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Fw: Enforcement on fake art lax, tribes say

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  • Anne Frasi
    [article provided by Pat Morris. Thanks!] Thu, 18 May 2000 http://www.azstarnet.com/public/dnews/000518NIndianKnockoffs.html Enforcement on fake art lax,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 18 3:59 PM
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      [article provided by Pat Morris. Thanks!]

      Thu, 18 May 2000
      http://www.azstarnet.com/public/dnews/000518NIndianKnockoffs.html

      Enforcement on fake art lax, tribes say

      The real thing: In testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee,
      Jason Takala displays his ring designs and talks about cheap knockoffs.

      By Matt Kelley
      The Associated Press

      WASHINGTON - The federal government is not enforcing a law
      designed to protect American Indian artisans from forgers said to be
      cutting into a $1-billion-a-year business, artists and tribal leaders told
      lawmakers yesterday.

      The agency responsible for enforcement has not sought criminal charges
      or civil lawsuits since 1990, when the law was strengthened, even though
      trade groups estimate that at least half of all Indian-style art sold in the
      United States is not authentic.

      "In Indian communities, enforcement . . . has become a joke. It's like a
      paper tiger with no teeth," said Tony Eriacho Jr., a member of New
      Mexico's Zuni tribe and a jewelry maker and wholesaler.

      The head of the Indian Arts and Craft Board said Congress has provided
      little money - $1 million this budget year - or support. The agency,
      part of the Interior Department, also operates three federal museums -
      in Montana, Oklahoma and South Dakota - where Indian crafts are displayed.

      "We don't have the investigators to go out and be looking for cases,"
      Faith Roessel, a Navajo, told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

      The board, which hired its first staff lawyer two months ago, has received
      45 written complaints since 1996, many from consumers who "got a bad
      deal," she said.

      "There's plenty of blame to pass around, but we don't seem to be making
      any progress," said the committee chairman, Sen. Ben Nighthorse
      Campbell, a Northern Cheyenne and former jeweler. Campbell,
      R-Colo., said the government needs to do more.

      Sen. Jon Kyl, who wrote the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act, raised the
      possibility of moving enforcement to another government agency.

      "With an estimated 50 to 60 percent of the marketplace plagued with
      forgeries, how hard can it be to find a test case?" Kyl, R-Ariz., said. "It
      almost seems as if the board isn't looking for cases at all."

      The 1990 law strengthened existing penalties and gave the Indian Arts
      and Crafts Board responsibility for referring complaints to federal
      prosecutors. The intention was to further protect Indian artists, who
      account for up to 85 percent of the job holders on some reservations.

      The Hopi tribe estimates that arts and crafts bring in $11.2 million a year
      for the 37 percent of its workers involved in the business, but faux Hopi
      knockoffs cost another $4.6 million a year, Kyl said.

      New Mexico's Isleta Pueblo Indians have seen the number of full-time
      artists drop to 30 from 150 in the past 50 years, Isleta sculptor Andy
      Abeita told senators.

      "Unfair competition from import fakes and mechanically cast pottery and
      jewelry is now often being sold to the unsuspecting consumer as Indian
      handmade," said Abeita, who has investigated the problem for tribes and
      the United Nations.

      "This threat has made it almost impossible to compete fairly in the
      commercial marketplace, forcing generations of potters and silversmiths
      to discontinue the trade," he said.

      ===

      [article provided by Lona. Thanks!]

      http://www.foxmarketwire.com/wires/0518/f_ap_0518_9.sml

      Tribal members say government not enforcing forgery laws
      5.51 a.m. ET (1051 GMT) May 18, 2000

      WASHINGTON - Tony Eriacho Jr. says he and other American Indian artists are
      losing out to cheap, foreign-made knockoffs of Indian-style jewelry, pottery
      and other crafts.

      The federal government is not enforcing a law designed to protect Indians in
      the $1 billion a year business, Eriacho and other Indian artists told a
      Senate panel Wednesday.

      The agency responsible for enforcement has not sought criminal charges or
      civil lawsuits since 1990, when the law was strengthened, even though trade
      groups estimate that at least half of all Indian-style art sold in the
      United States is not authentic.

      "In Indian communities, enforcement ... has become a joke. It's like a paper
      tiger with no teeth,'' said Eriacho, a member of New Mexico's Zuni tribe and
      a jewelry maker and wholesaler.

      The head of the Indian Arts and Craft Board said Congress has provided
      little money -- $1 million this budget year -- or support. The agency, part
      of the Interior Department, also operates three federal museums -- in
      Montana, Oklahoma and South Dakota -- where Indian crafts are displayed.

      "We don't have the investigators to go out and be looking for cases,'' Faith
      Roessel, a Navajo, told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

      The board, which hired its first staff lawyer two months ago, has received
      45 written complaints since 1996, many from consumers who "got a bad deal,''
      she said.

      "There's plenty of blame to pass around, but we don't seem to be making any
      progress,'' said the committee chairman, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a
      Northern Cheyenne and former jeweler. Campbell, R-Colo., said the government
      needs to do more.

      Sen. Jon Kyl, who wrote the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act, raised the
      possibility of moving enforcement to another government agency.

      "With an estimated 50 to 60 percent of the marketplace plagued with
      forgeries, how hard can it be to find a test case?'' Kyl, R-Ariz., said in a
      statement. "It almost seems as if the board isn't looking for cases at
      all.''

      The 1990 law strengthened existing penalties and gave the Indian Arts and
      Crafts Board responsibility for referring complaints to federal prosecutors.
      The intention was to further protect Indian artists, who account for up to
      85 percent of the job-holders on some reservations.

      The Hopi tribe estimates that arts and crafts bring in $11.2 million a year
      for the 37 percent of its workers involved in the business, but faux Hopi
      knockoffs cost another $4.6 million a year, Kyl said.

      New Mexico's Isleta Pueblo have seen the number of full-time artists drop to
      30 from 150 in the past 50 years, Isleta sculptor Andy Abeita told senators.

      "Unfair competition from import fakes and mechanically cast pottery and
      jewelry is now often being sold to the unsuspecting consumer as Indian
      handmade,'' said Abeita, who has investigated the problem for tribes and the
      United Nations.

      "This threat has made it almost impossible to compete fairly in the
      commercial marketplace, forcing generations of potters and silversmiths to
      discontinue the trade,'' he said.

      Violators can face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Companies
      could pay a $1 million fine for a first offense.

      The government board has pressured some businesses into dropping sales of
      fakes, Roessel said. She said Time-Life Books agreed in 1996 to use
      authentic Hopi Kachina dolls as a promotional giveaway for its books on
      American Indians after the board learned the company originally planned to
      give away fakes.

      Federal prosecutors in South Dakota charged a man under the arts and crafts
      law in 1998, Mark Van Norman of the Justice Department said. The result was
      a guilty plea and an agreement to stop using the words "Native American'' on
      the goods produced, said Van Norman, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux
      tribe.

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