Fake arts still an issue
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AUGUST 17, 2000

A new bill proposed by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo) would strengthen the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 and make it easier for Indian artisans to protect their work from fraud.

The Indian arts and crafts market is a lucrative $1.2 billion business, growing by the year. But according to testimony earlier this year before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Indian artists are losing the battle against frauds and so far, the government hasn't helped them at all.

In New Mexico, where the annual Santa Fe Indian Art Market takes place this weekend, the problem is serious. Home to countless Pueblo, Navajo, and Indian artists from all over Indian Country, the New Mexico Department of Indian Tourism estimates that profits to these same artists are down 40 percent.

Nationwide, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, an agency of the Department of Interior, says that 40 to 50 percent of art on sale today are actually fakes. These fakes usually come from overseas, such as China, Taiwan, or Mexico.

Senator Pete Domenici (D-N.Mex) is co-sponsoring the bill. He believes its time to protect both artists and consumers.

"With this bill, we improve the law by making it easier for the Indian victim to stop the fraudulent representation of his or her work," said Domenici. "This also sends a message to the people who misrepresent or manufacture these items."

According to Domenici, the goal of the new legislation is to improve chances of prosecution. Individual Indian artists and Indian arts and crafts organizations would be able to sue for violations of the law, not just tribes.

Native American Arts, Inc., formed by members of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, is one such organization that could benefit from the law. Formed in 1996 to market and distribute authentic Native goods, the organization has been actively pursuing litigation against commercial retailers selling fake goods.

But a court in Illinois ruled that the organization couldn't bring an action under the existing Arts and Crafts Act. They ruled only a tribe or the government, on behalf of the organization, could sue.

To correct this problem, the Ho-Chunk Nation themselves entered into litigation for the organization, bringing twelve cases to court, nine of which have been settled so far.

Join Indianz.Com at the Santa Fe Indian Art Market, August 19 and August 20 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Stop by the plaza to chat, meet the Love Monster, pick up free gifts, and more!

Relevant Links:
The Santa Fe Indian Martket, The Southwestern Association For Indian Arts, Inc. -
The Indian Arts and Crafts Board -
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs -
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell -
Senator Pete Domenici -
The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin -

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