Gabe Galanda: Companies still abusing Indian Arts and Crafts Act

Jessica Metcalfe of Beyond Buckskin has been urging Internet retailer Etsy to comply with the Indian Arts and Crafts Act but the company so far is refusing to hold its sellers responsible for marketing their goods as "Native." One shop offers a "Native American" bag with a "Navajo Tribal Print" but is actually based in Thailand.

Attorney Gabe Galanda, a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, calls on the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to strengthen enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act in order to prevent companies like Pendleton Woolen Mills and Etsy from violating the law and taking business away from Native artists:
Consider Pendleton Woolen Mills, a 100% non-Indian owned company that currently markets 290 products as “Native American,” including 233 as “Native American Inspired.” But with the exception of 15 of 120 wool blankets, Pendleton’s products appear to be non-Indian made.

Pendleton’s advertisement of its 120 wool blankets, in particular, falsely suggests to consumers that Native Americans produce these products, in violation of the Act. Adding insult to injury, the company advertises that it is “pleased to support the tenets of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.”

It gets worse.

In 2014, the Board entered into a settlement with Pendleton for advertising its blankets as “Native American.” As the Board explained in a press release: "Pendleton’s marketing of this product violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, 25 U.S.C. §305e because it did not sufficiently make clear that the Blanket was not produced by genuine Indian artisans and therefore did not qualify as an ‘Indian Product’ as defined by the Act."

Under the settlement, Pendleton paid “$41,250 to the Red Cloud Indian School’s The Heritage Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota”—a proverbial slap on the hand—but still proceeded to advertise their non-Indian made blankets and goods as “Native American”—primarily as “Native American Inspired.”

Pendleton’s use of the words “Native American” remains illegal. 25 U.S.C. §305e; 25 C.F.R. § 309.24(a)(2). Adding the word “Inspired” to “Native American” does not make the company’s advertisements legal.

Get the Story:
Gabe Galanda: Reinvigorating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (Indian Country Today 5/12)

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