The Cowichan Tribes and the Hudson's Bay Company have reached an agreement to allow the sale of genuine Cowichan sweaters at the company's official 2010 Olympic superstore in Vancouver, but it won't be the lucrative enterprise the band had envisioned.
Negotiations between the Bay and the Cowichan knitters had bogged down over what they would be paid for each sweater, which will retail for about $400, compared to the $350 price tag for the Bay's own look-alike sweater, according to band officials.
Cowichan Tribes councillor Dora Wilson, who has 30 years experience knitting the traditional sweaters, said the Bay initially wanted to pay the knitters $95 a garment - which takes two full days to complete - but eventually upped the offer to $195.
"I said 'There's no way I'm going to knit for $95 a sweater,' " Ms. Wilson said. "Now they've just ordered 50 Cowichan sweaters at $195, which is still not a great price."
Hudson's Bay Company spokesperson Shari Burnett said the authentic Cowichan sweaters will be available in the store on Feb. 1.
"It's maybe not to the magnitude we had originally planned, but the Bay is taking a limited number of our sweaters and they are going to market them in their superstore as well as the Four Host Nations pavilion," said Cowichan Tribes general manager Ernie Elliott.
"They're going to see how quickly they move in their stores. We've given them some samples and we've got some knitters working on an order for 50 more."
The deal brings an amicable end to a dispute that began in October when the Bay unveiled its official line of Olympic apparel, including a Cowichan-like sweater that band officials denounced as a knockoff based on traditional designs, used without the band's consent.
Faced with the prospect of a silent "sweater protest" during the Olympic torch's run through Duncan on Oct. 31 and stung by the negative publicity, Bay officials agreed to work out a way of including genuine Cowichan sweaters in its Olympic plans.
If a deal had been in place three months ago, Mr. Elliott said Cowichan knitters could have manufactured as many as 700 sweaters before the start of the Games.
However, negotiations bogged down over the Bay's reluctance to offer what the knitters considered a fair price, he said.
"There was quite a discrepancy in what they were willing to pay and what our knitters wanted for the sweaters," Mr. Elliott said. "At one point we decided that what they were offering just wasn't going to work for our knitters at all ... but they came up a little."
A large sweater with pockets and zipper retails for about $250 in tourist shops such as Hills Native Art and Sasquatch Trading Company in Victoria.
A Cowichan knitter would take home about $125 to $140 of that, Mr. Elliott said.