Inuit are calling Ungava, a Canadian gin company, for appropriating their culture to sell booze.
While it's been around since 2010, Inuit in Canada — including musician Tanya Tagaq — have recently called out the brand on Twitter for appropriating and stereoptyping their culture.
Some of the marketing material has Inuit cartoon figures acting like little helper elves.
There's also a video posted on Ungava's YouTube profile, called "A Unique Journey of the Senses," which has audio of Inuit throat singing.
Other images show white promo models dressed in cleavage-baring yellow dresses with fur trim. Iqaluit-based artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory told BuzzFeed Canada the outfits are both racist and sexist and her jaw literally dropped when she saw them.
"When Indigenous women are facing such racism and such intense sexism, the amount of destruction that Indigenous women are facing is commonly unseen by many people in the mainstream."
Bathory added the Inuktitut characters surrounding the logo on the bottle are complete jibberish. "The symbols on the bottle are just decorative, they don’t say anything."
As Inuk artist Stephen Puskas pointed out in a Facebook post, there's little indication those who actually live in Nunavik are benefiting from the gin.
On Wednesday, the company tweeted that they've seen the criticism and will "have more information shortly."
Bathory is hoping the company not only removes the offending images, but commits to actually working with communities in Nunavik.
UPDATE: Ungava's president has released a statement apologizing for marketing materials dating to 2013. Here is the full statement.
"Recently, members of the Inuit community have expressed serious concerns about an advertising and promotional campaign that we ran in Europe in 2013. We recognize that the campaign crossed an important line and has offended many people. For that, we are deeply sorry and we will do better.
We will be engaging key cultural influencers to gather explicit feedback on our use of Inuit symbology, and we are committed to being more culturally aware and sensitive in our advertising efforts going forward.
Ungava is proud of our ties to the Canadian Arctic, and our brand identity is intended to celebrate the individuality of the region. The Ungava Peninsula at the northern tip of Quebec is the native home of six rare botanicals we use to produce Ungava gin, and there is no better place on earth to grow them. The decision to call our gin Ungava was always intended to pay tribute to the land from which the gin is produced, and to celebrate the unmistakable beauty of the Ungava region.
Although the campaign ended in 2013, we will review all of our owned media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and our website, to ensure any references to the campaign have been removed.
We are truly sorry that we’ve offended the Inuit community, as this was never our intent, nor does it align with our corporate values and beliefs.
Founder and President"
The company did not address BuzzFeed Canada's questions regarding how many Inuit are employed by the brand.
Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.
Contact Lauren Strapagiel at email@example.com.
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