Bill John Baker: Oklahoma tribes back bill to protect Indian artists from frauds

Leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, from left: Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, Seminole Nation Chief Leonard M. Harjo, Muscogee Nation Chief James Floyd, Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton and Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker. Photo from Chief Bill J. Baker / Twitter

Principal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation explains why the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes supports HB2261. The bill requires people who market their goods as "Indian" in the state of Oklahoma to be a member of a federally recognized tribe:
Cherokee artisans are some of the most talented in Oklahoma and across all of Indian Country. They preserve our culture and heritage through their work across various mediums. It’s critical for us as Indian people to ensure Indian art is truly created by enrolled citizens of federally recognized tribes.

That’s why Cherokee Nation, along with the leadership of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, is supporting Oklahoma House Bill 2261, which is being considered now in the Oklahoma State Senate after passing the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a 90-0 vote. The bill is authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin (D-Vinita) and Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman), Cherokee Nation citizens, and proposes a change in the definition of who can sell Indian art.

The proposal defines “American Indian tribe” as any Indian tribe federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, further, defines “American Indian” as a citizen or enrolled member of an American Indian tribe.

This issue is important for us because it ensures people who falsely claim tribal citizenship will not be able to market themselves and their crafts as Native. Oklahoma should take a strong position in preserving the integrity and authenticity of American Indian arts. As the home of 39 federally recognized tribes and more than 500,000 tribal citizens, Oklahoma should be the pacesetter for protecting tribal culture. Each of the 39 tribes in Oklahoma is a sovereign government with a unique history and culture and has been acknowledged and confirmed by the U.S. Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, executive orders and judicial decisions.

Get the Story:
Bill John Baker: Strengthening the American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act is important for Cherokee Nation (The Native American Times 4/17)

Earlier Coverage:
Hoskin bill changes definition of who can sell 'Indian art' (The Miami News-Record 3/9)

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