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One Little Indian changes name due to “harmful stereotyping and exploitation of indigenous peoples’ culture”

By | Published on Thursday 11 June 2020

One Little Indian

The One Little Indian record label has announced that it is changing its name with immediate effect, after accepting that the label’s brand was “perpetuating a harmful stereotyping and exploitation of indigenous peoples’ culture”. It will now be known as One Little Independent.

In a statement, the label’s founder Derek Birkett said: “I have immediately started making arrangements to stop using the One Little Indian Records name and logo, with our digital properties in the process of this change right now. From today the label will be called One Little Independent Records”.

“The last few weeks have been a monumental learning curve”, he went on, explaining why he was making the change now after 35 years in business.

“Following the receipt of an eye-opening letter from a Crass fan that detailed precisely why the logo and label name are offensive, as well as the violent history of the terminology, I felt equally appalled and grateful to them for making me understand what must be changed”.

Birkett’s association with the offending term actually goes back beyond the launch of the record label in 1985 . He was also the bassist of anarcho-punk band Flux Of Pink Indians, who formed in 1980 and originally released music through the label that had been set up by the there mentioned Crass. Last year, OLI began distributing the Crass back catalogue, which is presumably what prompted the fan letter.

“As a teenager living in London in the late 1970s, my friends and I were deeply inspired when we learned about some of the philosophies of the indigenous people of the Americas, of peace and love for each other and for nature and the planet, and in turn they were of huge influence in our anarchist punk movement”, he explains. “I was naive enough at the time of founding my label to think that the name and logo was reflective of my respect and appreciation of the culture”.

However, he goes on: “I’m aware that my white privilege has sheltered me and fostered my ignorance on these issues. I realise now that the label name and logo instead perpetuated a harmful stereotyping and exploitation of indigenous peoples’ culture. This is the exact opposite of what was intended. However, I know that it is not the intentions but the impact that is important”.

Concluding, Birkett says that he now wants to “apologise unreservedly to anyone that has been offended by the name and the logo” and that he recognises “that both contribute to racism and should have been addressed a long, long time ago”. He added that he has made, and will continue to make, donations to organisations including the Honouring Indigenous Peoples Charitable Corporation and The Association On American Indian Affairs.

The indie label’s name change follows a number of recent shifts in the music industry that have occurred in response to the most recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US and beyond. Among other things, all three majors have committed funds towards addressing racism and prejudice within their companies and the world at large.

Meanwhile – with regard to the appropriateness, or not, of certain words – the debate over the suitability of the label ‘urban’ for some of the genres that began with and which are generally still dominated by black artists has increased in intensity. Partly after Universal’s Republic Records in the US announced it was dumping the term.