Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just in case...

Are you wondering if that piece of Indian jewelry or that basket you bought while traveling through the south, is authentic Indian art work...or any piece of Indian art work you might purchase...

Another way to determine whether or not an Artist is Native American, if you know the tribe, call their Tribal Registration office and ask....:) Not sure they all have a formal type of registration office but someone in the tribal office will either know them or their family. Most tribes have a web site and make sure you're not dealing with a fake tribe! The DOI/BIA has a website that lists all the recognized tribes as well.

You'll find Tribal staff more than willing to help you and they are very cordial to work with!!

Just's that simple!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hillerman Dies at 83

(although he wrote many Navajo themed books, Hillerman is not Native American or Navajo)

Hillerman's evocative novels, which describe people struggling to maintain ancient traditions in the modern world, touched millions of readers, who made them best sellers. But although the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with a purpose, he often said, and that purpose was to instill in his readers a respect for Indian culture. The plots of his stories, while steeped in contemporary crime and its consequences, were invariably instructive about ancient tribal beliefs and customs, from purification rituals for a soldier returned from a foreign war to incest taboos for a proper clan marriage.

"It's always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures," Hillerman once told Publishers Weekly. "I think it's important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways."

Hillerman was not the first mystery writer to set a story on Indian land or to introduce a full-blooded Native American detective to crime literature. In 1946 the grand prize in the first short-story competition of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine went to Manly Wade Wellman for the first of two stories he wrote with an Indian protagonist.

But beginning with "The Blessing Way" in 1970 the 18 novels Hillerman set on Southwest Indian reservations featuring Lieut. Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, brought a new dimension to the character of the traditional genre hero.

for the full article:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Indian Arts and Crafts Protection Collaborative

Padilla: Combating fake Indian Arts and Crafts: a proposal for action
By Helen B. Padilla

Story Published: Oct 14, 2008
Story Updated: Oct 14, 2008

In 1935, Congress enacted the first of several laws – the Indian Arts and Crafts Act –aimed at putting an end to trafficking in non-genuine Indian arts and crafts. Exactly 70 years later, in 2005, the U.S. Interior Department's inspector general estimated that nearly one-half of the $1 billion generated each year by the market for Indian arts and crafts comes from the sale of non-authentic goods – fakes. Most knowledgeable observers believe that the inspector general's estimate is far too low.

Nearly three-quarters of a century after the federal government acted to protect a critical source of income for many Native artisans and their tribal communities, they still benefit from only a fraction of the income generated by that market. A large part of the fake goods in the U.S. market is produced overseas and then sold in the United States at prices that undercut what Native artisans need to charge for their work to make a viable living.

Perhaps even more alarming than the economic impact, the huge number of fakes in the marketplace puts the cultural knowledge and value embodied in, and transmitted by, Native arts and crafts at risk. The consequences of this massive swindle are all too sadly familiar – livelihoods damaged, traditions compromised and tribal economies undermined.

The laws enacted specifically to deal with the problem of fakes – the Indian Arts and Crafts Act and its state counterparts – have been ineffective in stopping the problem. A major reason for the ineffectiveness of the current laws is that these are consumer protection/truth-in-advertising laws. As such, they focus on wrongdoing at the level of individual retail transactions. In a $1 billion-a-year market, this sporadic prosecution of individual retailers is little more than an exercise in futility. Clearly, there is a need to tackle the problem using other creative methods.

One such mechanism is the federal international trade laws. The U.S. laws that regulate international trade are broadly effective in protecting our economy from injurious imports and could serve as the basis for a highly effective enforcement initiative targeting imported fakes, particularly if these trade laws were used in conjunction with the existing consumer protection laws. An enforcement initiative utilizing the U.S. trade statutes (particularly Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930: 19 U.S.C. § 1337), would start the enforcement effort at the other end of the distribution chain by targeting the importation of fakes into the United States and their distribution by dishonest wholesalers after they enter the United States.

These laws all provide for a private right of action; that is, they can be invoked by parties other than federal and state law enforcement agencies. Tribal governments and individual Native artists can bring suit under these federal international trade statutes to stop the sale of fake Indian arts and crafts. By taking responsibility for enforcing these federal statutes through private litigation, Indian tribes that are directly harmed by their violation can take specific, concrete steps to halt this long-running attack on the economies and culture of Native people. The American Indian Law Center Inc., the country's oldest Indian-controlled and Indian-operated legal and policy nonprofit organization, located in Albuquerque, N.M., is coordinating such an enforcement effort.

The AILC's first step will be to invite all interested stakeholders, including tribal governments, Native American arts and crafts cooperatives, and individual artisans to participate in the Indian Arts and Crafts Protection Collaborative. The purpose of the collaborative will ultimately be to instigate legal action using federal international trade laws to stem the tide of fake Indian arts and crafts illegally entering the U.S.

The collaborative will, in time, bring private litigation at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., and, subsequently, in federal district court seeking broad injunctive relief barring the importation and trafficking in fake Indian arts and crafts as well as monetary damages from large U.S. distributors engaged in such trafficking. The outcome of this effort would be twofold: the work of Native artisans could once more be priced at its true value, and the integrity of the cultural and economic well-being of Native artists and their tribal communities would be effectively protected.

At the National Congress of American Indians' 65th annual convention in Phoenix next Friday, Oct. 24, the NCAI's General Assembly will vote on a resolution of support for the enforcement initiative outlined above. On Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m., this enforcement initiative will be the subject of a special breakout session. I urge the tribal governments to support this resolution. More importantly, I urge the formation of a broad coalition of tribal governments, arts and crafts organizations, individual artists, and other individuals and organizations committed to authenticity in Native arts and crafts to come together to support and to participate in this initiative by joining the collaborative.

Helen Padilla, a Native of Isleta Pueblo, is the new director of the American Indian Law Center Inc. A licensed attorney practicing Indian law, she is also chair-elect of the Indian Law section of the State Bar of New Mexico and vice chair of the Laguna Gaming Control Board

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Beadwork Storytellers

Media only: Judy Pierce (918) 456-6007, ext. 230
Beadwork Storytellers – a Visual Language Exhibit
opens at the Cherokee Heritage Center

PARK HILL, Okla. – This exhibition brings together southeastern beaded artifacts that currently reside all over the world, back to the local descendants of their creators for a one-time special showing. Beginning October 11, 2008 Beadwork Storytellers – a Visual Language Exhibit will be on display through April 19, 2009 at the Cherokee Heritage Center. The exhibition is closed the month of January.

The exhibition features approximately 30 superb historical southeastern beaded artifacts and 20 of the most remarkable contemporary beadworks ever produced. In addition there will be rare photos along with other rare items that provide us with a spectacular view of true southeastern beadwork craftsmanship. Learn the stories and history that have been passed down for generations through threads, textiles and beads.

Cherokee Heritage Center, Curator, Mickel Yantz and guest Curator, Martha Berry collaborated with private collections and numerous museums throughout the world including the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, the Denver Art Museum, the American Museum of National History, the Autry National Center and many more. Funding is made possible in part by a grant from the Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

On Saturday, November 1, 2008 the Cherokee Heritage Center will host a reception from 2 pm to 4 pm open to the public. During this one-time reception there will be no admission charge to the Cherokee Heritage Center

The Cherokee Heritage Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information on this exhibition please contact the Cherokee Heritage Center at (918) 456-6007, toll free at (888) 999-6007, or visit the website at

Indian Arts and Craft Bill expands investigative arm of BIA, FBI and DOJ

September 30, 2008

Senate approves important update to Indian Arts and Crafts Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate (John McCain is the sponsor of this bill) unanimously passed S. 1255, The Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act, which strengthens the investigative and enforcement authorities of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. The bill was authored by Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). It passed Sept. 23. "Native American arts and crafts are the only art indigenous to America," Kyl said when he first introduced the bill.

"In authentic reproductions and mass-produced knockoffs undercut sales of genuine articles and undermine traditional artisans' techniques. It would be a tremendous loss to the entire country's cultural heritage to lose these traditions."

The original Indian Arts and Crafts Act, co-authored by Kyl when he was a member of the House of Representatives, was enacted to protect Indian artists and craftspeople, businesses, tribes and consumers from the growing sales of arts and crafts wrongly represented as being produced by Native Americans. A "truth-in-advertising" law with civil and criminal provisions, it prohibits the marketing of products as "Indian made" when they are not made by Indians.

The legislation expands the investigative authority under the original act. Other federal law enforcement entities, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement, in addition to the FBI, may investigate cases of misrepresentation and work with Department of Justice attorneys to prosecute the cases.

