Legislation on Native Made Goods in Minnesota

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Legislation on Native Made Goods in Minnesota

By: Rita Walaszek | Objects/Works | August 28, 2018

Souvenir drum rattle used as example of an item that was labeled as 'Indian-made' but was not. 

In 1972, Neva and Doug Williams, proprietors of American Indian Products Company, Inc., spoke to the Minnesota state legislature about the identification of Native American made goods. The wanted to revise legislation from 1937 about the labeling of Native products. The Williams’ revisions included that the label say ‘not-Indian made’ when produced by someone outside of a federally recognized tribe. The law states that “Indian-made goods are those made exclusively by persons who are of at least one-quarter Indian blood or who are listed on the rolls of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs as Indians.”

This drum souvenir was used as an example in front of the legislature of an ‘imitation’ piece that was not made by a Native individual but sold to seem like it was. This Minnesota state law predates the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. While there has been laws that protect falsely Native made products since the 1930s, it wasn’t until these later acts of legislation that properly enforced vendors to adhere to these laws.