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Cherokee to crack down on fake Native goods

Passing off mass-produced tchotchkes as authentic Native American crafts could soon be illegal in Cherokee following Tribal Council’s unanimous vote to approve the Native Arts and Crafts Act last week. 

The legislation, submitted by the Office of the Attorney General with support from outgoing Wolfetown Representative Jeremy Wilson, states that it will be unlawful to “offer, display for sale, or sell any good in a manner that falsely suggests” it is made by Cherokee people or by Native Americans.

“The purpose of this is to take action on things that are being sold here on the Qualla Boundary that don’t identify who we really are, and I think if we’re going to be making the attempt to strive for more cultural appropriation for us, and our identity, then I think that actions like this are to be needed,” said Wilson. 

It is already illegal to dishonestly represent non-Native goods as indigenous creations. The federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act prohibits such actions. Nevertheless, the resolution accompanying the proposed ordinance stated, “these laws have not prevented inauthentic Cherokee goods and goods falsely purporting to be of other tribes from being displayed and sold.”

The ordinance was written in response to a resolution Wilson introduced in June, which Council then approved and Principal Chief Richard Sneed signed. The resolution directed the Office of the Attorney General to draft a “truth-in-advertising” law within 60 days of ratification that would prevent such misrepresentations. 

The act lays out a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months of prison for knowingly violating it. Guilty parties can have their tribal business license revoked by the Business Committee. 

“I’m hoping this helps local entrepreneurs,” said Wilson. 

The ordinance requires ratification from Sneed to become effective. 

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