"Since the original act was passed, it has become clear that the law enforcement provisions need to be strengthened," Kyl said. "The improvements made in this legislation will help to increase the number of complaints that are investigated and prosecuted.

"This is legislation that everyone can agree is important and necessary," Kyl added. "It's my hope that the House will act on it this year."

The bill must now receive approval in the House of Representatives before the end of the congressional session if it is to become law.

to track the bill S-1255:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cherokee Nation enforces new Arts and Craft Act

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – This Cherokee National Holiday, anyone marketing themselves as Indians and operating vendor booths on Cherokee Nation property must be able to prove citizenship in a federally recognized tribe or face expulsion.

for the rest of the story:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Knock-offs hurt Authentic Native American Artists

Native American artists say counterfeits, knock-offs hurt them

Earl's Resstaurant in Gallup is internationally known for its fine food and offerings of Native American art.

Copyright © 2008
Gallup Independent
By Karen Francis

Diné Bureau

GALLUP — Earl’s Restaurant in Gallup has been a tourist and local hotspot for decades with vendors on-site who have sold their arts and crafts directly to customers for generations.

With an estimated 1,000 vendors coming in to the restaurant to sell on a good weekend, it’s no wonder that some can slip by and misrepresent themselves or their products, though any misrepresentation is not tolerated, Ralph Richards, one of the owners of Earl’s, said.

When such an incident happens, Richards said that the restaurant has a three strike policy. For the first incident, a vendor cannot sell there for 30 days. A second violation prohibits a vendor from selling for 60 days. With a third violation, the vendor is out for good.

Counterfeits and cheap knock-offs of Indian arts and crafts jewelry affect the marketplace, where vendors have to sell their items at lower costs or resort to using cheaper material to sell at the lower cost.

“These imports have forced them to compete on that market level,” Richards said.

Angie Gray Benito, a vendor who sets up in the restaurant parking lot, agreed. She has been selling there since the restaurant was located across the street from its current location.

“They go around selling them real low. That hurts our stuff that we hand make,” she said.

Bryan Ben, a vendor who walks around inside the restaurant selling handmade pottery, said that misrepresentation also affects him.

(for the rest of the story, see the link above)

Fight Faking Indian Items

Fake Indian art flourishes as regulators eye legal actions
New Mexico Business Weekly - by Megan Kamerick NMBW Staff^1702557

The jewelry and baskets at the Council for Indigenous Arts and Culture’s booth at the Eldorado Hotel are beautiful, but most are forgeries.

Tony Eriacho and Pam Phillips, who run CIAC’s Western and Midwestern offices, respectively, speak with curious attendees in town for the Santa Fe Indian Market about the displays. The group is on a mission to teach buyers how to spot fake American Indian jewelry and crafts. That, in turn, protects Indian artists and ensures the continuation of these traditional art forms, Phillips says.

Unfortunately, that’s getting increasingly difficult as more sophisticated forgeries flood the market.

“In the ’70s, it was easy to tell the fakes,” she says.

One of the displays at the booth is an array of gemstones, only nine of which are real. She says a gemologist examined all of them and even he couldn’t find all the forgeries.

Another display features a variety of pieces in Native designs, most of which were manufactured in Asia. And it’s not just jewelry. Replicas of Navajo rugs are being made in India and Mexico. Baskets in the display come from Pakistan.

Phillips doesn’t have hard numbers on the sales of such fakery, but says they represent a billion dollars or more annually.

“It’s gone from being 20 percent of the market in the ’70s to 60 to 80 percent of the market,” she said.

State officials are taking notice. Recently, Attorney General Gary King filed two lawsuits against Santa Fe retailers of American Indian art for alleged violations of the New Mexico Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act and the Unfair Practices Act, and for fraud or negligent misrepresentation.

The suits allege that Golden Bear Trading Inc. and Yousef Nassar, doing business as Santa Fe Indian Jewelry, sold pieces that were falsely represented as having been made by renowned Navajo artist Calvin Begay and that they gave discounts on the pieces that were in violation of state regulations governing pricing and price advertising.

Neither business would comment on the lawsuits. Phillip Sisneros, public information officer with the Attorney General’s office, says the state gathered information for the actions from several sources, including representatives from the CIAC and the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board. He said the office does not discuss future plans for enforcement or prosecutorial actions, but added that King is “dedicating continuing resources to address this issue.”

“We can expect to see additional progress in efforts to protect consumers and Native artists in the future,” he says.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Board is working with other states on additional enforcement actions as well as the National Park Service, says Meredith Stanton, spokeswoman for the Board, which is under the U.S. Department of Interior.

CIAC launched in 1998, in part because the founders saw few results from the 1990 federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, Phillips says.

The group also works to connect artists directly with buyers through events such as the El Dorado show during Indian Market.

Eriacho, a member of the Zuni Pueblo, said CIAC held its first wholesale show in Denver this year and will do another one next March. It also will hold a retail show at Isleta Casino and Resort Nov. 15 and 16. CIAC plans to address the upcoming National Congress of American Indians in Phoenix on stopping the proliferation of fake Indian art, Phillips says.

The most important thing regulators can do right now is close a loophole in the U.S. Customs regulations that allows overseas importers of fake Indian jewelry to avoid putting a permanent stamp on a piece indicating its country of origin, she says.

The federal regulations state that items must carry such an indelible mark, unless it’s commercially or technically infeasible, she says. However, many fraudulent pieces are stamped with initials or other symbols that often trick buyers into thinking they are buying an authentic piece initialed by the artist.

“So they have proven it’s not infeasible,” Phillips says. “If we could just get that enforced it would be one thing that helps customers.”

Disclosure in everything is the key, she adds. Some buyers will see the “Made in China” stamp and not care because they like a piece. But at least they will know where it came from.

Buyer beware

How to ensure you're buying authentic Am. Indian arts and crafts Buy directly from the artist whenever possible.

Get an original receipt that includes the name, full address and phone number of the business/artist, tribal affiliation, a specific description of the purchase, including the materials used, and the value of the purchase.

Know these definitions:

“Indian handmade” or “authentic Indian arts and crafts” mean any product that is entirely made by American Indian hand labor, using manually controlled methods, and not by a machine.

“Indian crafted” is any item that is made only in part by an American Indian, or that is partly or completely made by an Indian using machines.

If a seller says an item is “authentic Indian art” or that it is “Indian handmade,” ask the seller to write that on your receipt.

If that representation is false, the seller has violated the New Mexico Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act, entitling you to repayment of the purchase price if you return the item.

Sources: Council on Indigenous Arts and Culture and the Consumer Protection Division of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office

More resources:

Council on Indigenous Arts and Culture
Indian Arts and Crafts Board/ U.S. Department of Interior
Indian Arts and Crafts Association (505) 348-8323

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Mexico cracks down on Fake Indian Jewelry

New Mexico AG targets fake Native American jewelry


SANTA FE, N.M. (Legal Newsline)-At least 50 percent of the Indian jewelry on the New Mexico market is misrepresented in some way, an official in the state attorney general's office told Legal Newsline.

"Various other people who will tell you that as much of 75 percent of what's sold is misrepresented. There's general agreement that it's at least 50 percent," said Assistant Attorney William Keller.

He said the Native American jewelry market is being pressed and made difficult for hundreds of artists to sell their works and maintain a living.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Art tells Native American's Story

Missouri cave paintings give prehistoric timeline details of region

Posted: September 08, 2008
by: The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The story begins, as many do, with curiosity.

About 20 years ago, two men exploring a place known as Picture Cave found paintings on the rock walls and sent hand-drawn reproductions to archaeologists Jim Duncan and Carol Diaz-Granados.

''These things are fake!'' Duncan remembered thinking at the time. As it turned out, the nature and location of the drawings contradicted widely held beliefs about Mississippian culture.

The figures on the walls of the cave in east-central Missouri now provide crucial details of the prehistoric timeline of the region. And there's recent evidence that the paintings in Picture Cave predate the Cahokia Mounds as the birthplace of what archaeologists refer to as the Mississippian period.

According to archaeological records, the Mississippian period saw the creation of some of the first large towns and city centers north of Mexico. The conventional belief has been that this period started around 1050 A.D., but the drawings in Picture Cave indicate the period began earlier and in a different location.

The husband-and-wife team of Duncan and Diaz-Granados has investigated the drawings for years. Duncan recently discussed the significance of Picture Cave at a meeting of the Boonslick Archaeological Society.

The ancient symbols contain mysteries, some of which are inevitably lost forever. Others are pieces to a puzzle that archaeologists have pored over for centuries.

The rock paintings at Picture Cave depict cultural beliefs of more than a thousand years ago, and possibly represent the earliest account of the Mississippian Period.

