Senate committee seeks comments on proposed update to Indian Arts and Crafts Act

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has released a discussion draft of proposed legislation that would strengthen enforcement of laws against fake Native art.

In a statement, Schatz said the Indian Affairs Committee is seeking public comment on the proposed Respect for Traditional Indigenous Skills and Talents (ARTIST) Amendments of 2023. The ARTIST Act would update the Indian Arts and Crafts Act to support creative economies and strengthen enforcement of existing legislation and protection against unfair competition for local artists and their works.

The discussion draft reflects the direct input of stakeholders, as well as the Committee’s years of oversight and broad commitment to protecting indigenous cultural heritage and revitalizing indigenous languages, according to a news release.

The comments will be used to further inform the legislative process and serve as a resource for future discussions on updating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The deadline for comments on the draft for discussion is 14 April 2023. Comments can be sent to [email protected]

The marketing and sale of counterfeit Indian arts and crafts is an ongoing problem that tribes, state and federal officials continue to grapple with in 2023.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that a Houston man was sentenced to five years of probation for mail fraud and misrepresentation of Indian goods under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

According to court documents, Kevin Charles Kovallis, 60, fraudulently marketed and sold jewelry online that he described as “Native American handmade,” “genuine Indian handmade,” “Zuni” and “Navajo.” He obtained the fake jewelry from a manufacturer in the Philippines who is not affiliated with any federally recognized Indian tribe.

On March 1, in two separate criminal cases, two Washington artists pleaded guilty in Seattle to violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act by posing as Native American artists when they did not have tribal registration or heritage. The men, Louis Anthony Rath, 52, of Maple Falls, Wash., and Jerry Chris Van Dyke, 67, aka Jerry Wheaton, of Seattle, falsely identified themselves as members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Nez Perce Tribe, respectively. They will be sentenced on May 17, 2023.

“For those selling fake Indian arts and crafts, it’s important to know that wherever you are, we will work diligently to find you and prosecute you under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act,” said director Meredith Stanton by the US Department of the Interior on Indian Arts and Crafts Council.

More stories like this

Women’s History Month: Elizabeth Peratrovich (Tlingit), civil rights leader
The Montana Legislature’s Indigenous Caucus strives to keep Native issues front and center
The Yurok Tribe is hiring an investigator to pursue new, existing MMIP cases
Women’s History Month: Marcella Rose Lebo

12 years Native news

This month we celebrate our 12th year of bringing local news to readers across Indian Country and beyond. For the past ten years, we have been covering the most important news that is usually ignored by other media. From the Standing Rock protests and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the overdue payments related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Native American boarding schools.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to support our efforts. Every contribution – big or small – helps. If you are able to do so, please consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.

About the author

Native News Online Staff

Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Native News Online is one of the most widely read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Native people. Contact us at [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *