My self-imposed BUZZ fast has ended. After the initial smackdown, another BUZZ moderator got in touch with me by PM and said yes, he supports free speech, and that I could re-post my original message with the flaming session deleted. I appreciate that. But I was pissed.
It's correct to say that my post was inflammatory and I meant it to be. But it's like a dog barking madly, that starts the other dogs barking even though they don't know (or care) what the first dog's upset about. So I regret that aspect.
After I'd cooled a bit, I exchanged messages with the sales manager at Cascade Outfitters, copied below:
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Thanks for your message.
As far as the necklaces, I think it's misleading to sell them as having anything to do with Mäori culture. To call them "Mäori Taonga" is particularly wrong: they were not carved by Mäori craftspeople and there is no reason for any Mäori person to regard them as "taonga." Quite the opposite, in fact.
The pendants pictured are, by comparison, clumsy and poorly carved, with uneven curves (the swirl) and unfinished toolmarks. That is, I don't think they are even fair copies of the original Mäori designs.
The description on your website claims that "The Mäori passed down their rich cultural heritage through symbols and artistically carved heirloom known as Taonga." While the word means "treasure" or "heirloom" (i.e.
cultural artifact), taonga also means "property" or "possession." Like other indigenous people, the Mäori believe they have a claim to their own cultural riches, which is in part supported by New Zealand law. Yet neither your catalog nor the website of the wholesaler, Wanderer Imports, mention any connection whatsoever of the items offered to the Mäori or to New Zealand.
Consider: would you sell "Sacred Navajo Jewelry" that was made in China? Or "Hopi Heritage Pottery" that's molded in Madagascar? How about "Handcrafted Amish Furniture" from Romania? Rather, I'd think you would recognize these items as falling somewhere between a cheap knockoff and outright piracy.
Like many other boaters, I've been to New Zealand and have a special feeling for the place. My wife and I went there on a freighter and stayed a year, and have since been back several times. We bought genuine Mäori carvings in bone and greenstone, thus contributing to the livelihood of the people whose ancestors originated the designs, and for whom they have a meaning and a history.
What really lit my fuse is the degree to which the sales copy evokes Mäori tradition, in a romanticized way. I think it's cheap and disrespectful and wrong.
Having dealt with Cascade Outfitters for some time, I'm sorry to withdraw my support.
C. L. Rawlins
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Tamara Kenyon wrote:
Thank you for your e-mail. We hate to see you go, but as you requested we
have removed your name from our mailing list. We are sorry to have offended
you in any way by selling these necklaces. We value our customer feedback
and strive to do better from it. If you have time to, please reply and
educate us on the meaning, so we can better understand why this version is
not acceptable to you.
We started carrying them after being approached from a young boater, Sean
West. His website is www.wandererimports.com
While we can't pull it from the catalog that has already printed, we can
consider pulling the item from the web and not offer them for sale anymore
with good cause.
Thank you for your time and we hope to hear from you soon.
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The fake Maori stuff is still for sale on their website, so I just bought my two pairs of oars, grips, etc. elsewhere. I'll check occasionally and once they stop selling it, they'll have my business again.
RE: the BUZZ, the deal is that they (the proprietors) provide a forum and charge for ads, while we provide the content. Some people are entertainers and wits and teases while others post stuff that comes from considerable experience. Serious questions almost always get serious answers.
But if I can't speak freely, especially against a commercial interest (within the limits of the law and decent behavior) the BUZZ won't get my content, and I think it's mostly good, solid content.
Enough said. Feel free to discuss, but for hell's sake don't start spitting fire at each other. Please.