PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO INDIAN ARTS AND CRAFTS ACT: Opening the Market to Non-Indians?
May 11, 2013 Comments Off on PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO INDIAN ARTS AND CRAFTS ACT: Opening the Market to Non-Indians?
Earlier this spring, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced a bill in Congress that would amend the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) and give certain non-Indians standing to sue under the IACA.
H.R. 1066, which was introduced in March, would expand the definition of the term “Indian” as used in the IACA. Under the proposed language, the term “Indian” includes a member of an “Indian organization” if that member:
(1) resides in the state where the organization was formed, and
(2) is descended from a person listed on the “base roll of an Indian tribe” or listed on a “judgment fund distribution list, roll, or census . . . prepared by the Secretary of the Interior.”
The proposed language specifically states that eligibility for membership in a federally or state-recognized tribe is not required.
The definition of the term “Indian organization” requires that it be a state-chartered non-profit organization recognized under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and dedicated to preserving Indian culture, traditions, and arts. In addition, a majority of the organization’s members must be recognized as “Indians” under the amended definition of that term. Although the organization must maintain genealogical information on each member (to verify that he or she meets the definition of “Indian”), tribal recognition of the Indian organization is not needed.
The current version of the IACA defines the term “Indian” as any member of a recognized Indian tribe or any person certified as an Indian artisan by a recognized Indian tribe. The current IACA also provides that an Indian arts and crafts association may pursue a claim under the IACA if that association’s members are enrolled members of an Indian tribe. For an overview of the current version of the IACA, click here.
In contrast to the current IACA, the language of H.R. 1066 would extend the protections afforded by the IACA to a non-Indian if he or she is descended from a person listed on a base roll, a distribution list, or an Interior Department census or roll. The bill’s expansion of the IACA has been criticized as a means to allow non-Indians to enter the market for Indian arts and crafts at the expense of native artisans and small businesses. Others have argued that the bill would, in effect, lower the standard for what qualifies as authentic Indian-made arts and crafts, undermining the consumer-protection purpose of the IACA and harming the livelihood of Indian artisan.
After Rep. Rahall introduced it, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources (specifically, the subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs) and to the Judiciary Committee. As of the date of this posting, Govtrack.us estimates that H.R. 1066 has no more than a 5% chance of being enacted. Nonetheless, since this bill was also introduced in 2012, Rep. Rahall may try to reintroduce it in future sessions of Congress.
The text of H.R. 1066 is available here. For more information on the legal services offered by the Law Office of James D. Griffith, P.L.L.C., please call (480) 275-8738 or use the “Contact Us” page on our website.
 Amendment Proposed to Indian Arts and Crafts Act to Accommodate Non-Native Artists, Cherokee Phoenix, Apr. 25, 2013, http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/Index/7215.
 Brandon Ecoffey, New Bill Opens Up Indian Arts and Crafts Act, Native Sun News, Apr. 1, 2013, available at http://www.indianz.com/News/2013/009120.asp (quoting Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, of Beyond Buckskin, a Native American fashion blog).
 Editorial, Our View: Tread Carefully with Native Art, Santa Fe New Mexican, Apr. 14, 2013, http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/editorials/article_c9fcd7bf-d4a8-5c73-be36-796cf22bf1af.html (last visited May 11, 2013).