to wash away the dastardly deeds that it has committed; much in the way that Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth attempt to cleanse herself of the behaviour that she had condoned?"

"The TOI IHO (Maori Trademark) establishes a clear process to ensure indigenous symbols are not misappropriated".

"The Maori Party will continue to promote the importance of following due process - whether it be in criminal matters, civil matters, or matters of property like the foreshore and seabed".


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