''It is beyond any doubt the most important rock art site in North America,'' Duncan said.

Although he said the cave is in the central part of eastern Missouri near the Missouri River, he wouldn't give details of its location.

The cave is on private property about an hour from Columbia, and its preservation is of utmost importance to the archaeologists, he said. The landowner is also adamant about protecting the site; it was years before Duncan and Diaz-Granados were able to negotiate to see the drawings firsthand.

To Duncan, the paintings showed evidence of American Indians of many tribes converging for religious purposes in what is now Missouri. It seemed to Duncan to have been a place of peace for at least three of the four local tribes.

Duncan believes the significance of the drawings might be on par with the Cahokia Mounds, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Illinois that has been studied for centuries in an effort to understand American Indian culture.

The Osage Indians of the American Southeast, judging by Duncan's and Diaz-Granados' discovery, might have had a larger role in the Cahokia Mounds than previously believed.

The Web site for the Cahokia Mounds - - compares the site to Mecca or the Vatican. The Mounds are thought to have been the capital of the Mississippian culture.

Duncan is convinced the drawings in Picture Cave were made by the same people who constructed the Cahokia site.

This would have remarkable implications for the history of both the lower Missouri River Valley and Cahokia. Linking these two areas could reveal much about the period and its people, he said.

A specialist hired by Duncan and Diaz-Granados analyzed tiny amounts of organic matter in the pigments of the paint and dated them to 975 to 1025 A.D. ... One drawing was dated to 800 A.D.

''These images, which are very sophisticated and very complex in representing supernatural beings, turned out to be older than the Cahokia Mounds,'' Duncan said.

Most of the prehistoric art found in Missouri was made after the construction of the mounds, and the newly discovered drawings could help foster an understanding of the people who lived before that time.

Bill Iseminger, assistant site manager of Cahokia Mounds, said the artwork at Picture Cave could ''push back a little earlier the continuity of prehistory in the region.''

Iseminger added, however, that it is still to be proven whether these sites are as important as Duncan makes them out to be.

The pictures depict weapons and community hunting tactics. Duncan interprets other paintings as symbols of supernatural heroes such as the winged bird-man, ''Morning Star,'' and the hero twins known as ''Children of the Sun.''

''That kind of symbolism is prevalent in the Mississippian period,'' Iseminger said. ''To discover an earlier birth of the period would connect the culture heroes of these works to an earlier time than anyone thought.''

Duncan is particularly intrigued by the cosmic system the paintings represent, particularly their depiction of life after death. His specialty is interpreting such prehistoric symbols.

The paintings, he said, ''show human beings becoming part of the cosmic system ... they are realistic portrayals of supernatural beings that look like humans. Their powers are shown in unique body parts and elements of clothing.''

Some of these interpretations might have been lost along with their civilizations, even though the American Indian descendants of the Osage tribe, including those of its four divisions - the Omaha, the Panca, the Kansa, and the Arkansa - are still around today, dispersed across the American Southeast.

''This should be of great interest to people in Columbia because the environment that we are only getting used to was inhabited by these cultures for thousands of years,'' Duncan said. ''They were much more acclimated to it, and their ideologies show how closely people can be related to an environment such as ours.''

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another Fake con job

The term "Native American Flute" is used to describe the style of flutes that I create. It does not imply that the flute is made by a member of a Native American tribe. Actually, I am, as most of you are, a "Native American". This is due to the fact that I, like so many of you, was actually born in America. However, in order to comply with mandates set down by The Department of the Interior I have included this disclaimer.

It has been brought to my attention that Native American style flutes are now being mass produced in China, Pakistan and other third world countries. I've had people in China try to order my flutes for dubious reasons. They're even counterfeiting the Jonah Thompson flutes! Strangers sometimes come by my booth with their video cameras and do their best to take pictures sometimes using a double team. One person tries to distract me while the other films away. I know that they want to "knock them off" and sell them cheaply. Ask yourself this question. "Do I want a flute made by some prison slave laborer or poor woman who is being paid ten cents a day, or do I want a Native American flute that is made in this country by someone who really cares about the instrument and the Spirit in which it was conceived?" The time is here that if you want certain products, you have no choice but to buy Chinese. Let's not let that happen to the Native American flute. I encourage you to "Buy American" when it comes to this instrument. (I encourage you to buy Authentic Native American! Get the Artist or Makers name and Tribal Number to insure you are really purchasing Authentic Native American items.)

(the lower paragraph demonstrates why it is important to get the Artist or Makers name and tribal number before you purchase an *Indian/Native American* item. An Authentic Native American Art piece must include this information. I guess China and Pakistan are going to go into competition with the knock off artists. Authentic Native Americans were here before the Europeans arrived, not those of European decent who were born here - he tries to confuse the two with the first statement)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can't make to Oklahoma - there's one in North Carolina....:)

The Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual Co-op in Cherokee will host its 6th Annual Qualla Open Air Indian Art Market from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 30.

The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual gallery is open year-round. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The gallery is located on Highway 441 N in Cherokee at 645 Tsali Boulevard or visit

Cherokee National Holiday - Labor Day Weekend - don't miss it!

Celebrate American Indian heritage at the Cherokee National Holiday-Heritage Arts and Crafts Show in nearby Tahlequah. This Labor Day weekend event attracts visitors from around the world. Plans include a colorful parade, arts, crafts, food vendors, traditional American Indianmusic and a powwow. The event will be held at the Cherokee Heritage Center.

A place to learn Cherokee History and Culture is with the Cherokee people

Cherokee Heritage Center museum store gets renovation

Posted: August 20, 2008
by: Staff Reports / Indian Country Today

Photo courtesy Cherokee Tourism -- The Cherokee Heritage Center museum store will open Memorial Day weekend with a new look. A recent expansion created gallery-like displays for Cherokee art and artifacts.

TULSA, Okla. - The Cherokee Heritage Center museum store opens Memorial Day weekend with a new look. The store, which serves as the main entrance to the museum, underwent a $90,000 renovation in August to create a gallery-like display for Cherokee art and artifacts available for purchase. The renovation is part of a two-phase construction and redesign project for the Cherokee Heritage Center, located in Tahlequah.

''Part of what we do here at Cherokee Nation Enterprises is help restore and revive our Cherokee history and culture, which is prominently put on display at each of our Cherokee Casino locations,'' said David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Enterprises, which operates Cherokee Casinos and multiple other retail businesses. ''We have many other businesses and departments that work outside of the casino, helping to promote the Cherokee Nation and its culture. The heritage center is a longtime example, and we were happy to be a part of the redesign.''

The project was a design of Resource Design out of Rogers, Ark.

''The heritage center is a place of history, education and cultural pride for an entire nation. The goal of the redesign of the heritage center's museum store was to allow the culture of the Cherokee Nation to be displayed through their art, literature and hand-crafted keepsakes while creating a fluid transition to the heritage museum.

''This contemporary and fluid environment is created with the use of custom fixtures, etchings and other subtle visuals throughout the facility, offering visitors insight into the Cherokee history and culture,'' said David Hook, senior designer of Resource Design.

The heritage center is governed by the Cherokee National Historical Society Inc., a nonprofit organization, and is operated with significant support from the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Enterprises. It has served as a national historical and cultural preservation site for the Cherokee Nation since its living village opened in 1967, followed by the museum and gift shop in 1974.

The concept of this redesign was to create better continuity between the retail space and the heritage museum, while still capturing the essence of Cherokee culture as with the original design of the structure.

Phase two of the heritage center construction and redesign plan will include a new parking lot and aesthetic renovations to the atrium and restrooms.

For more information about the Cherokee Heritage Center, visit or, or call (888) 999-6007.

Cherokee Nation Member new director of IAIA

New director at Institute of American Indian Arts

Posted: August 19, 2008
by: Brenda Austin

SANTA FE, N.M. - The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum has announced the appointment of Patsy Phillips as director, effective Aug. 11.

Phillips, a member of the Cherokee Nation, joins IAIA from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., where she spent more than eight years heading up the museum's contemporary art initiative as director and developing a strategic plan which was launched earlier this year.

''I received a call from Robert Martin [president of IAIA] when I was in a transition phase at NMAI,'' she said. ''I was trying to figure out if I was going to implement the strategic plan I had worked so hard on, or if I wanted a new challenge. That was a major initiative that I undertook and completed for NMAI.''

Her first goal as museum director is to create and implement a strategic plan complementing the work she and her staff at NMAI put together. ''The two institutions have a memorandum of understanding and it would be great if the team at NMAI and IAIA work together to advance the dialogue of contemporary Native arts. I would also very much like to see IAIA partner with other organizations that are working in that area as well.''

