Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is it worth the risk?

Crackdown on Fake Indian Arts and Crafts

Sep 25, 2007 05:22 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C--Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said today that a recent jury verdict is an example of an ongoing crackdown on sales of fake Indian arts and crafts led by the Department of the Interior Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

A jury in Gallup, New Mexico, convicted local arts dealer Amro Al-Assi of fraud on August 16, 2007. The Board is currently conducting other investigations into those who sell counterfeit American Indian arts and crafts.

"This verdict should send a strong message to the Indian arts and crafts marketplace and to the buying public that sales of counterfeit or otherwise misrepresented Indian arts and crafts to consumers will not be tolerated," said Kempthorne. "Such fraudulent sales are eroding the market for authentic Indian work."

Al-Assi, then co-owner and manager of the Silver Bear Trading Company in downtown Gallup, was convicted of selling a counterfeit bracelet as the work of a well-known Navajo jeweler, Jesse Monongya, whose original works command high prices in the market.

The purchaser of the bracelet had originally filed a complaint with the Board at Interior. The Board enforces the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a federal truth-in-marketing law that prohibits the sale of arts or crafts that are counterfeit or falsely represented as American Indian or Native American made, or as the product of a particular individual Indian artisan, unless the item was produced by a member of a federally or officially state recognized Indian Tribe.

The Board collaborated with Interior's Office of Inspector General, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Gallup, New Mexico, to launch a joint investigation. By collaborating with the Eleventh Judicial Division II District Attorney's Office in Gallup, District Attorney Karl R. Gillson's office ultimately chose to prosecute the case under its state fraud statute.

"McKinley County District Attorney Karl Gilson and his staff are to be highly commended for their outstanding expertise, dedication, and hard work to obtain this important conviction. The Board is continuing to receive additional information regarding fraudulent activity in the Indian arts and crafts market, and we are pursuing other investigations," said the Board Director Meridith Stanton.

DA Gillson said that there was "no room to plead this down to anything less than a felony" but to take it to trial and let the local community of jurors hear and decide Al-Assi's fate. Gillson said, "Clearly, the jury sent the message that maintaining the integrity of communities and of the Native American arts and crafts industry is vital and important to the Indian peoples' livelihood and the communities' economic endurance." Mr. Gillson said that his office "will continue to collaborate with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and other federal and state law enforcement agencies to combat this tide."

Most recently an agreement between Interior and the FBI was finalized that authorizes all appropriate Interior law enforcement professionals, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, to investigate complaints filed under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

(U.S. Department of the Interior)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Smithsonian Names New Director

Law Professor to Lead Indian Museum

WASHINGTON (AP) — A law professor from Arizona was named director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indianon Tuesday.

Kevin Gover, a member of the Pawnee tribe, will succeed founding director W. Richard West Jr., who led years of planning for the museum and its first three years of operation. West announced his resignationin October 2006 and will leave the museum in November.

Gover, 52, grew up in Oklahoma and currently serves as a professor of law at Arizona State University. He also is co-director of the university's American Indian Policy Institute and an affiliate professor in its American Indian studies program.

Gover said he is honored to lead the Smithsonian museum and will start work Dec. 2.

"The museum's mission of educating the public about living Native cultures is an important and challenging one, and I am grateful for the opportunity," Gover said in a statement.

President Clinton appointed Gover to serve as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1997 to 2000. He oversaw programs including Indian education, law enforcement, social services and treaty rights. He also practiced law for 15 years in Albuquerque, N.M., and Washington.

Acting Smithsonian Secretary Cristian Samper said Gover's experience in Washington and with Indian communities and his knowledge of history and culture will help bring the museum's resources to the broadest possible audience.

On the Net:
National Museum of the American Indian:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Smithsonian - Native Arts Program

The Smithsonian has recently awarded a Visiting Artists grant to a lady out of Indiana who *claims* to be Cherokee, but who is not even a registered tribal member with any of the Federally Recognized Cherokee Tribes, Oklahoma, North Carolina or UKB. She does however, belong to a *Cherokee Group* in Indiana, that at one time tried and failed to get Federal Recognition. This grant then allows a non Indian to paw through many treasured Indian artifacts.

How can this be you ask? Well we're wondering that as well.

These are the Qualifications for the grant:

"Who is eligible to apply? Native artists from the Western Hemisphere and Hawai‘i who are recognized by their community, have at least ten years of experience, and can demonstrate significant artistic accomplishments. Artists working in any media (visual arts, media arts, performance arts, literature, etc.) are eligible to apply."

The Smithsonian does not have any requirement that this *Artist* have a Tribal Registration Number or Letter from their Tribe that they are a member or non member artist.

As many registered tribal members know, there are a great many people who *claim* Indian heritage but have no proof that they are even Indian. There is a growing number of groups *claiming* to be Indian, as well as the selling of tribal memberships to illegal immigrants. These groups in turn then apply for Title VII grants through the public schools, again without any proof of tribal membership, just that *they have some type of story that they are Indian*. The Schools actually send out information telling parents they only need to have this *story* they are Indian to enroll their children in these Title VII programs.

This type of conduct on the part of the federal government and federal institutions such as the Smithsonian is a slap in the face to Indians and Indian Artists. This is a modern day case of the Cherokee Nation vs Georgia, where the whites came in and claimed the Cherokee's home land and the federal government just stood by and watched and then forcibly removed the South Eastern Indians from their home to the North Eastern part of Oklahoma. This is just another way to decimate and destroy the Indian Culture.

Credible Indian grant or scholarship programs make these the required proof to show Indian Blood:
1. A Card issued by a Tribal Council
2. A letter from the Tribal Council
3. Definite proof of a parent belonging to a tribe and applicant's birth certificate with exact names.

You'll notice that in 1 and 3 require some type of evidence that the applicant is indeed a member of a tribe or Indian and 2 requires confirmation by a tribe the applicant is an Indian.

As you may know, there are many families that have *stories* that they are *part* Indian or there is an Indian ancestor in their line, however, unless this is provable, that elusive Indian ancestry remains a myth.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the Native Americans has no credibility, are you really viewing Native American artifacts there or are you viewing a claim of Indian artifacts. Or do they even care?

The Smithsonian would be well advised to revisit and revise it's requirements for these grants.

Apparently as long as she doesn't *sell* any products the IACB has no jurisdiction to prevent anyone from calling themselves a Native American Artist, in this case a Cherokee Artist.

I find it extremely strange that an artist would do work and then not *sell it*.

The IACB likewise would be well advised to extend their guidelines and regulations of who is an Indian Artist to all those calling themselves an *Indian Artist*.

It does not appear that either the Smithsonian or the IACB is preserving the Art of the American Indian.

Support Authentic Cherokee Art - ask for the Artist's Tribal registration number before you buy!!

Cherokee Style, Cherokee Heritage and Cherokee Descent all mean non Indian!

For more information and help or to file a complaint on these or any of the growing issues with these *Indian Groups* contact:

Changing Winds - Fraudulent Tribes And The Damage They Cause
National Congress of American Indians - Is your tribe real? Both state and federal recognized tribes are listed here. If it's not listed here your tribe is a fake.

For authentic Cherokee Art and Artists:

Cherokee Basket Weaver's Association
Cherokee Basketweaving Books
Cherokee Artists Association
Cherokees of Orange County