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Native American community highlights importance of buying authentic artwork

Indian Arts and Crafts Board
Department of Interior

There are nearly 80,000 Native Americans living in South Dakota, and many earn their main income by selling traditional arts and crafts.

Health concerns have affected their ability to sell their work at events like the Lakota Nation Invitational or the Black Hills Pow Wow, which have each suffered cancellations during the pandemic.

Native American artists are also affected by fraud. Recently, an artist from Washington State was accused of falsely claiming membership in the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona.

According to federal investigators, Lewis Anthony Rath presented his work as authentically Native American made. He is accused of violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

As some annual arts events resume, Native American artists are urging collectors to buy authentic Native American art.

U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Debra Haaland addressed the issue recently.

“Artists pass down their skills and traditions through generations so that every piece carries with it cultural significance, family history and knowledge,” Haaland said. “Native artists create incredible pieces of both traditional art and contemporary works and they deserve credit and compensation for their crafts. Native art is a critical part in telling the story of this country and can only be told by Native artists.”

Inauthentic Native American art can be reported at doi.gov/iacb.