The US Department of the Interior hosted a listening session attended by NATIFS members in early April at RES2023. The session was offered to gather Tribal input on draft revisions to 25 CFR Chapter II (Indian Arts and Crafts Act).
Draft revisions to the Act, first passed in 1935, include an expansion to the definition of what is an Indian Product, the allowance for non-Native labor to be used in the production of Indian art, and a trademark to certify Indian Products, among other topics.
The Act is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in the marketing of Indian art and craft products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell, any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. Some traditional items frequently copied by non-Indians include Indian-style jewelry, pottery, baskets, carved stone fetishes, woven rugs, kachina dolls, and clothing.
Chef Sean Sherman advocated an expansion of the definition of Indian Arts and Crafts to include the culinary arts, which include regional ingredients and processes unique to Native foodways. Inclusion of culinary arts in 25 CFR Chapter II would provide protections and recognition to Native food producers and their contributions to Indigenous food sovereignty.
This session was an opportunity for Tribal members to express support and concern about draft revisions. Some attendees identified their frustration over the lack of enforcement tools against non-Native vendors who falsely claim their goods are Indian Products, and the negative impact that has on Tribal artists and Nations. The session included input from representatives of Indigenous-owned 8th Generation and the Native Art Market in Scottsdale, AZ, as well as individual artists, shop owners, and state- and federally-recognized Tribal members.
The Department of the Interior will be holding listening sessions and taking written comments from Tribal leaders and artists until September 1, 2023. To learn more about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and to let your voice be heard, visit the US Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs.