In response to the mismarking of Native American arts and crafts, the federal government wrote into law P.L. 101-644, the Indian Arts and Crafts Law which is a truth-in-advertising law meant to prohibit the misrepresentation in marketing of Native American or Alaska Native arts and crafts produced within the United States. This law was created to help shield legitimate State and Federally recognized Native American artisans by making it illegal to offer or display for sale any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it was produced by a Native American or a particular Native American tribe or Native American arts and crafts organization unless the individual that produced the art or craft is a tribally enrolled member of a State or Federally recognized tribe. This law carries a steep penalty for organizations or individuals that are found in violation of it. Unfortunately, still today, fraudulent merchants continue to take advantage of real Native Americans as well as those who appreciate our traditional crafts. Native Americans, like me, want to make people aware of this fraudulence to help put an end to any further profits which stem from the sale of fake Native American arts and crafts. Your awareness and assistance in spreading the word about this law will certainly help to ensure that real Native peoples are not further taken advantage of.
To ensure that your Native American artwork is authentic, here are a few steps you can take: First, let the merchant that you are considering buying from know that you are well aware of the Indian Arts & Crafts Law as this usually inspires them to be more honest with you about who actually made an item. If a merchant is claiming to be Native American ask them specifically if they belong to the tribal Nation they say they are descended from and if the tribe is an official state or federally recognized group. If they claim to have heritage but are not recognized as a tribally enrolled member of a state or federally recognized tribe then their art IS NOT considered to be a legitimate Native American made work under P.L. 101-644. If the merchant is saying that they are selling “for” a Native American further inquire about the specific tribe and person who created the work of art. Always ask to see a tribal enrollment card or (CIB) Certificate of Indian Blood and always get a certificate of authenticity stating that the artwork is truly a Native American hand-made product!!!! This certificate will make the work of art much more valuable over time. Make sure you get the artists business card to use for follow-ups just in case you find out later that you have been the victim of fraud. If a merchant who is claiming to be selling Native American hand-made artwork cannot provide any of the above requested information or seems suspicious don’t hesitate to contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Board at ph# (888) ART-FAKE, or at www.iacb.doi.gov. Your help in exposing fraudulence will ultimately help real Native American people like me continue the tradition of creating beautiful quality works of authentic arts and crafts for future connoisseurs like you!