Native American Business Incubator Network Promotes Indian-Owned Businesses

December 27, 2015 Comments Off on Native American Business Incubator Network Promotes Indian-Owned Businesses

Native American Business Incubator Network (“NABIN”) assists Indian-owned businesses grow and prosper. According to recent census data, the number of Indian-owned businesses grew by 15% between 2007 and 2012. See Mark Fogerty, Indian-Owned Business Grew by 15%, Indian Country Today Media Network (Dec. 24, 2015). NABIN helps promote this trend in Indian-owned businesses by helping Native American entrepreneurs and businesses with training, business counseling, mentorship, and other support. If you’re a Native American entrepreneur or businesses owner, NABIN may be able to assist you with overcoming the challenges involved in starting and growing your business. See NABIN on Facebook here.

Update: KJZZ recently aired a story on the challenges faced by Native American entrepreneurs and how NABIN has helped, but also reports that NABIN is about to lose its grant funding and is seeking other funding. See Native American Entrepreneurs Face Unexpected Challenges.

James D. Griffith is an Associate Attorney with Mangum, Wall, Stoops & Warden, PLLC. He is licensed as an attorney in Arizona, the Navajo Nation, and the Hopi tribal courts. He can assist business clients with contracts, regulatory issues, DBE certification, Indian arts and crafts protection, and other matters.

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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).

[3] 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).

THE INDIAN ARTS AND CRAFTS ACT: Protecting Genuine Indian-Made Arts and Crafts

September 7, 2012 Comments Off on THE INDIAN ARTS AND CRAFTS ACT: Protecting Genuine Indian-Made Arts and Crafts

The Indian arts and crafts market is known for beautiful works that were handcrafted by Indians. Unfortunately, the market has been diluted by the sale of fake Indian art- and craftworks—fraud that has been described as “rampant.” If you’re an Indian artisan or a tribal official trying to protect genuine arts and crafts made by tribal members, the Indian Arts and Craft Act can help you limit unfair competition by non-Indians, stop fraudulent activity, and preserve your cultural heritage.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act (“IACA”) was enacted in 1935 and was significantly strengthened by amendments in 1990, 2000, and 2010. Under the 1990 amendment, an Indian artisan or a tribe (for itself or on behalf of an artisan) may file a civil lawsuit alleging misrepresentation of an art- or craftwork as an authentic Indian-made product. This provides the Indian artisan or the tribe protection against the sale of non-genuine art- or craftworks if the seller fraudulently claims the item was made by the Indian artisan or the tribe. The amendment allows for restraining orders to stop the fraudulent claims and for the recovery of monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

An Illinois-based retailer of authentic Indian arts and crafts, Native American Arts, Inc. (“NAA”), has used the civil action to great effect, filing at least eighty civil suits since 1998. NAA filed these suits to stop competing businesses from wrongfully claiming that their products were authentic Indian art- and craftworks. NAA’s attorney has stated that “the lawsuits have been highly successful [in] obtaining injunctions in almost every case” and that “the defendants have generally complied with the injunctions.” Nonetheless, civil suits can be difficult to pursue because of the time and expense involved.

NAA’s civil suits are not surprising considering the extent of misrepresentation in the Indian arts and crafts market. In a recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) found that the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, a federal agency established under the IACA, received 649 complaints between 2006 and 2011. Of those complaints, 48.9% originated in western and southwestern states. California (60), Arizona (49), and New Mexico (45) accounted for 154 complaints (23.7% of the total). The GAO’s report is available at http://www.gao.gov/assets/320/317826.pdf.

As a “truth-in-marketing” law, the IACA protects Indian artisans and tribes from unfair competition by non-Indians, preserves Indian culture, and promotes tribal economic development. Indian artisans and tribes may want to consider using the IACA’s civil action if they discover that another person is fraudulently claiming that a non-genuine Indian art- or craftwork was made by an Indian or a tribal member. If you would like to learn more about the IACA, please refer to the Question-and-Answer discussion on my firm’s website or contact the Law Office of James D. Griffith, P.L.L.C. using one of the contact options available on the firm’s website.

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