First let me tell you the good news.
Urban Outfitters has removed its $39.99 (on sale from US$52.00) Local Branch Smudge Kit.
The advertised “energy-balancing smudge kit” had the product SKU number 34519397 and a colour code of 012.
It contained a “wild turkey smudging feather, stoneware smudging dish, candle and instructions.”
I’m not exactly sure how the public could verify that it was actually a “wild” turkey feather…. does that mean the turkey was caught in the wild and was plucked; was free range; or just because turkeys exist in the wild?
The smudge kit was manufactured by “The Local Branch” which is owned by Mackenzie Edgerton and Blaine Vossler and then sold to Urban Outfitters.
As ironic as it sounds, and of course I’m glad it’s off the market, I’m just a little bit miffed that I could not get my hands on a real or digital copy of the instructions because I would have loved to read the explanation and know the name of the author.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a stickler for authenticity around Indigenous teachings, traditions and tools, so it would be meaningful to me to find out who The Local Branch commissioned to write out the instructions — other than the usual, “don’t leave a candle or smudge burning unattended or you risk burning down your tipi or melting your igloo.”
Another thing I want to point out is that they are using turkey feathers.
Now I’m not disparaging turkeys at all, since they have a creation story and were named by *Nanaboozhoo (or Wiske) just as he named everything else, so the bird is sacred as all things are sacred. But in the pantheon, most all Indigenous Nations in North America believe that the Eagle flies closest to Creator.
*To find out more about Nanaboozhoo, please see this link.
And many people use turkey feathers as ceremonial tools, either because they have some affinity to that bird, they found a turkey feather on one of their nature walks or because they don’t own an Eagle feather.
As far as Urban Outfitters is concerned, I know it’s the latter of the listed explanations.
In fact, it is illegal for a non-federally enrolled or recognized Native American or everyone else to own an Eagle feather in the United States.
Not only that, but it is illegal to sell Eagle feathers which if caught can be punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a US$250,000 fine.
Switching now to Canada, Rachel CrowSpreadingWings, of the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe) in southern Alberta, has been charged with one count of trafficking wildlife and one count of possession for the purposes of trafficking, with the maximum penalty for both charges being two years in jail and/or CAD$100,000 in fines over Eagle feathers. She is fighting these charges after she purchased an Eagle wing for $250 to make powwow regalia for her family.
This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has caught the ire of Indigenous nations and the Navajo Nation ended up suing the corporate giant in 2012 as they alleged that there were numerous trademark violations established under the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act by using the term Navajo for their trademark line. Months previous, the nation had sent a cease and desist letter. Items for sale included a Navajo Hipster panty and a flask both with the Navajo textile design.
On a final note, if you are going to purchase a smudge kit, I would rather you buy one from gift shops such as the Cedar Basket from the Native Canadian Centre so the centre can get the donations.