Phillips graduated in December 2007 with a Master of Arts degree in nonfiction writing from Johns Hopkins University and also holds a graduate certificate in museum administration from Harvard University. ''I was asked to write an article about six years ago for NMAI, and I discovered there are a lot of American Indian women who make significant contributions to their communities and there are very few stories written about them. It has become an interest of mine,'' she said.

Phillips said she likes to work collaboratively and hear what other people would like to see the IAIA museum accomplish. ''There is so much that has not even been tapped in the area of contemporary Native arts. I am excited; it will be a good challenge.''

The IAIA Museum houses the National Collection of Contemporary Indian Arts, with more than 7,000 objects created by some of the best-known names in American Indian and Alaska Native fine arts. In addition to showcasing the work, the museum creates a living connection with indigenous artists and IAIA art students by providing hands-on experience in art and museum studies.

IAIA is active in promoting exhibitions, performances, lectures, demonstrations and residencies, which help empower creativity and leadership in Native arts. IAIA is the only museum in the United States solely devoted to exhibiting contemporary American Indian art forms.

''There is so much work we can do that will be really effective nationally at IAIA. There are a lot of individuals in the Santa Fe area and around the world that support the institution. I also believe some of our best artists are alumni from IAIA,'' Phillips said.

For more information about the museum or IAIA, visit or call (505) 424-2351.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sale of Eagle Feathers is Against the Law

Ruffled feathers

Sale of eagle feathers is against the law

By ELOISE OGDEN, Regional Editor,

POSTED: July 26, 2008

Eloise Ogden/MDN

Eagles, whether in the wild or like this bald eagle in Minot's Roosevelt Park Zoo, are protected by federal laws.

When an e-mail recently circulated advertising a genuine eagle feather warbonnet for sale, the notice instantly signaled a red flag to officials from the Three Affiliated Tribes' Game and Fish.

They checked it out and contacted the party, letting them know what they were doing is illegal.

"The most important thing is that whether it is an eagle feather plume or any type of eagle feather, it is against the law to sell them," said Vonnie Alberts, New Town, press secretary for the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation."Game and Fish has done a good job of intervening and letting people locally

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Only the Cherokee can tell this story - this is great news

WCU Craft Revival program helps preserve and document history of Cherokee basketry

By Michael Beadle

To behold a Cherokee river cane basket is to look upon centuries of hands. Hands that turned living plants into works of art. Hands that learned to double weave geometrical patterns so tightly these baskets could carry water. Hands that carried baskets from farms and hearths to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears.

Cherokee basketry carries an ancient history that dates back some 10,000 years, but despite its enduring cultural prominence, there’s been relatively little academic documentation of this craft as it has been passed down through the ages by oral tradition. However, through a recent grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, researchers and librarians from Western Carolina University are teaming up with staff and directors from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual to preserve this history with a guidebook and a digital archive on a Web site.

The project — “From the Hands of Our Elders” — is a massive undertaking that will include gathering and taking thousands of photographs; collecting information about the basket makers, their patterns and materials; and setting up a Web-based archive. There’s also training in how to archive artifacts and how to document collections for a museum. Those involved with the project are already lauding it as a success as Western Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians continue to strengthen their mutual agreement to promote and honor the region’s indigenous history.

“It’s really an educational process for us,” said Vicki Cruz, manager of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, a crafts co-op where Cherokee and other Native American crafts are sold.

Cruz and her staff have been learning how to clean and care for their gallery’s permanent basket collection and to keep records of the baskets from the materials and dyes used to when they were made and who made them.

“People didn’t sign their baskets way back when,” Cruz said.

Now they do. While some of the basket makers’ names have been lost or forgotten, others — thanks to the documentation of this grant project — will be saved for posterity. Names like Rowena Bradley, Eva Wolfe, Lucy N. George, Lottie Stamper, Nancy Bradley, Sallie Wade, and Mary Jane Lossiah. The focus of the project will be on basket makers from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Over the past three years, Anna Fariello, a research associate professor and Craft Revival Project director at Western Carolina, has been working with regional craft schools, archivists and librarians at Hunter Library to launch an impressive digital archive that tells the story of the Craft Revival in Western North Carolina. The Web site — located at — offers photos, essays, lesson plans and other resources to help share the history and legacy of the Craft Revival from the 1890s to the 1940s, which helped Appalachia gain national acclaim for its homegrown arts.

Steeped in this research and archiving, which has been funded by $100,000-per-year grants from the North Carolina State Library, Fariello and her colleagues wanted to broaden their scope to include Cherokee crafts. Looking at the Cherokee basket as an emblematic example of Cherokee craft, Fariello sought to dovetail the “Hands of Our Elders” project into the Craft Revival Project. Thanks to a $47,000 grant this year from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, Fariello and her Craft Revival team will be able to compile photos and history about Cherokee basketry and link research, photos and history to the Craft Revival Web site.

The grant will also pay for staff training in archiving methods and the publication of a 40- to 60-page in-depth booklet on Cherokee basketry. The guidebook will serve as a reference for tourists and local residents who want to learn more about authentic Cherokee crafts.

“The story [of the Craft Revival] cannot be told without the Cherokee,” Fariello said at a reception last week at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual. “This is something the Cherokee community asked for. They wanted something tangible for the community to use.”

Amid last week’s fanfare with the Festival of Native Peoples and the ongoing summer outdoor drama production “Unto These Hills,” this archival and research project between Cherokee and WCU is generating a lot of interest throughout the region as a model for digitally documenting art history.

“I think it’s great that this original research is being done,” said Jenny Moore, associate director of Hand Made in America.

As people come to the region and learn more about the history behind the crafts they buy, a Web site or a guidebook can help enhance their experience.

“It’s great to send them to a resource like this where they can learn more,” said Moore.

Robert Conley, the new Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies at Western Carolina, is also intrigued by this research project, particularly at a time when tribes across the country are working to establish their own authentic stories after so much of Native American history has been told through the lens of a Anglo-American slant. As the author of The Cherokee Nation: A History, Conley has done his share of research, but he knows history and cultural preservation also need funding. Many point to the millions of dollars amassed from Harrah’s Casino as a key to helping set up the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, which in turn doles out grants to various Cherokee cultural preservation projects on the Qualla Boundary and throughout the region.

These so-called “casino tribes” wield more influence these days, Conley said, and as a result, programs like Cherokee language immersion for young children can have a chance to grow.

In addition to language preservation and translation projects, there’s a river cane initiative aimed at preserving the cultural landscape of Cherokee. The long-running “Unto These Hills” outdoor drama was recently rewritten and re-choreographed to include more Cherokee and Native American actors and dancers. What some are calling the “Cherokee Renaissance” has also been helped by a major, award-winning ad campaign from the Asheville-based Goss Agency. Attendance to Cherokee venues has increased in recent years with an impressive marketing plan of billboards, posters, brochures, commercials and print ads spotlighting the dancing Warriors of Ani Kituhwa.

“From the Hands of Our Elders” adds yet another facet to the rich story of the Cherokee.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fake Cherokees Exposed

Need to know if you're dealing with an Authentic Cherokee Tribe or Member:

Calling the registrar's office of the Cherokee Nation to confirm whether someone is or is not a Tribal citizen is another way to verify tribal citizens.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Smithsonian Does Good

(This is the reason why authentic Indian is so important at not only the Smithsonian but all institutions that claim to preserve Indian Art and Artifacts)

Research takes students on personal journeys

By BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian

Three weeks ago, five University of Montana students embarked on an academic reconnaissance mission to Washington, D.C.

Funded by the Smithsonian Institute, the young researchers were given a month to accomplish the following objectives: Explore the National Archives and locate all records, documents, recordings, photographs and artifacts pertaining to Montana's Indian tribes.

Make copies of significant findings and map the vast collections where the history is found so others can pick up the trail and find the material over the many summers it will take to copy and bring Montana's Indian history home.

For students Wilena Old Person, Helen Cryer, Miranda McCarvel, Eli Suzukovich III and Glen Still Smoking II, the colossal assignment is both an academic honor and a personal journey unlike any they have ever undertaken.

Entombed in the windowless caverns of the Smithonian's National Anthropological Archives, where the air is stale and the landscape is dominated by floor-to-ceiling filing cabinets, are the stories of their ancestors - the stories of an early Montana few people know.

Add to that prestigious repository all the material regarding Montana's tribes stored in the Library of Congress plus the National Archives, and the information-gathering possibilities quickly overwhelm even the most dogged archivist.

