Indian Arts And Crafts Act - Understanding What It Means
In summary, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990:
- Makes it illegal to sell goods as 'Indian' or 'Native American' if they
are not made by a member of a state or federally-recognized tribe or a person
certified as being an Indian Artisan by a tribe.
- Covers any type of craft, including art, carvings, baskets and musical
- Applies to the entire United States, but not other countries.
- If violated, is punishable by fines, penalties and/or imprisonment.
- Needs to be correctly understood by all native-style flute makers and
Native American Vs. Native American Style Flutes
If you are looking to sell or buy native-type flutes in the United States,
and you are looking at what is available on the Internet, you will see two
types of language being applied to these instruments. Legally, only those
flutes crafted by State or Federally recognized tribal members or their
designated Indian artisans may be sold as Native American Flutes.
Any flute maker who does not meet this specific description must sell
his instruments and Native American Style Flutes in order to be
in compliance with the Indian Arts And Crafts Act.
It is important to understand that there are many excellent Native
American-style flutes being made by craftspeople with only partial or
no Indigenous heritage. In fact, some of United States' most celebrated
Native American flute players endorse and play these non-Native-made flutes.
There is nothing wrong or illegal about this, because these flutes are
being properly sold, in compliance with the law, as Native American Style
Flutes, rather than falsely advertised as Native-made.
Which Flute Origins Should You Be Especially Careful Of?
The three types of Native-style flutes most commonly made in the United States
are the Plains Flute,
and Anasazi Flute/Ancestral Pueblo Flute.
Whether you are purchasing these online, from a brick-and-mortar music store,
or from an event such as a Powwow, Fair or Festival, the vendor must make it
perfectly clear to you whether the flute is Native or non-Native-made. In our
flute maker comparison chart
here at Native Flutes Walking, we have attempted to designate precisely this
information about prominent U.S.-based flute makers.
What About Flutes Outside The United States?
What if you wish to purchase a Central or South American Flute, such as a
Chances are, unless you can find a flute maker in the
United States who is reproducing these Indigenous instruments, you will end up
buying your flute from an importer. In such case, it is often impossible to
verify the exact origins of the flute, and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act
does not prohibit false labeling in countries outside the U.S. Flutes may
be sold as Made in Peru, Made in Ecuador, Made in Chile, Made in Mexico,
etc., but it is hard to verify the accuracy of these labels, and unfortunately,
it is possible that a Central or South American style flute may have been made
outside the American continents. At Native Flutes Walking, we are unaware of
any laws governing International truth-in-advertising, and do want to make
it clear that purchasing Indigenous-style flutes from non-U.S. sources does
not guarantee truthful labeling.
Despite this, some Central and South American flutes are somewhat obscure,
and their craft may only be widely known amongst the Indigenous Peoples who
have always made them. If possible, speak to the owners of import and music
stores to see if there is any type of information available about the people
who make the flutes they are selling.
Why It Is Important To Uphold The Indian Arts And Crafts Act
Native American Peoples have been subjected to exploitation and abuses in the
worlds of arts and marketing. For example, many Native Americans are deeply
offended by the use of Indian themes in sports as the names of teams or
identities of mascots. Indigenous Americans have suffered tremendous hardships
since the European invasion, and it is a further insult to them to see their
cherished heritage falsely used for monetary gain. In the world of musical
instruments, it is very important that no craftsperson or musician derive
benefit from a false use of the Native American label, as this would only
add to the wrongs Indigenous Peoples have suffered. With clear labeling
and honest business practices, these unwanted scenarios can be avoided.
If you would like to read the complete, official text of the Indian Arts
And Crafts Act,