The Saami Council, a non-governmental organization representing the Sámi people of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia, are calling on Square Enix to remove the Far Northern Attire DLC from Final Fantasy 14. The council's concern "is not about sensitivity or whether the depiction is appropriate," it said in a statement (opens in new tab), but rather that the items depicted in the DLC are "Sámi cultural property," and are infringing upon its rights.
"Our cultural property rights are not theoretical," Saami Council president Áslat Holmberg said in a statement. "They are protected and protectable under intellectual property laws, which are generally harmonised throughout the world. Square Enix, as a media company, is highly aware of intellectual property laws and has no excuse for this blatant violation of Sámi cultural property.”
The council said the Sámi clothing isn't just an aesthetic, but carries "specific elements of Sámi identity with meaning, content, and context." Including it in the game without permission or acknowledgement enables millions of FF14 players "to dress up as a Sámi people, clothe themselves in the Sámi identity without our consent, and contribute to the erosion of our culture."
This isn't the first time the Saami Council has been vocal about protecting the cultural heritage and rights of its people. Holmberg said the council's position "has been made very clear in the past," and noted its 2019 agreement (opens in new tab) with Walt Disney Animation Studios, reached after Disney faced allegations of cultural appropriation (opens in new tab) after its use of a Sámi choral chant in the first Frozen film, in which Disney:
- Agreed to work with the Sámi to create a dubbed version of Frozen 2 in the Sámi language
- Thanked the Sámi people for their cooperation and collaboration in the Frozen 2 credits
- Employed an advisory group of experts to ensure that Frozen 2 content inspired by the Sámi is "culturally sensitive, appropriate, and respectful of the Sámi and their culture
- Invited Sámi representatives to the world premiere of Frozen 2 in the US
- Agreed to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" with the Sámi people, and to "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."
Square Enix, by contrast, "did not even lightly consider the rights of the Sámi people in relation to this product," the council said.
Holmberg didn't indicate what action the council plans to take, if any, if Square Enix fails to abide by its request, only that it "hopes that this situation will advance the discussion of the rights of indigenous people to their cultural properties and looks forward to a productive dialogue with all industries."
This isn't the first time Square Enix has run into controversy over Final Fantasy 14 costumes. In 2019 it faced criticism for adding a costume styled after a type of dress imposed on Koreans during the Japanese occupation of the country, which lasted from 1910-1945. That criticism was somewhat more muted, however, because the costume was only released in China.
I've reached out to Square Enix for comment on the Saami Council's demand and will update if I receive a reply. For now, the $18 Far Northern Attire bundle (opens in new tab) remains available for purchase in the Final Fantasy 14 online store.