“It's overwhelming and exciting,” said Miranda McCarvel, whose grandparents homesteaded in eastern Montana. “There is so much to find and go through that we all have to remind ourselves to take a deep breath and that you can only do it a day at a time - and that it's worth doing.”

Just how massive is the project?

Eli Suzukovich put it this way: In just one Bureau of Indian Affairs file covering the time period 1881 to 1907, an estimated 2 million pages contain information about water rights irrigation, land sales, and correspondence between Indian agents and the Federal Indian Commission.

Given the mountains upon mountains of material, the hunt can easily become daunting, said Suzukovich, who is of Little Shell and Chippewa-Cree heritage. Luckily, just when the research starts becoming tedious, a thrilling nugget of history is overturned and that gets everyone re-energized.

Sometimes the discovery is an academic treasure, sometimes it is far more profound, like finding the late-1880s deportation orders of the Canadian “half-bloods” also called the “Red River half-bloods” of his Cree relatives.

Such academic work, Suzukovich said, quickly becomes a personal matter.

“It can be a little emotional,” he said. “You are looking at records of somebody you are related to and it's kind of cool to see those chapters of your family's history you didn't know about.”

Glen Still Smoking said words don't really explain how he felt when he unearthed an 1889 letter written by his great-great-great-great-grandfather Mountain Chief, a Blackfeet chief who wrote about a situation regarding his father, also named Mountain Chief.

The letter, addressed to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, states: “The Mountain Chief and Lame Bull - Two Piegan Chiefs made a treaty at the mouth of the Judith River Mont. With Gov. Stevens, about 1855. The Mountain Chief was my father. When he died I turned over his papers and medals to Agent Armitage, he gave me a copy of the treaty which I have since lost. ... I write to ask if you can get me a copy, as I would like very much to have it.”

According to their family story, all of Mountain Chief's belongings - including the treaty - burned when fire destroyed his home, Still Smoking said.

Two other letters from Mountain Chief were found, each asking for a response from the commissioner.

“At first, it took me by surprise that the federal agents didn't follow through,” he said, “but then I wasn't so surprised.”

Still Smoking said he's not sure if Mountain Chief ever got his wish, but he understands why his ancestor made multiple attempts for a response.

The 1885 treaty in question was the Blackfeet tribe's first with the United States, he said, and that time period was filled with great changes for the Blackfeet and all Montana tribes.

“Mountain Chief wrote this letter after the Blackfeet had subsequently sold the Sweetgrass Hills but before the agreement to sell the land that is now Glacier National Park and the Badger Two Medicine lands,” explained David Beck, a UM professor of Native American studies and adviser to the student researchers. “It would have been important for tribal leaders to have copies of the treaties when they were arguing for their rights, and among other things, the 1885 treaty had created a 99-year common hunting ground for many Plains tribes down in the area where Dillon is now.”

A few days later and in a different file, McCarvel came upon a disturbing 1892 letter written by Z.T. Daniel, an Army physician at the Blackfoot Agency, who tells of collecting Indian bodies from graves, which he sent to the Fort Assiniboine and eventually became part of the Smithsonian collection. (It beyond me, however, why anyone would want *bodies* as part of their collection much less taking them from their graves.)

“I have gotten the crania off at last. I shipped them today. ... There are fifteen of them,” Daniel wrote. “The burial place is in plain sight of many Indian houses and very near frequented roads. I had to visit the cemetery at night when not even the dogs were stirring. This was usually between 12 a.m. and daylight. After securing one (a head) I had to pass the Indian sentry at the stockade gate, which I never attempted with more than one for fear of detection.”

Daniel explained his hunting coat had large pockets and was good for carrying and hiding the stolen skulls. “Nearly every time I saw wolves who howled at me, they were always near the dead bodies,” he explained. “The greatest fear I had was that some Indian would miss the heads, see my tracks and ambush me, but they didn't.”

With just one week remaining in their inaugural mission, the students are uncovering more than Beck could ever have hoped.

“This is just an amazing crew of students,” he said. “They have been very enthusiastic and conscientious and really engaged in what they are finding.

“What they are doing is incredibly hard work. You don't find gems of information every single day, and what they have found so far is incredible.”

Everyone involved with the research had an inkling the project would take several years to complete.

Now that they've gotten a good sense of what the archives hold, the enormity of their quest has become exceedingly clear.

“It's obvious we are at the very beginning of a very long journey,” Beck said.

With continued funding from the Smithsonian's American Indian Program, which gives each student researcher a modest stipend and an airline ticket, and with additional funding yet to be determined, the project will likely take eight to 10 years to complete.

Copying and converting all the materials into digital format that can be accessed by computer will be costly. But whatever the price tag may ultimately be, the expense is worth the opportunity for full public access to a remarkable and critical part of Montana's history, Beck said.

As the materials are copied and brought back, they will be made available to Montana's tribes for their own records, and turned over to UM's library for public use.

UM's library will instantly gain world-class stature when the stories and knowledge come out of storage back East, Beck said.

Few people have the time or the resources to comb through the national archival repositories, and much of Montana's Indian history between 1881 and 1907 - which covers critical issues such as the establishment of boarding schools and the end of bison on the Great Plains - can only be found in microfilm and individual documents that are strictly controlled by the National Archives, which is difficult to navigate.

“Once these documents are up on the Internet for all to see, there's no way to know how it will change things,” Beck said. “So much of the material has a very real personal connection to people alive today, and we will never know all the impacts this project will have.”

From the sidelines, Jason Younker is cheering on the Montana researchers.

He led a crew of University of Oregon students on a similar journey in the 1990s, when the Smithsonian's JoAllyn Archambault, director of the National Museum of Natural History's American Indian Program, provided the same funding support.

“From my perspective, you know you are Indian but there's equity in paper truth,” said Younker, a member of Oregon's Coquille tribe who now teaches at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“When you are actually reading these documents and seeing the name of your family, you become very much attached to those who not only recorded it, but proud someone took the time to memorialize your family.”

There's no way to know the ripple effect of his team's successes in finding and making public the once-buried history of his tribe.

But in recent years, dozens of master's and doctoral theses have sprung from the material, several books are in the making, and Indian history in Oregon is being re-written. He expects the same will unfold in Montana when the material becomes available at UM.

“You have all these memories floating around about tribal people and their history and what actually happened, and then you have the history books that don't necessarily portray the personal connection and the personal histories,” Younker said. “When you sit down and read these fantastic documents, you realize that history has stolen from you the truth and you get a new sense of what actually happened.

“There are a lot of Native people that felt incomplete because who are they to challenge history texts and historic interpretation - and now you have a brand new voice through old documents telling a slightly different story in a different time period.

“We can all learn from that.”

Emboldened by their research and excited for future discoveries, the UM students are making their own history by taking every advantage of their unique assignment.

Last week, they met with Montana Sen. Jon Tester, and this week they meet with the rest of Montana's congressional delegation, Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Dennis Rehberg.

“We are telling them how important this project is and that is should get funded until the work is done,” said Wilena Old Person, granddaughter of Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person.

Old Person said she was inspired to help arrange the meetings with the delegation after finding in the archives letters her grandfather wrote to the nation's top political leaders.

“I was excited to see how he influenced not only Blackfeet tribal history but the tribal history of Montana,” she said. “And this project is going to take a good amount of years, but it's important to all of Montana.”

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sophisticated Foreign Fake Southwestern Baskets

Southwestern Style baskets from foreign countries like Africa and Pakistan are now appearing on the US markets:

"Southwest Style Extra Fine Baskets - 26" - Ripple Flower
Giant extra fine quality southwest style basket that is 26 inches in diameter. These make wonderful wall displays or could be used for holding items around your home. Hand-made in Pakistan from vegetal dyed fibers and are based on traditional Native American basket designs. The weave is tight and they have a very solid feel. Superb. We only have one in this size and pattern. Please note that this will be an oversize shipment and anything other than UPS ground will be quite expensive."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Another FAKE calling herself a Native or Cherokee Artist

This is how FAKE Indian Artists steal the Identity of true Native American Artists.

They not only hold themselves out as Indian or Cherokee but then claim to be an authority on our art; notice she never mentions she is not a member of any tribe - by this non statement she implies she is a tribal member:

This is her resume, yet she tells everyone she does not sell her work:,2477,300803-18510-20942,00.html,1366,28156-4390-20942,00.html

These are all lost opportunities for enrolled tribal artists and a continuing misrepresentation to the public that her work is authentic.

Check her out live on YouTube:

Robin McBride Scott will be coming to Muskogee to give a presentation at the Five Civilized TribesMuseum. The presentation will be called "Rivercane Usage by Native Peoples and will begin on June 27, 2008.

