Indian Arts and Crafts: Size of Market and Extent of Misrepresentation Are Unknown

GAO-11-432 Published: Apr 28, 2011. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 2011.
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In 1935 the Indian Arts and Crafts Act was enacted, establishing the Indian Arts and Crafts Board as an entity within the Department of the Interior. A priority of the Board is to implement and enforce the act's provisions to prevent misrepresentation of unauthentic goods as genuine Indian arts and crafts. As the market for Indian arts and crafts grew and the problem of misrepresentation persisted, the act was amended to, among other things, enhance the penalty provisions and strengthen enforcement. GAO was asked to examine (1) what information exists regarding the size of the market and the extent to which items are misrepresented and (2) actions that have been taken to curtail the misrepresentation of Indian arts and crafts and what challenges, if any, exist. In addition, this report provides information on some options available to protect Indian traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed international, federal, state, and local officials about the arts and crafts market and enforcement of the act. GAO is making no recommendations in this report. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security generally agreed with the contents of the report. The Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Justice also provided technical comments which were incorporated into the report as appropriate..

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