Victory Through Honour: reconciling Canadian intellectual property laws and Kwakwaka’wakw cultural property laws




Udy, Vanessa

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Kwakwaka’wakw laws surrounding cultural property and Canadian intellectual property laws often treat art objects differently. How can the divergences between the two legal systems be reconciled? This thesis attempts to answer this question by examining the relationships surrounding the Victory Through Honour totem pole that was gifted by Ellen Neel, a Kwakwaka’wakw totem pole carver, to UBC to make right the use of the Thunderbirds name for the university’s varsity sports teams. The first chapter of this thesis, explores the notion of reconciliation as defined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and locates the gifting of Victory Through Honour as one of many gestures of reconciliation regarding the historic wrong against the Kwakwaka’wakw that was the potlatch ban. The second chapter delves deeper into the ceremonial aspect of the transactions surrounding Victory Through Honour to articulate various parties’ social obligations under Kwakwaka’wakw law. The third chapter sheds light on the differences between the treatment of cultural property under the Kwakwaka’wakw legal order and Canadian intellectual property laws. The fourth chapter inquires whether the Kwakwaka’wakw legal approach to cultural property and Canadian intellectual property law can be reconciled despite their divergences.



Kwakwaka’wakw, law, Canadian law, intellectual property, Indigenous law, cultural appropriation, cultural property, reconciliation