Definitions, Law, Inclusions Policy

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"You, Richard are an artist. That's one reason we get along well. Artists are the Indians of the white world. They are called dreamers who live in the clouds, improvident people who can't hold onto their money, people who don't want to face 'reality'. They say the same things about Indians. How the hell do those frog-skin people know what reality is? The world in which you paint a picture in your mind, a picture which shows things different from what your eye sees, that is the world from which I get my visions. I tell you that is the real world!" --Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man, by artist, writer and friend of Indian people Richard Erdoes, Simon and Schuster, c. 1972, p. 44

Definitions and policy text here.

1. Briefly discuss passage of NA Arts & Crafts Act of 1990, its reasons. Try to find Art News article by Susan Harjo about it. (Last issue before they quit, 1992-93? she discusses Ward Churchill there, too.).

In 1990, the Native American Arts and Crafts Act was passed (after many years of determined lobbying and vigorous opposition from all kinds of art dealers, art fakers and such. Its passage was greatly aided by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, (Colorado), who is 3/8ths Northern Cheyenne, and who may be the only artist -- well-known silversmith -- in Congress, perhaps ever. He also supports many Indian arts efforts and initiatives and legislation.

Most people really don't know what happens about "federal laws." When both houses of Congress pass it, it becomes "Public Law some-number" and it is a law at that point -- but not a "statute". To become a statute, it must be incorporated into the many volumes of the U.S. Code. The process is called codification and is carried out by the Revisor of Statute's office. Many lawyers work there. They take each Public law and break it into little pieces. They remove parts that are temporary authorizations (such as funding) which remain in effect but do not belong in the permanent statutory code. The U.S. Code is supposed to be logical in its structure -- the structure is a big outline. The idea is if anyone (or their lawyer) wants to look something up, the outline guide will make it very easy to find. Sometimes this is true, sometimes not. For example, the main category for "laws about Indians" is Title 25. But much sovereignty law stems from portions of the federal Criminal Code, which is in Title 18 -- in particular the important definition of "Indian Country" is there, as well as a lot of jurisdictional matters that have import beyond crime, trials, and punishments.

Here, now, is part of what's happened to the Native American Arts and Crafts Act. You can click to the on-line U.S. code and read these relevant parts yourself:

18 USC Sec. 1159 (1993)--Misrepresentation of goods or products as by Indians

That's the basic deal. Who may call themselves an Indian Artist (in the U.S.) is now defined by tribes which, as sovereign nations, means they themselves say who their own citizens are. This is the process of enrollment as a tribal member. There is also a provision for any tribe to designate non-enrolled persons as "associate artisans." This provision is a very important part of sovereignty, too. Here's why. At the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney's office, the interpretation of the law-as-passed states that tribes will probably adopt provisions for certifying tribally-associated artisans with blood quantum provisions of 25%. This ugly blood quantum business is part of the most poisonous cultural weapon of the invaders, racism. It is highly divisive among tribes today, because the more members who are enrolled, the less to go around there is of whatever cash distributions are to be made from claims payments or tribal enterprises such as casinos. There are a great many other problems, such as all kinds of fakes showing up claiming to be tribal members and wanting to get enrolled, to get some. However, there are also relatives -- children and grandchildren of authentic members who do not qualify by blood quantum provisions. Bitter situations exist where brother and sister of two different progenitors may not both be enrolled. Except to snarl at this situation as a consequence of racism that is still doing damage to Indian people and nations, I have no general solutions. But I do for "associate artisans.".

See, Tribal Associate Artisans don't have to be enrolled or get cut in on any loot, other than what they might sell their own works for. They don't have to have any Indian blood quantum at all. Osages proved that by rejecting that blood quantum idea and declaring an artist who had been very helpful to the tribe an associated artist on the basis of his long-time demonstrated friendship, donations of sculpture, donations of money, teaching young artists, helping them get started. They also won a lawsuit brought by this guy's kids who were off someplace making money as Indian artists with no connections or thought for that tribe. The tribe won on the common-sense idea that such friendships are not inheritable, and neither are the benefits that came to a friend inheritable by non-friendly offspring. Kids, approaching a person saying &You were a friend of my Ma and helped her out, so I thought you could be my friend and give me some money too" is not a promising beginning for a friendship.

Most of us aging adults have been approached more or less like that a time or two. But every tribe has been approached countless times like that. And in not-too-long-ago days they didn't bother to approach the tribe; they went to the BIA. Or in the case of the Oklahoma Cherokees, who got a declared friend from the President of the United States, the Rich boss of Phillips Petroleum, as their forced-appointment Tribal Chairman, some other Big Shot in U.S. government. The government sometimes declared a whole lot of people friends or rather members of some tribe on whose land they were forcibly resettling them, too. A long history of problems that Indian people didn't cause themselves but were caused for them.

