IACA Journal, Fall 2014 - page 18

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IACA Journal | Fall 2014
itors put out this very crude looking sign at his booth saying
“Don’t ask me! Everything is stabilized in the world!” Nowadays,
most people don’t even ask and I don’t even think they know the
difference. There is actually a large difference.
Your tenure with the IACA board and presidency coincided
with passing the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. How did IACA
help that to happen?
In either ’86 or ’88 Ben Nighthorse Campbell was running for Con-
gress. I was in Ouray, Colorado and he was walking around on the
streets for votes and I ran into himwith a good friend of mine.
He asked me if I had his vote and I told him that I couldn’t vote
in Colorado but I asked him if he gets into Congress, will he help
American Indian people. He laughed and said “I’m gonna try
and help people.”
So I said, “Well why don’t you, as a Native American, do some-
thing about this doggone imported stuff?”
He didn’t know anything about it so I showed him a catalog that
I carry around that shows items that were made in the Philip-
pines, and I’ll be doggone if one of his necklaces wasn’t in there.
That gave him the impetus to really address the problem.
The Indian Arts and Craft Act was passed in 1990 and IACA was
very active in writing that. I remember sitting down and trying
to define who was going to be an Indian because there were a lot
Navajo/Shawnee) with katsinas, and Zach Ben (Navajo) with
sandpaintings. Both young men come from a long line of
family members dedicated to their respective art forms and
use their talents to preserve traditional arts.
Probably one of the most widely known, and certainly most
worn, art forms is that of jewelry. This has also seen amazing
changes over the past forty years. Native American art has
always had designs which are geometric, and modern jewelers
have used these basics to create jewelry with angular pieces
using many different stones and materials. Silver continues to
be the main metal used, but many jewelers are working with
gold or using gold inlay, and some are experimenting with
copper and other metals. The stones used can be from mines
or localities near the jeweler, but many fine jewelers import
stones from all over the world to make their pieces bright,
colorful, and unique.
Since IACA started in 1974, American Indian art has evolved
dramatically, and American Indian artists are breaking
ground into areas, techniques, and media that were unknown
forty years ago. The one thing that has not changed is the un-
wavering link between contemporary artists and their cultural
heritage. Artists will always experiment but they will always
hold to their roots.
A
40 Years of American Indian Art
continued from page 15
Joe Douthitt
continued from page 14
of folks who were in the wannabe department you might say.
I remember staying up until two or three o’clock in the morning
with four or five of the guys on the board discussing arguing and
trying to figure out what is an Indian?
The final conclusion was what came out in the law which was
letting the tribal governments determine who was an Indian.
So yes, IACA was very much involved in the creation of the
Indian Arts and Crafts Act with the help of Ben Nighthorse
Campbell.
Authenticity is very important. I had a lady come into my busi-
ness with some pieces most of which were made in the Philip-
pines. Cheap imports have done a lot of damage to the industry
and to the Native peoples. I still think that authenticity is im-
portant. I also think that helping Native people achieve success
is another goal IACA. One thing that I find interesting—there
has always been an element of Native folks who think that we
Indian traders are just out to take advantage of them. But I think
that when we consider all aspects of the trade, retail, wholesale
and the artists themselves you have a stronger industry. By keep-
ing all interests on the straight and narrow so to speak then you
are going to have a much more vibrant industry.
Joe Douthitt is an outspoken advocate of authenticity in the marketing of
American Indian Art. Douthitt pulls no punches in his opinions. He was
a driving force in the implementation of the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts
act, and served as IACA president in 1992. He pulls no punches in this
interview either, with criticism about certain IACA standards.
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