Native Artists Fear Proposed Changes to Indian Arts and Crafts Act



Federal commissioners and Congress members are looking for to replace the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA), a legislation that goals to guard the work of Native artists and artisans by establishing requirements for craft authenticity and by imposing prison penalties for counterfeit Native American items, a persistent and growing problem for Native artists whose livelihoods depend upon their practices. Nevertheless, some Native American tribal members are involved that the proposed revisions are overly broad and will unravel necessary current protections.

The Board is looking for to update the federal regulations below the IACA that would come with new enforcements and increase the definition of “Indian Product” to incorporate digital media and different mediums. Between April and August, the Division of the Inside performed numerous listening sessions in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Oklahoma Metropolis, Fairbanks, and Santa Fe to assemble public enter on these revisions. 

“An important change Washington could make — the one change that’s completely essential — is to guard Native American artists and Native American tribes by amending the Indian Arts and Crafts Act to make sure that solely works and merchandise made by residents of federally acknowledged tribes could also be deemed ‘Indian,’” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. informed Hyperallergic

In March, Hoskin addressed members of Congress on amending the Indian Arts and Crafts Act by the proposed Amendments to Respect Traditional Indigenous Skill and Talent (ARTIST) Act, an initiative that will impose extra adjustments to federal laws. The updates would enable for “non-Indian labor to work on Indian Merchandise in restricted conditions” in addition to increase the authorized definition of “Indian Tribe” to incorporate Native Hawaiian Organizations.

First handed in 1935, the IACA established the Indian Arts and Crafts Board inside the Division of the Inside. Composed of 5 federally appointed commissioners, the Board is chargeable for selling the welfare and growth of Native paintings and craft. The Board additionally works with the Patent and Trademark Workplace to certify and regulate genuine Native American merchandise by registered logos. The IACA additionally set forth penalties for people and companies that violated the legislation, however over the course of the twentieth century, the legislation suffered from a failure of enforcement, and greater than 50 years later, it was revised. The 1990 IACA raised penalties to a most advantageous of $250,000 and a five-year jail sentence for people; for companies, the utmost advantageous was raised to $1,000,000.

“Cinnamon Twist” by Leah Van Buskirk (photograph by and courtesy Cherokee Nation)

Within the many years because the 1990 revision, nonetheless, questions have continued to come up in regards to the Act’s efficacy. In 2017, Meridith Stanton, director of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, testified earlier than the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to level out the continued proliferation of “items falsely represented as genuine Indian-produced arts and crafts” and urged Congress to modernize the laws. In 2021, two Washington state artists have been separately charged with violating the IACA for falsely representing themselves as tribal members, and certainly one of them, Jerry Chris Van Dyke, was sentenced to 18 months in jail this 12 months. 

“Bison Sundown” by Cathy Abercrombie (photograph courtesy Nationwide Treasure and Cherokee Nation)

However not everybody believes that the proposed adjustments to IACA will alleviate the scenario. Michael Garcia (often known as Na Na Ping), a Pascua Yaqui jeweler who is a component Tewa and lives in Nambe Pueblo, expressed considerations about “huge producers making the most of this proposed legislation change.” A former chairperson of the Indian Arts and Crafts Affiliation in addition to a third-generation jeweler, Garcia started working professionally within the trade in 1973 and recalled a time when he “struggled to attempt to make a residing” due to the overwhelming quantity of counterfeit Native merchandise.

“I don’t see it benefiting me as a jeweler or any of my buddies as artists. It’s solely going to profit the individuals which might be mass producing and have main cash behind them,” Garcia informed Hyperallergic.

President of the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association Will Hughes is fearful in regards to the legislation’s enlargement to Native Hawaiians who presently do not have the same government-to-government relationship and benefits as Native American tribes. Though the Division of Hawaiian House Lands presently defines a Native Hawaiian as “any descendant of not lower than one-half a part of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands earlier to 1778,” this definition is barely used to find out particular person eligibility for a homestead lease, not a united tribal nation.

“It’s going to be legally unattainable, and I believe it could assist unravel the entire protections of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act,” Hughes mentioned of the proposed legislation. He additionally famous that the modification’s clause that might enable for non-Native labor to work on Indian Merchandise in restricted circumstances would want extra specificity to keep away from company abuse.

On August 18, each the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Institute of American Indian Artwork (IAIA) launched a statement urging Congress to “maintain off on implementing” the ARTIST Act. Throughout the Santa Fe tribal session session, Tlingit artist Crystal Worl testified in entrance of the Division of Inside panel to suggest that the federal authorities “step again and rethink the general construction of the laws implementing the IACA.” Whereas supporting the inclusion of Native Hawaiians below the IACA laws, Worl pushed the Division to draft a transparent textual content that isn’t overly broad.

“If Congress passes a legislation and the president indicators it, then that’s the legislation and we’re obligated to comply with it,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland informed Hyperallergic

“I believe all of the exercise you’re seeing displays not simply the curiosity on this subject, however its significance,” Newland continued. “We at all times work actually onerous to be sure that our guidelines and our insurance policies and our actions adjust to the legislation, and if the legislation adjustments, then we’ll change with it, however we’re going to overview the suggestions that we received to be sure that we perceive the views throughout Indian nation earlier than we take any additional actions.”


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