GUEST COLUMN: "Searching for Authentic America"
Why aren’t the National Park Service’s concession-run stores doing their part for economic recovery? They have won the privilege to do business on federal land, but have turned their backs on hundreds of American small businesses and tribal artisans who desperately need manufacturing work. Simply by committing to carry more authentic American gifts and souvenirs in their stores, these concession companies could sustain 5,000 small businesses and jobs.
They could fill their shelves with beautiful and authentic American-made products, but instead they favor suppliers who get them cheap goods overseas. Yet price point isn’t the only point. Cheaply made, imported merchandise that looks craft-like fails the test of authenticity. It’s not Made in America or a product of Native Americans. It’s not even handmade or artisan-made. It tells no special story: “I Hiked the Grand Canyon and Brought Back a Key Ring Made in China.”
Slapping a park logo on an item made overseas does not make it an American product or an Indian craft. Merchandise that is factory-made to look like handcraft or tribal artistry is more commonly stocked than the real thing. And too often, price stickers or packaging labels obscure the required mark telling the truth about country of origin, so the customer cannot figure out where the product really comes from.
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