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The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian or Alaska Native arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. For a first time violation of the Act, an individual can face civil or criminal penalties up to a $250,000 fine or a 5-year prison term, or both. If business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000.

The law covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935. The Act broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States. Some traditional items frequently copied by non-Indians include Indian-style jewelry, pottery, baskets, carved stone fetishes, woven rugs, kachina dolls, and clothing.



The US Department of the Interior explicitly states on its informational website about the Act that, "Under the Act, an Indian is defined as a member of any federally or State recognized Indian Tribe, or an individual certified as an Indian artisan by an Indian Tribe."[1]

In Section 309.2, the Act defines an "Indian tribe" as:

(1) Any Indian tribe, band, nation, Alaska Native village, or any organized group or community which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians; or (2) Any Indian group that has been formally recognized as an Indian tribe by a State legislature or by a State commission or similar organization legislatively vested with State tribal recognition authority.[2]

All products must be marketed truthfully regarding the Indian heritage and tribal affiliation of the producers, so as not to mislead the consumer. It is illegal to market an art or craft item using the name of a tribe if a member, or certified Indian artisan, of that tribe did not actually create the art or craft item.

Clarification and advice

Products sold using a sign claiming "Indian Jewelry" would be a violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act if the jewelry was produced by someone other than a member, or certified Indian artisan, of an Indian tribe. Products advertised as "Hopi Jewelry" would be in violation of the Act if they were produced by someone who is not a member, or certified Indian artisan, of the Hopi tribe.

If an art or craft product is represented to a purchaser as Indian-made, and the purchaser learns that it is not, the first step is to contact the dealer to request a refund. If the dealer does not respond to the refund request, the purchaser can also contact the local Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and the local District Attorney's office, as they would with any consumer fraud complaint. Second, the purchaser contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Board with a written complaint regarding violations of the Act.

Before buying Indian arts or crafts at powwows, annual fairs, juried competitions, and other events, collectors are advised check the event requirements on the authenticity of products being offered for sale. Many events list the requirements in newspaper advertisements, promotional flyers, and printed programs. If the event organizers make no statements on compliance with the Act or on the authenticity of Indian arts and crafts offered by participating vendors, people should obtain written certification from the individual vendors that their Indian arts or craftwork were produced by tribal members or by certified Indian artisans.

It is important to remember that this Act only pertains to Native Americans and Alaskan Natives from the United States and does not govern Native Hawaiians or Native peoples from any other country besides the United States.

See also


  1. ^ "The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990." US Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board. (retrieved 24 May 2009)
  2. ^ Page 785 of the Act. US Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board. (retrieved 23 May 2009)

External links



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