Let the Five Civilized Tribes Museum know you disapprove of their support of artists that are not Authentic Indian/Native Artists:

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Self ID is just another Story

A question of identity

The Comanche Nation informed KU that a professor who claims he's Comanche is not an enrolled member of the tribe.

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

The Comanche Nation has disputed the claims of a KU professor that he is a Comanche Indian, and accused him of benefiting professionally and financially from his unconfirmed ethnicity.

Ray Pierotti, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who also teaches in the indigenous nations studies program, told The University Daily Kansan in an e-mail that he has never identified himself as an officially enrolled member of the tribe. However, he has claimed to be Comanche in numerous public forums and in a federal discrimination lawsuit he and his wife, Cynthia Annett, filed against the University of Kansas.

While Ray Pierotti acknowledges he is not an enrolled Comanche, he claims Comanche ethnicity, which has a role in University hiring and personnel matters. Although at one time being an ethnic minority could result in discrimination, today it can be an attractive asset to job applicants as universities seek to increase diversity among faculty and staff. The University keeps track of the ethnic makeup of faculty, but equal-opportunity officers said faculty and applicants identified their own ethnicity and the University, unlike tribal authorities, did not require them to provide evidence. Racial and ethnic identity have long been contentious issues. The issue has become more prevalent since equal opportunity laws have passed and Americans have been asked to identify their racial and ethnic backgrounds more frequently.

Pierotti, who said in an e-mail that he was not teaching this semester because he was on “bereavement-related Family Medical Leave,” declined repeated requests by The Kansan to discuss his ethnicity or the allegations that have been raised against him. One of his brothers, David Pierotti, said in a telephone interview from his home in California that their mother told him that her mother was a Comanche from Oklahoma. However, another brother, Nick Pierotti, and an uncle and cousin said that Pierotti’s great-grandparents on their mother’s side were Polish and immigrated to the United States from Europe.

Comanche Nation officials have sent two letters to KU administrators, the latest to the Chancellor’s Office in January, informing the University that Pierotti was not an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation. In the January letter, they asked the University to post disclaimers on publications or Web sites that identify Pierotti as Comanche. Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Provost Richard Lariviere declined requests for interviews to discuss Pierotti’s claims or the Comanche Nation letters.

Students of Pierotti’s said that he had been a great mentor who had gone out of his way to help them and had brought an Indigenous perspective to the science curriculum. Clouding the debate are claims by David and Ray Pierotti that a family dispute over the care of their late father, who died in October, motivated their brother Nick to send an e-mail alleging that Ray Pierotti is not ethnic Comanche as he claims to be. The e-mail was sent in late October to people in several departments at KU including The Kansan and to offices of several other Native American Studies departments and tribal organizations across the United States.

Official enrollment in a tribe is controlled by tribal governments, who see it as their sovereign right to determine their own members. Enrollment typically requires proof of a percentage of Native blood and can carry with it tribal voting rights, access to benefits and a share of financial rewards in tribal businesses and land.
Comanche claims:

Pierotti has been at the University since 1992. In that time, he has mentored Native students and was named Tribal College/University Mentor of the Year in 1998 by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. He is identified as “a member of the Comanche Nation” in his biography for that award.

Pierotti is also identified as a Comanche in the 2004 annual report for the National Science Foundation; a 1997 article in Earth Science magazine; a KU news release about the 2005 Big 12 Native American Student Leadership Conference at KU; in BioHawk, a privately funded annual newsletter produced by the Division of Biological Sciences of KU; and in an article published in the Journal of American Indian Education.

A Web site soliciting nearly $400,000 in funds for a documentary that Pierotti was involved with, “Powwow for the Planet,” described him as “a Penateka Band Comanche and one of a very few tenured Native American scientists in U.S. universities.” The Web site was taken down after the allegations were raised last semester. It is back up now, but there is no longer any mention of Pierotti’s Comanche heritage.

In 1998, Pierotti and his wife, Cynthia Annett, filed a lawsuit against the University claiming that he faced racial discrimination because of his Native ethnicity and that she had been a victim of gender discrimination. The acts of discrimination that he cited included: removing laboratory space from him, revoking his position as chairman of the department of Sytematics and Ecology’s Minority Affairs Committee and “denigrating” his award for mentoring minority students.

Attempts to reach Pierotti by telephone were unsuccessful. His wife said in an e-mail to The Kansan that after consulting his doctors, her husband would not consent to an interview for this story.

Ray Pierotti said in an e-mail that allegations by his brother Nicholas were the result of “an ugly family tragedy.” David Pierotti echoed that statement. However, complaints that Ray falsely claimed to be Comanche arose long before his brother’s e-mail.

Heidi Mehl, a third-year graduate student who has worked with Pierotti, said she didn’t believe the allegations when she heard about them.

“I’ve never had any reason to question it,” Mehl said of Periotti’s ethnicity. “Anyone who knows him knows the claims don’t hold any water. It’s really easy to make those claims when you have other motives. That’s an easy subject to attack. Identity is a really thorny issue to get into.”

What Comanches say:

The Comanche Nation first complained about Pierotti’s claims when Monnarhae Henry, the tribe’s enrollment director at the time, sent a letter to the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2006 saying that Ray Pierotti was not an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation. Copies of the letter were sent to Michael Yellow Bird, who was the director of Indigenous Nations Studies at the time, and the Office of the Provost. The University said it did not become aware of allegations against Ray Pierotti until Fall of 2007, nearly a year after the letter was sent, but Yellow Bird said he received the letter.

Wallace Coffey, chairman for the Comanche Nation, said they were first alerted about Ray Pierotti about five years ago by Comanche students from KU and Haskell.
“They are not the type of individuals who would judge or make any assumptions,” Coffey said. He said the students started asking basic kinship questions about Pierotti’s family.

“He just couldn’t respond,” Coffey said. “Our people would say it’s just another white man professing to be Native and using what little knowledge he has to try to take advantage of us.”

On Jan. 4, 2008, the Comanche Nation Business Committee, made up of elected leaders of the tribe, sent a second letter to the Office of the Provost. The letter, signed by eight tribal leaders, said Ray Pierotti still was not an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation.

The letter stated in part:

“The Comanche Nation is the only entity that can determine Comanche Nation citizenship. Pierotti’s self-identification as Comanche and the University of Kansas’ lack of effort to substantiate his claims shows disrespect to our tribal sovereignty and is an affront to the legitimate Comanche people. In essence, he is benefiting professionally and financially from unsubstantiated claims of Comanche identity for which the exclusive criterion is tribal enrollment.”

The tribal leaders asked the University to apologize for failing to acknowledge the first letter and to include a disclaimer that said “Raymond Pierotti is not an enrolled member or citizen of the Comanche Nation” on all University Web sites that identified Pierotti as a Comanche.

Coffey said he had not received any response from the University.

Lynn Bretz, director of University Communications, said that the KU administration could not discuss matters relating to personnel because of the individual’s right to privacy.

Bretz said when the University was first made aware of allegations against Ray Pierotti last fall, the University reviewed them and discussed them with Pierotti. Bretz said the University took matters of academic integrity and scholarly misconduct seriously. She said the University had a serious review process that included listening to complaints and gathering evidence.

According to University Senate Rules and Regulations, academic misconduct for an instructor includes: “grading student work by criteria other than academic performance, willful neglect in the discharge of teaching duties, falsification of research results, plagiarizing of another’s work, violation of regulations or ethical codes for the treatment of human and animal subjects, or otherwise acting dishonestly in research.”

The Comanche Nation, a federally recognized tribe, requires that those who enroll for membership must be able to trace their lineage back to the 1887 Dawes Act and must be at least one-eighth Comanche as determined by blood quantum, which is the calculation of an individual’s Indian blood.

To enroll, an ancestor with Comanche heritage must first be enrolled. Pierotti’s parents are both deceased and people cannot be enrolled posthumously.

Ray Pierotti said in an e-mail that he wrote to the Comanche Nation and told them that he had never identified himself as an enrolled member of the tribe. However, he declined to discuss the specifics of his Comanche ethnicity.

Others have also expressed concerns about Pierotti’s claimed heritage. After Nick Pierotti sent the e-mail with the allegations about his brother Ray, Devon Mihesuah, professor of indigenous nations studies, sent him a reply thanking him. Her e-mail reply was intended only for Nicholas Pierotti, but he posted it online on discussion boards without Mihesuah’s consent.

In her response, Mihesuah said that she had questioned Pierotti’s Comanche identity and challenged his ability to teach in the indigenous nations studies department. She said she complained “endlessly” to KU administrators and even asked to be removed from the department. Her husband, Joshua Mihesuah, is an enrolled member of the Comanche tribe. In the message, she said that they had “been aware” of Pierotti’s claims for almost 10 years, and that she was “frustrated that KU chose to look the other way.”

