A Response to the “Cherokee Nation Arts and Crafts Authenticity Act of 2007” being proposed before the Cherokee Nation Council
This desire to define what constitutes "authentic" Indian art really comes down to a need to control the imagery and vision of Indian artists at times. As for legitimate fears of invasions against Cherokee artist and their works we can rely on the American Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 to protect Cherokee artist (The Act makes it unlawful to offer or display for sale or sell any good in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian, or Indian tribe, or Indian arts and crafts organization resident within the United States). To protect their monetary interest in the C.N. we can rely on the Nation not to purchase art by those without membership in a federally recognized Cherokee tribe.
In an essay titled "What is Native American Art?" Edwin Wade writes: "Vital arts change. If ever we should succeed in truly defining Indian art, that definition would be an epitaph. But if we remove the restraints of stereotype and allow the creative impetus full rein, we can observe the development of an exciting art that draws on the richness of its own past as it continually recreates itself for the future.”
It is the cumulative opinion of the board of directors of the Cherokee Arts & Humanities Council, Inc. that Native visual arts and humanities, like Native cultures generally, have evolved through the course of the twentieth century. From paintings of daily life, to depictions of ceremonial events, to the visualizations of myth, to meditations on nature, to self-reflection, to political analyses; from figuration to abstraction, to installation and performance, the development of Native art is a record of tribal histories and communities filtered through the alembic of individual perception, and NOT through the legislative processes of a government.
We believe Cherokee government and its entities, the public sector, and private sector have an obligation to make investments in creativity and cultural heritage, the arts and humanities; that the arts and humanities are an investment in the education of our Cherokee children, in the well being of our communities, in the strength of our economy, and in sharing a better understanding of what it is to be culturally and traditionally Cherokee at home and throughout the world. We believe our community should avoid using the term “wannabe.” As we believe using the terms “legitimate” and “genuine” to validate people’s identity and work is dangerous. We believe the greater good can be achieved by educating everyone and the art community will prosper accordingly. We believe there are many identities, values and variances within the art community, which we strive to reflect.
a.) Alternative, community-based systems treating neither the artwork nor the artist as a commodity.
b.) Eliminating all laws which seek to restrict or censor artistic expression, including withholding of government funds for political or moral content.
c.) Increased funding for the arts appropriate to their essential social role at all levels of government: Local, State, Tribal and Federal.
d.) Community-funded programs employing local artists to enrich their communities through public art programs. These could include, but would not be limited to, public performances, exhibitions, murals on public buildings, design or re-design of parks and public areas, storytelling and poetry reading, and publication of local writers.
e.) The establishment of non-profit public forums for local artists to display their talents and creations. Research, public dialogue, and trial experiments to develop alternative systems for the valuation and exchange of artworks and for the financial support of artists (e.g. community subscriber support groups, artwork rental units, cooperative support systems among artists, legal or financial incentives to donate to the arts or to donate artworks to the Cherokee National Museum, or other Cherokee museum).
f.) Responsible choices of non-toxic, renewable, or recyclable materials and choosing funding sources not connected with social injustice or environmental destruction.
g.) Education programs in the community that will energize the creativity of every community member from the youngest to the oldest, including neglected groups such as teenagers, senior citizens, etc. These programs would provide materials and access to interested, qualified arts educators to every member of the community who demonstrates an interest.
h.) Incorporating arts education studies and activities into every school curriculum with appropriate funding and staffing. We also encourage local artists and the community to contribute time, experience, and resources to these efforts.
i.) Diversity in arts education in the schools, including age-specific hands-on activities and appreciative theoretical approaches, exposure to the arts of Cherokee culture and stylistic tradition, and experience with a variety of media, techniques and contents.
j.) The integration of the arts and artistic teaching methods into other areas of the curriculum to promote a holistic perspective.