Tips for Buying Native American Arts and Crafts

Tips for Buying Native American Arts and Crafts

It’s important to show your support for smaller businesses—Native-owned businesses, in particular—during the holiday season. Sifting through all the available products is intimidating enough, but the surplus of inauthentic goods saturating the market can add to the stress. You want to be certain you’re supporting actual, Native-owned businesses instead of people replicating culturally significant items for their own gain. By following these tips for buying Native American arts and crafts, you’ll be able to differentiate the authentic products from the fakes.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act changed the way Native American products are produced, marketed, and sold. According to the act, an item is only considered authentic if it’s produced by a Native American craftsperson or a member of a federally or state-recognized tribe. Under the act, sellers are prohibited from selling inauthentic, Native American-style products without adding a “-style” tag at the end. If you notice a product labeled as “Native American-style,” it’s not authentic. An authentic product will mention the creator’s tribe affiliation somewhere in the product name, description, or seller’s website or store. They’re normally labelled as “Native American” or “authentic/handmade Native American.” Of course, this act hasn’t completely eliminated inauthentic products from the marketplace; some imported items manage to sneak past the radar.

How To Identify Inauthentic Goods

When you’re purchasing Native American products, it’s important to make sure the goods you’re buying are authentic. Buying inauthentic products translates into a lost sale for actual Native American craftspeople. Thankfully, there are a few simple ways you can avoid purchasing fraudulent goods. One tip for buying Native American arts and crafts is to shop with well-known, positively reviewed sellers. It’s important to buy from an established dealer or from the craftsperson themselves. These people should be able to provide you with a written guarantee or proof of authenticity. When you’re purchasing a product, ask for your receipt, which should include vital information such as the type of product you bought, the materials used in its construction, and where it came from.

If you’re buying at Native American craft fairs, powwows, juried competitions, or other events, you should always read about the event’s seller requirements. You can usually find these in newspaper ads, in promotional flyers, or online. Check to make sure the event requires proof of authenticity from all their sellers.

You can also identify inauthentic products by assessing their price, appearance, and their guarantee of authenticity. Native American products tend to be on the expensive side. They’ve been fashioned from high-quality, natural materials and handmade with care, which makes them more costly than mass-produced, machine-made objects. If you find a product that costs considerably less than other, similar products, you should bring its validity into question. Well-crafted products should look clean and sharp. If a product appears poorly constructed, there’s a high possibility it’s fake.

One final thing to keep in mind is that most reputable dealers and craftspeople can provide you with a written guarantee of authenticity. If they’re insisting on just their word, walking away might be in your best interest.

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