Devon and Joshua Mihesuah both declined to comment for this story.

Tribes determine:

Angelique EagleWoman, visiting assistant professor of law, said that tribal nations are sovereign and thus determine their own members. She said institutions like the University should contact the tribe before they identify faculty or students as American Indian.

The National Native American Bar Association created guidelines about tribal identity for public institutions in 2007. They encourage institutions of higher education to require individuals who identify as Native American to provide information that will support their claim to ethnicity.

EagleWoman said people who are descendants of a tribe but are not eligible for enrollment should identify themselves as descendants. She said if institutions honored tribal sovereignty, ethnic fraud would not be a problem.

Linda Sue Warner, the president of Haskell Indian Nations University and an enrolled Comanche, said it was important that tribes determined who to include as members.
“Tribes get to say,” Warner said. “It’s really not a genetic issue; it’s a tribal sovereignty issue.”

When Warner became president of Haskell, the Comanche Nation had a celebration in Lawrence to honor her achievements. Coffey said that he did not see Pierotti during the celebration.

The other side of the debate:

Others say that tribal enrollment is an oppressive construction that alienates some Natives.

“I think it’s whitewash,” said Michael Yellow Bird, associate professor of indigenous nations studies. “It’s a colonial invention of the U.S. government. I don’t believe in it.”

Yellow Bird is Sahnish and Hidatsa. His official blood quantum level is 28/32, while several of his brothers and sisters have a perfect blood quantum level of 4/4, even though they have the same parents.

“A lot of people don’t regard tribal enrollment systems with a lot of respect and credibility,” he said.

A copy of the letter from the Comanche Nation’s enrollment office was sent to Yellow Bird in 2006 when he was director of the indigenous nations studies department. Yellow Bird said he wasn’t concerned because many people who are Native are not enrolled members of a tribe and because some people who are enrolled members aren’t really Native.

“I asked him and he said he was,” Yellow Bird said of Pierotti. “That was good enough for me.”

Yellow Bird said what mattered was the performance of a person. He said Pierotti had guided a lot of students through KU and Haskell, many of whom have become successful scientists. Yellow Bird said students gravitated toward Pierotti.

“He was a good mentor,” Yellow Bird said. “He showed up to meetings (of the First Nations Student Association) when no other faculty did.”

Dustina Abrahamson, a second-year graduate student and one of Ray Pierotti’s students, said Native governments were the only ones that required a pedigree for citizenship.

She said that was problematic because many Natives don’t have a high enough blood quantum for any one tribe to enroll. Even some full-blooded Indians cannot register with certain tribes because their blood quantum is so diverse among different tribes, she said.

Abrahamson has worked under Ray Pierotti and taken several of his classes. He is her adviser in the Indigenous Nations Studies department at KU. She said Pierotti inspired her to come to KU for graduate school.

“In my perspective and my view, Dr. Pierotti is as much Native as I am,” she said. “His spirit, his heart is truly indigenous.”

Abrahamson is a full-blooded Shoshone Indian. Shoshones and Comanches are considered cousins.

Abrahamson said a lot of people look at how others look on the outside rather than who they are on the inside.

“He doesn’t fit the mold in a stereotypical view of what Native instructors are supposed to be,” Abrahamson said.

She said what matters is being proud of your heritage and who you are, and Ray Pierotti is.

Abrahamson said she and other students had been made aware of the allegations by an e-mail that was sent out to a select group of students and faculty members in the indigenous nations studies department last semester. She said the e-mail was “mean and hurtful and ugly.”


Nick Pierotti said in a phone interview that his brother decided to create a false Comanche identity many years ago in order to take advantage of affirmative action when he was struggling to get a job. He said Ray chose Comanche because the Comanche Nation didn’t keep good records of family history.

David Pierotti, Ray’s other brother, said their grandmother on their mother’s side was Comanche. He said Nick made up the allegations as an act of retaliation.
David Pierotti said the brothers were not immersed in their Comanche heritage growing up in a middle-class suburban neighborhood, but that he remembered stories his grandmother would tell about animals and growing up in the West.

As an adolescent, David Pierotti said his heroes included Crazy Horse and Tecumseh. He said his family was not interested in gaining tribal membership, which he said was for people who were trying to receive tribal benefits. He said his mother tried to find out more information about their Native ancestry but was unable to.

David Pierotti said he and Ray both worked with Native groups and that they had never sought or received any gain from it. He said he thought it had actually hurt his brother’s career, but that Ray got a lot of gratification from helping Native students.

“He and I have both done this kind of thing because we felt a sort of obligation to help,” David Pierroti said.

David’s wife, Josephine, said she recalls his mother telling stories about her background — both Polish and Comanche — on “many, many occasions.”

Nick said that their mother was aware that Ray identified himself as Comanche and that she thought it was wrong.

“There were never any stories told around the kitchen table that we were Native American,” Nick said.

Their grandmother died before Nick was born, when David was just four years old and Ray was eight-years-old. Her son Joe Orie — uncle to the Pierotti brothers and brother of their mother — said in a phone interview with The Kansan that his mother was not Comanche. He said she was born in Natrona Heights, Penn., and lived her entire life in that area. He said his mother’s parents were of Polish descent and came to the United States from Europe.

Jack Orie — cousin of Ray, Nick and David — corroborated that statement. He said he and his family were “shocked” when they heard about the claims of Comanche heritage. Orie’s father, John, could not be reached for comment.

Joe Orie said that he had not seen his nephews, the Pierotti brothers, for many years but that he talked to their mother (his sister) on the phone every few months until her death in 2003.

The identity issue:

Linda Fund, assistant director of the KU Office of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, said that for University purposes, it was up to each individual to identify his or her ethnicity and the University did not require faculty to provide evidence.

According to the most recent survey of faculty done in Fall 2007, 11 faculty members, including three associate professors, identify as American Indian. American Indians had the smallest representation of any ethnicity out of 1,534 total faculty. The University declined to say whether Pierotti was one of the 11.

Fund said that the University did not give special consideration to applicants of a minority ethnic group, but that the University did strive to ensure that the KU campus was reflective of the population’s diversity and demographic make-up.

In his statement about diversity, Provost Lariviere has stated: “The community of KU reveres individual worth and dignity and believes that advocacy for diversity and inclusion is a major responsibility entrusted to all campus community members.”

Marilyn Harp, executive director of Kansas Legal Services, said there was no law that made it illegal to falsely identify oneself as being of a certain ethnicity but that people had been terminated from jobs for breaching the trust of their employers.
“Because race isn’t supposed to be a factor, to say that has something to do with his hiring and success suggests that the laws aren’t working well,” Harp said. “Except people are paying attention to race, which isn’t supposed to be a factor.”

The Comanche Nation expressed concern to the University that Pierotti was using his claims of Comanche heritage to acquire employment-related benefits, to enhance his credibility in the classroom and on grant applications and to gain support and academic acceptance for his scholarship.

In his article, “The Morale of Faculty, Students, and Staff under a Corporate Model: The Case of the University of Kansas,” Pierotti wrote that he was only “the second Native American tenure-track faculty member at KU.”

He is also identified as Comanche on an annual report for a research program he led, Recruiting Native American Students into Environmental Sciences, for which he and others received more than $400,000 in grant money from the National Science Foundation. The report states: “Being of a Native American (Comanche) heritage and familiar with many of the problems faced by Native students planning careers in environmentally oriented research, Dr. Pierotti acts as a mentor …” As of 2002, the reports for that program stated that it had helped more than 25 Native students to graduate with science degrees from the University, some of whom went on to attend graduate school.

Mehl said she had benefited from Pierotti’s grants as one of his students.
“Any claim that he would be getting rich off of some claim to Native American identity is ludicrous. I’ve never met two people who are more honest or more transparent,” Mehl said of Pierotti and his wife, Annett. “They go out of their way to provide opportunities to students through those grants.”

Mehl said Pierotti should be commended for his actions.

Abrahamson said Pierotti brought an indigenous perspective to science. Instead of looking at land as something to exploit as many do, Abrahamson said Pierotti taught his students that they were equal with nature.

Mehl said she appreciates Ray Pierotti’s indigenous world view and holistic approach to sciences. Mehl said Pierotti teaches that everything is connected.

Mehl said people who are trying to reconnect with their heritage should be embraced.
But if Pierotti is not Native, he is teaching under false pretenses and could be denying a job to someone who is a Native.

“They’re being taught Native values by someone who isn’t,” Nick Pierotti said. “There are plenty of Natives that could be holding the position that my brother is in.”

