If you’re paying attention, and you know what to look for, it’s all too easy to find examples of cultural appropriation in just about any retail setting. So as someone who wants to support Native arts and entrepreneurs, what can you do to respond and challenge appropriated images and products falsely presented as Native-made?
It can be tough, given the current loopholes in the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. In the US, this law prohibits non-Native individuals and companies from misrepresenting their merchandise as Native in origin. But the language allows non-Native producers to label products as “Native-inspired” - that means they’ve simply appropriated Native art without working with any actual Native artists - so they make money by completely cutting Native artists off from their own cultural art.
We’ve compiled some handy resources to help you support Inspired Natives, not “Native-inspired”.
- When buying art or products featuring Native art, ask yourself three questions first to figure out who profits when you purchase that item!:
- Is the artist native?
- Is the company Native-owned?
- Is the artist being fairly and equitably compensated?
- Here's a Beyond Buckskin post detailing examples of cultural appropriation on Etsy (which is notorious for its unchecked labeling - products labeled "Native American" aren't scrutinized or authenticated by shop owners or Etsy).
When you see an example of cultural appropriation, call it out - especially if it’s an item falsely represented as Native-made. Pretending an item is Native-made violates the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The Indian Arts and Crafts Board lists some helpful examples and maintains a reporting system you can use to report fraudulent sellers.
You can also contact a shop owner directly to let them know they are in direct violation of the law. The Beyond Buckskin post listed above provides a great email template.
Support Native-Owned Businesses
Go straight to the source and buy from Native-owned businesses. Beyond Buckskin maintains an extensive BUY NATIVE list.