FTC Distributes 300,000 Postcards and Brochures to Educate Shoppers Seeking Authentic Alaska Native Art

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in partnership with the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Indian Arts and Craft Board (IACB), and the Alaska Attorney General's Office, is helping consumers distinguish genuine Alaska Native arts and crafts from imitations. Since its debut in June 2002, the Partnership has distributed 300,000 copies of its postcards and brochures through retail outlets, cruise ships, airlines and hotels, and hostels.

More than 1 million tourists visit Alaska each year. Of the nearly $1.4 billion that tourists spent in Alaska in 2002, $112 million was spent on Alaska Native arts and crafts. As the popularity of items produced by Alaska Native artisans has surged, so has the production and sale of fraudulently-labeled items. Unfortunately, it is not always easy for tourists intending to purchase arts and crafts produced by Alaska Natives to distinguish between authentic items and imitations. That’s why the Partnership launched a multi-media campaign in May 2002, which includes an award-winning brochure, “Alaska Native Art;” a series of photo-quality postcards.

Buying Tips

The education materials provide many practical tips on how to be confident that Alaska Native art is authentic. Here are some tips to help you shop wisely:

  • Ask if your item comes with a certification tag (though not all authentic Alaska Native arts and crafts items carry a tag).
  • Look for the Alaska “Silver Hand” symbol or tag as a sign of authenticity.
  • Get written proof of any claims the seller makes for the authenticity of the art or craft item you're purchasing.
  • Get a receipt that includes all the vital information about the value of your purchase, including any oral representations.

Other clues include:

  • Price – Genuine pieces produced by skilled Alaska Native artisans can be expensive.
  • Type of materials – Materials often used by Alaska Native artisans include walrus ivory, soapstone, argillite, bone, alabaster, animal furs and skin, baleen, and other marine mammal materials.
  • Appearance – Try to pick up and examine a piece before purchasing it. Some items that appear to be soapstone carvings actually may be made of resin. Real stone is cool to the touch; plastic is warm. Stone also tends to be heavier than plastic. And a figure that is presented as hand-carved probably isn't if you see or can order more like it that are perfectly uniform or lack surface variations.

Where to Complain

The Indian Arts and Crafts Board refers valid complaints about violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 to the FBI for investigation and to the Department of Justice for legal action. To file a complaint under the Act, or to get free information about the Act, contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS 4004-M1B, Washington, D.C. 20240; 202-208-3773; www.iacb.doi.gov.

Complaints to the IACB must be in writing and include the following information:

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the seller.
  • A description of the art or craft item.
  • How the item was offered for sale.
  • What representations were made about the item, including any claims that the item was made by a member of a particular tribe or statements about its authenticity.
  • Any other documentation, such as advertisements, catalogs, business cards, photos, or brochures. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position.

For More Information

To learn more about Alaska Native arts and crafts or the Silver Hand program, contact:

Alaska State Council on the Arts
411 West 4th Avenue, Suite 1E
Anchorage, AK 99501-2343
907-269-6610; fax: 907-269-6601
Toll-free: 1-888-278-7424

The Alaska Attorney General's Office investigates unfair and deceptive marketing and sales practices in Alaska. To obtain a complaint form, contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Unit, 1031 West 4th Avenue, Suite 200. Anchorage, AK 99501; 907-269-5100; or use the complaint form at www.law.state.ak.us/consumer.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov

L. Saunders McNeill
Native Arts Program Director
Alaska State Council on the Arts
411 West 4th Ave, Suite 1E
Anchorage, AK 99501-2343

Contact Information

Media Contact:
FTC Office of Public Affairs