But sovereignty means a tribe can declare anyone whatsoever -- including kids, grandchildren, or for that matter non-Indian friends, presumably not folks approaching them with their hands out for handouts -- Associate Artisans of the tribe, with the right to say their works are done by an xxx tribal associate artist. This avoids the ugly can of worms of enrollments and blood quanta altogether, and it's very appropriate to avoid that can for artists (as well as anywhere it could be avoided). Maybe tribes should pass laws designating all offspring of any members Associate Tribal Artists at birth and just avoid blood quantum totally, fight that out for enrollment of the kids if you must. This could encourage the kids to develop their talents!

OK that's my 2 cents on a nasty situation caused by non-Indians, suffered by Indians. Here now are 2 pieces of the Native American Arts and Crafts Act I found split away from the above. For one part we go way over from the volumes of Title 18 (Criminal) to volume 25 (Indians) and for the second part we come back to Title 18:

25 USC Sec. 305a (1993) Federal Arts and Crafts Board & Trademark-- 18 USC Sec. 1158 (1993):Counterfeiting the Board trademark you see, even if they have got around to a design for the Board certification Trademark, I guess I couldn't show it to you without exposing myself to a felony conviction! In fact I've never seen one and don't know if they have it. Of course it would really only make sense to have some method whereby actual Indian artists and artisans could use it on their stuff -- incise it into pottery, stamp it on the backs of paintings and prints, etc. Make sure the mark is very widely known -- like jeweler's marks for carat-weight gold content -- so prospective buyers could see and rely on it. Looks like any artist who did so could get prosecuted. So there you are on the federal government "helping Indian artisans" front. Like the joke says, the Third Biggest Lie: "I'm from the federal government, we're here to help." Somehow they just never can get it right.

I think there are some other pieces of it, but couldn't readily find them doing the cheap (free) InterNet searches on the unannotated U.S. Code on-line. Maybe some lawyers or law school students (who can use the expensive brands free, WestLaw) could find the others. I'd also like it if someone did a complete Legislative History on all aspects -- committee reports especially -- of the Act; that would be useful reference material to make available here for young American Indian artists and artisans.

Artists included here on these ArtPages are not being "offered for sale" by me or by these pages, even if they are shown via links to commercial sales galleries or shops. These pages are for the artistic and visonary-imagination education of Indian youth. The main reason I want to get artists' backgrounds is educational -- their lives, their artistic developments, their visions, their struggles, their stories. Commercial galleries rarely bother with this. But if I know of an artist's tribal background, I'll ID it. If I don't, and you do know, please email me the info -- being sure to ID the page on which he or she appears!

3. The American legal definition doesn't work for Canada or Meso- and South American indigenous artists, and omits non-enrolled tribal people who are close to Indian communities and relatives. I'm not going to run around asking to see enrollment cards or birth certificates, nor can I run up any long-distance phone bills. But when I can do so, I will ask that non-enrolled artists of Indian descent state their tribal heritages, their relatives. For other countries, I don't know what can be done except try to avoid fakes if possible. That's no big deal except when I'm linking to "gallery" pages where their works are offered for sale. There, I definitely want to exclude non-Indians who paint or otherwise depict Indian subjects because it sells well. (No one ever says that is their reason.)

3. My discussion with John Fadden -- people who contributed their art in service to Indian cause. Quote from letters & notes, also call John this Saturday at the Museum. Ask him for photos. People of Indian descent, people who are "friends" involved w/Indian communities. Example: Marsha Gomez.

4. The bottom line, here: There are non-Indian artists whose work involves Indian subjects who may or may not be donating to Indian causes or otherwise involved with Indian communities, but whose work is unique -- Indian youth can learn from it. The bottom line here is if I really really like it, it'll be included! Example: The realistic lifesized enameled bronze sculpture of Dave McGary, who studied at Santa Fe, made many Indian friends, lived on reservations, etc. etc., but the main reason he's going to be included is his stuff is awesome! It'll be here because of that, not because he was adopted by Gerald Red Elk, though I think that's relevant to how he got so involved with Indian people and ways that those sculptures are almost alive.

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Explanatory text and graphics copyright 1995.

CREDITS: : The logo of these art pages is "Two Fish" by Manitoulin Island Ojibwe-Odawa Martin Panamick, as explained in the CONTENTS page credits.

The photo of John Fire Lame Deer (who died in 1977) holding up his Pipe was taken by Richard Erdoes, and appears in the book from which Lame Deer's quotation was taken. It was "involuntarily solarized" in the summer of 1987, when I was working with some high school girls from Red School House AIM Survival School in St. Paul on a computer show project called "Vision Quest" whose slides show the visionary adventures of a 15-year-old girl, Annie, who is "lonely in the city" at the outset. Scanners were new and relatively expensive then; I bought a small hand scanner for a then-bargain price of $300. (We used it to scan drawings made with black magic marker, which were then colored using the 16 colors our computer could then handle.) It scans only 2-bit (black and white). hence all greys in the photo turn either to black or to white. Even reduced like this, I think it is rather effective as an image, and even reduced as I did for these web pages, is recognizable as John, if you saw the photo or actually knew him, as I did. The quote about the other world from which both artistic and spiritual visions come was the theme of our Vision Quest show, computer multimedia ahead of its time, and ahead of our (nonexistent) money!

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 19, 1995 - 5:02:10 AM