Wednesday, April 23, 2008

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.”