March 20, 2023

WASHINGTON — The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last week released a draft of proposed legislation that would strengthen enforcement of laws against counterfeit Native art. 

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) announced the Indian Affairs committee is seeking public comment on the proposed Amendments to Respect Traditional Indigenous Skill and Talent (ARTIST) Act of 2023. The ARTIST Act would update existing law, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, to strengthen protections against counterfeit competition for Native artists and their works. 

The discussion draft reflects input from stakeholders, as well as years of Committee oversight and broad commitment to the protection of Native cultural patrimony and revitalization of Indigenous languages, according to a news release.  The deadline for comments is April 14, 2023.

The marketing and sale of counterfeit Indian art and artifacts stolen from Native land are ongoing issues that tribes, state and federal officials continue to wrestle with in 2023. The explosive growth of online art sales and online art auctions over the past two years have exacerbated the problems in the billion-dollar Indian art market, experts say.

The Indian Arts and Craft Board, a unit of the Department of Interior, works to carry out the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, passed by Congress in 1990 in response to a growing sales of counterfeit Indian products in the Indian art market. The act provides criminal and civil penalties for marketing products as “Indian made” when such products are not made by Indians.

Meridith Stanton (Delaware Nation of Oklahoma), director of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, told Native News Online that the existing Act applies to venues across the board.

“It could be something someone sees at a powwow, at an art market, in a store, online, or in an auction catalog,” she said. Basically, If someone is marketing an artifact as Indian, but the informant is letting us know that they don’t believe it is made by an Indian, an Alaskan Native, or a particular Indian tribe, we take all the information and we do our due diligence.” 

 For a first time violation, an individual can face civil or criminal penalties up to a $250,000 fine or a 5-year prison term, or both. If a business violates the IACA, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that a Houston man was sentenced to five years probation for mail fraud and misrepresentation of Indian Goods under the Indian Arts and Craft Act. 

You can find the original article here.

Source: Edwards, Brian. “Senate looks to update protections in Indian Arts and Crafts Act.” Tribal Business News. March 19, 2023

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