Why the Indian Arts Act Matters
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) of 1935 was the first federal statute specifically enacted to protect Indian cultural property. What prompted passage of the IACA was a flood of counterfeit and inauthentic Native American artistic works which seriously compromised the consumer and investment market for authentic Indian arts and crafts. Specifically, the 1935 Act provides that it is unlawful to “offer or display for sale or sell a good, with or without a Government trademark, in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian tribe.”
Misrepresentation of Indian Art
It has been a problem for decades. Jewelry, pottery, baskets, woven rugs and kachina dolls often are copied — to the point some artists don't want their designs photographed for fear they'll show up in fakes from Taiwan and China passed off as genuine.
There are no firm figures on fakes, although trade groups estimated 10 years ago that at least half of all Indian-style art sold in the United States is counterfeit.
"As long as you know you're buying plastic, that's your choice. But if you don't ask, they're not going to tell you," says Eriacho, president of the Council for Indigenous Arts and Culture. "You [even] see Native people selling these for short-term gain. It hurts all of us. It hurts the legitimate artist. It hurts the legitimate business that's selling the real thing because you can't compete," Eriacho says
Protecting Indian Arts
Under the IACA of 1990, all products must be marketed truthfully regarding Indian heritage and tribal affiliation of the producers. It is unlawful to market Native cultural products using the name of a tribe if a member, or certified Indian artisan, of that tribe did not actually produce the product.
If a consumer buys a product represented as Indian-made, and later learns that the claim is false, the consumer is advised to contact the dealer and request a refund.
Does the legislation 'have teeth?' Yes. Heavy fines and jail sentences of up to 5 years can be incurred by violators.
And the 2010 Amendment made it possible for all US law enforcement officers to investigate violators, not just a handful of FBI investigators.
Go Native America & Indian Arts
As members of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association we ensure that our tour members have the opportunity to buy arts and crafts directly from Native artists in the Indigenous community.
Not only is this good economically for the individual artists and wider community, it is great for our tour members, as Indian art reflects Indian culture, and our guests truly receive an intimate window on Native culture when they interact with the artists.
Not sure whether something is genuine? That's a perk of taking an Go Native America tour because your guide will certainly know and will be happy to advise you on your purchase.