The question that has been raised by Nick Pierotti and others is not whether Ray Pierotti is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, which he is not, but rather whether he is Comanche at all.

Cornel Pewewardy, who is a member of the Comanche Nation and taught at the University from 1996 to 2005, said that falsification of tribal identity was like identity theft.

Pewewardy said that he didn’t know Ray Pierotti well but that he saw him at pow-wows for the First Nations Students Association and that they were on a committee together.

“There was all kinds of conversation,” Pewewardy said about Pierotti’s claims about his ethnicity. “I’m pretty sure he’s not. He contends that he is.”

Pewewardy said a basic element of identity is knowing who you’re related to. “If nobody knows you from back home and they’ve never heard of you, it becomes suspect,” Pewewardy said.

— Edited by Jared Duncan

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tips on Purchasing Authentic Native American Art

Ask to be given a written description or certificate of authenticity with your purchase;
Always keep written records and receipts together for your history/documentation file.

These are just a few of the tips at the Indian Arts and Craft Association located in New Mexico, website:

IACA Preserves Native American Art Market

The Indian Arts and Craft Act doesn't prevent anyone from making and selling their art - it does however, limit who can or can not call themselves Indian and their art Indian - contrary to what this article would have you believe - it preserves the Native American Art Market for Native Americans. If collectors don't care about the Indian ID that is for them to decide when they purchase art; however, it is indeed up to each tribe as to who is or is not a tribal member and thus can call their art as Indian. Usually those claiming Indian Ancestry but are not members of Tribes, State or Federal recognized, are not able to prove their Indian Ancestry and in some cases don't even know which ancestor *might* be Indian, they operate from a purely *Family Story* without any documentation.


Does the law exclude Native American Craftspeople?

Among strong supporters of the law are Native Americans who recognize that some American Indians have been unfairly excluded. Craig Ueltzen of Pasco, Wash., whose enrolled Cherokee mother makes a living selling ink drawings, chastised “people who claim tribal membership just to jump on the bandwagon of Native American art since it’s popular right now.”

Veltzen conceded that some tribes’ sloppy bookkeeping in their census rolls “and people hiding out during the registration years” in the 19th and early 20th centuries have led to individuals who have been unfairly prohibited from claiming their ancestry.

Cherokee potter and sculptor Victoria Mitchell Vazquez of Welch, Okla., says requiring proof of enrollment for shows is “a good practice,” while acknowledging that “I do know of other Indian artists who cannot prove their Indian blood, and I feel for them.”

The law, however, is strict and allows no room for sympathy. “Saying who is an Indian is not, and should not be, a judgment call,” Pourian says. “I need proof.”

Considering the fact that some objects — jewelry, especially — in the Indian market shows sell for as high as $10,000 or more, the disputes over who may participate in these events can become quite bitter.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act, for its part, does not prohibit anyone from creating any kind of arts and crafts objects they like, nor does it prohibit any collector from buying it. The statute may simply make some artisan’s work a bit more difficult to find. “The law creates deeply invidious situations for tribal people,” says Rayna Green, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, “as tribes become gatekeepers for a system they did not create but must uphold in order to maintain their sense of themselves as sovereign people. When art is thrust in the middle of it, it’s kind of sad.”

Cherokee Nation Art Act Passes

Cherokee Nation Arts and Craft Act:

Anyone who sells art within the Cherokee Nation must be a Cherokee citizen or a member of a federally recognized tribe.

Indian Arts and Craft Board at Work

Vermont Basketmaker Contacted By Federal Officials About Native Arts Labeling

Written by Jedd Kettler
Friday, 22 February 2008
The County Courier

VERMONT: If you doubt there is a need to change Vermont's Native recognition law to protect Abenaki artists and craftspeople, basketmaker Jesse Larocque suggests you look no further than an email he received from the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board this week.

That email was sent on Tuesday, Feb. 19, from IACB Support Specialist Ken Van Wey. It outlines federal law and suggests that Larocque - a member of the St. Francis/Sokoki Band of Missisquoi Abenaki - stop advertising his work as Native-made.

The IACB is part of the United States Department of the Interior and administers federal Native arts labeling regulations.

Van Wey's email suggests Larocque "should refrain from selling (his) work as Indian, Native American, or as the product of a particular Indian Tribe until (his) group is officially recognized."

In an email response the same day, Larocque wrote, "It looks like you are on a witch hunt... or a fishing expedition." Later in his email, Larocque suggested, "Perhaps you may want to level your guns in a different direction."

Larocque, of West Danville, pointed to grants he has received in the past, particularly a grant from the federal National Endowment for the Arts – which referred to him as a "Master Abenaki Basketmaker" – support from the Vermont Folk Life Center, and several court cases he has won defending his rights as Native American.

"So basically what we've got is one side of the government that says, 'Okay, you guys are Indian,' and another that says, 'You are not,'" Larocque said in an interview with the County Courier, Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, what Larocque and many other artists and craftspeople say they are working to preserve a culture which has already seen years of pressure and repression.

"It's not like I'm out there doing something that is harmful. It's preserving heritage and culture," said Larocque.

The IACB email and Larocque's response have been posted on the Vermont Commission on Native Affairs website, since Wednesday.

IACB Director Meredith Stanton declined to comment Thursday, Feb. 21, about either email. Stanton said her office does not discuss complaints they receive or specific "law letters" sent out to individuals they believe are in violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

She said that some 95 percent of "law letters" sent from her office are in direct response to complaints they receive. Such letters vary widely in their seriousness, from those meant primarily to educate artists and craftspeople about labeling requirements to more direct legal action.

"I think any way you look at it, not only are you educating someone, you're also putting them on notice," Stanton said. "We want them to know what the definition (of 'Indian') is under the Act ... We want anyone and everyone to know about this."

When Vermont's Native recognition law, S.117, was passed in May, 2006, many believed Abenaki artists here would be protected when labeling their work as Abenaki-made.

For Larocque, this week's email draws a clear picture of the current vulnerability of Vermont's Native artisans and craftspeople.

"The situation with me presently will allow them to see what will continue to happen if (S.117) is not repaired," Larocque said on Wednesday. "My view is, apparently S.117 falls short of protecting Abenaki and needs to be addressed ... The reality is S.117 is not working."

Federal officials have said for over a year that S.117 stops short of recognizing specific Indian groups and therefore does not protect individual artisans. In a February, 2007 interview with the County Courier, Stanton suggested that a "legislative solution" would be the best solution.

In addition to the suggestion that Larocque not label his work as Abenaki unless his group is recognized by the State, Van Wey's email also describes labeling requirements under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which is "designed to prevent the marketing of art and craft products as 'Indian made when they are not, in fact, made by Indians as defined by the Act."

The Act defines an Indian "a member of a member of a federally or officially State recognized Indian Tribe" or someone who is certified as a non-member artisan in such a group.

The email comes just days after the Vermont Senate Economic Development Committee heard disparate testimony on the need for changes to the State law. The current proposed amendment aims to set up a process for recognizing specific tribes and bands in Vermont. While several people testified that the amendment is either not necessary or that the proposed process is flawed, this week's IACB email to Larocque echoes Stanton's own written testimony last week. Her testimony stops short of endorsing the current proposal, though.

The amendment "answers many of our concerns about the State's recognition process but it remains to be seen whether specific Abenaki 'tribes' are recognized consistent with the federal Act," according to Stanton's testimony.

State recognition of tribes and bands is also separate and very different from federal recognition.

As Stanton wrote in her testimony, State recognition is distinct from federal "recognition as a sovereign Indian tribe."

Ultimately any solution in Vermont needs to come from the State government, Stanton said this week.

"We appreciate the fact that the State of Vermont is working toward a solution to fix it ... It's the State of Vermont, it's something that they have to address," said Stanton.

The current situation does highlight a need for clarity and change to Vermont's protections for artists and craftspeople, though, said both Larocque and VCNAA Chairman Mark Mitchell.

On Wednesday, Mitchell said, "Vermonters in general should know where S.117 stands. Vermonters should work together to try to move (the proposed amendment) forward ... To me a process is really the only way to move forward."

Mitchell said the Commission's goal since beginning work on the issue in fall 2006 has always been to ensure Vermont's Abenaki artists are protected. When federal officials told him at that time the law did not allow Vermont artisans to label their work, the VCNAA began work to define a process to achieve that protection.

Mitchell said, "We didn't set things in motion. This is all being driven by the federal government."

Mitchell said he was not surprised by the email Larocque received this week.

"I think it was only a matter of time. This could be only the beginning," Mitchell said. "As I wrote on the (VCNAA) website, 'The Feds are coming.'"