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


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 http://www.ciaccouncil.org/
Indian Arts and Crafts Board/ U.S. Department of Interior http://www.iacb.doi.gov/
Indian Arts and Crafts Association www.iaca.com

mkamerick@bizjournals.com (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 - www.cahokiamounds.com - 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.''