A Welcome Letter From Washington, D.C.

While the letter, from the Federal Trade Commission, U. S. Department of the Interior, was addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam," we considered the letter quite formal. We also considered it good news.

It announced that the FTC is working with Indian Arts and Crafts Board to enforce provisions of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

We received the letter because the FTC found our web sites – all four of them apparently – on the Internet. That’s good news.

The letter was to remind us – and others we presume – that items offered for sale as American Indian-made or Alaska Native-made must have been made in fact, by Native American Indians or Alaskan Natives.

The letter goes on to state, “…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 tribe. Under the Act, Indian is defined as a member of a federally or officially State recognized Tribe, or as a formally certified non-member Indian artisan of the federally or officially State recognized Tribe of their descent.”

The Federal Trade Commission Act also prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce.” Enforcement actions have been brought against “persons and businesses selling art works through false representations about artists, about authenticity of the works, or about the investment attributes of the art work.”

We applaud this newly aggressive approach to protecting buyers and discouraging fraudulent sellers. As dealers who always have refused to sell items that we cannot verify as Indian or Alaskan made without specifying that they are NOT Native-made, we are happy to see the Feds actively doing their duty.

An environment in which buyers and collectors can trust that the people who sell to them are telling the truth and promising the reality about art as an investment is good for everyone.

That being true, it is also true that frauds and charlatans will continue to try to cheat the law and their customers. It is up to all of us to call them out. If you purchase an item under what you consider to have been false premises, let the seller know. It may simply be a mistake. If it is, any legitimate dealer will refund your money, and relabel the item correctly.

If you see this behavior repeated, however, please contact the FTC so that the perpetrators may be prosecuted, and their fraudulent activities ended.

More information about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act can be obtained at The website also has a down-loadable brochure guide, “How to Buy Genuine American Indian Arts and Crafts.


This message is brought to you by Aboriginals: Art of the First Person, with web sites at Native-JewelryLink, Native-PotteryLink, TribalWorks and ZuniLink, where you can trust that you are buying the real thing.