IACA Journal, Fall 2014 - page 12

IACA Journal | Fall 2014
Continuing its mission to promote, preserve and protect
authentic American Indian arts and crafts
Forty years ago, in 1974, the Indian Arts and Crafts Association
(IACA) was formed in response to the overwhelming influx of
counterfeit indian Art and crafts from overseas. Although the
Indian Arts and Craft Board (Board) had been in existence for
over 40 years at that time, it did not have the resources,
authority, or ability to protect tribal artists and craftsmen.
By Catherine Baker Stetson
Thanks in part to IACA, other similarly motivated groups, and advocates such as Senator
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (the Act) was passed,
(not coincidentally the same year in which the Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Act was passed). The Act was an attempt to give power to the Board,
authorizing criminal and civil actions against those who misrepresent products as Indi-
an-made. More than two decades later, neither act has enjoyed complete success, in large
part due to limited resources and still-inadequate penalties and enforcement options.
For the past two decades, the protection offered by the federal law has improved. In
2000, the Indian Arts and Crafts Enforcement Act was passed, followed in 2010 by the
Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act. These newest additions to the law make en-
forcement easier and violations of the law more serious. Now, violators face:
• federal investigations
• the specter of both criminal and civil proceedings
• treble damages or $1000/day for violations of this Act, whichever is greater
• punitive damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees
At the same time, more states have passed their own deceptive trade practices laws,
offering additional protection for artists. These improvements have allowed the Board
to put a stronger focus on education of and outreach into Native communities, to work
more with states’ attorneys general, and to undertake stronger investigations and more
active law enforcement. But while the laws become stronger, the number of offenders in-
creases, both on-reservation and off, from within this country and internationally. IACA
has remained as determined as ever to fight for the rights of tribal artists and craftsmen,
and asked me, as the IACA attorney, to evaluate where we are and what remains to be
done to improve those rights.
The answer—as if there is a single answer—is complicated, and, as with many complex
issues, the overarching solution is often “education.” Even though the laws are strong
and the penalties severe, technical and practical difficulties arise in educating artists
about, and then interpreting, copyright and trademark laws. Although these laws exist to
protect the artists and craftsmen, most artists and craftsmen frankly do not know their
rights, and tribes themselves are generally not actively involved in either the educational
or enforcement aspect. As a result, the unprotected rights are usually lost. The irony is
that those who deal in false advertising and fakes often know exactly how far they can go
while the artists who are being taken advantage of have no ability to defend themselves.
It has often been noted that the key to power lies in the ability to keep your opponents
in the dark, away from the knowledge that could give them the power to act. If you don’t
educate yourself, or don’t protest, or don’t vote, you are far more likely to be oppressed.
Similarly, if the issue of protecting quality, genuine Native arts and crafts is of any impor-
tance to you, you need to educate yourself about your legal rights; then you must insist
on them.
I have often tried to explain to people in New Mexico why New Yorkers so often get
what they want: I think it’s because they know their rights, so they start out right from
the beginning expecting to have the rights honored. If someone refuses to honor them,
New Yorkers will insist and make a lot of
noise. If they STILL don’t get what they
want, they will fight about it. And that,
my readers, is the key to success from the
perspective of a New York attorney.
To turn the tables in the next 40 years,
tribal communities, individual artists,
tribal educational institutions, and
organizations like IACA need to insist
upon learning more—then passing on
more—about business law in general and
trademark and copyright laws in partic-
ular. Perhaps if they will take a stand and
offer a hand, artists will be able to take
full advantage of the protections now
offered by the federal and state laws.
Catherine Baker Stetson
In 1997, Catherine Baker Stetson formed
Stetson Law Offices, P.C., a minority-owned
professional corporation. The firm provides
general legal services to tribes and tribal
entities in many states, representing them in
administrative, legislative, and judicial pro-
ceedings, sacred site protection and cultural
preservation and in tribal, state, and federal
forums. Areas in which they have the great-
est interest and experience include lobbying
and consultation on federal legislation, trib-
al commercial development and taxation,
tribal environmental regulation, land uses,
Indian gaming, and Indian housing.
Stetson has served as a Vice Chair of the
American Bar Association, Native Amer-
ican Resources Committee, and as a Vice
Chair on the Environmental Quality Com-
mittee. She has also served on the Board of
Directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank of
Dallas Board of Directors.
Stetson’s Indian law experience has been
largely in working on housing and commer-
cial transactions on Indian reservations. She
has helped develop on-reservation restau-
rants, casinos, hotels, shopping centers,
mobile home parks, sanitary landfills, and
gas stations, and also has designed tribal
regulatory and business structures intended
to complement individual tribes’ economic
development objectives.
Cate Stetson was the first New Mexico State
Bar Certified specialist in Federal Indian
law and served as the first Chair of the
Federal Indian Law Specialty Committee.
She is also the owner of Tribal Business Op-
portunities, Inc. a financial consulting firm
for tribal and reservation-based commercial
development. Source:
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