Indian Arts and Crafts Association
Watchdog for Authenticity

How to find the “real thing” in Indian arts and crafts.

Nothing symbolizes the unique character of the Southwest more than Indian arts—beautiful burnished pots drawn from the earth; silver jewelry reflecting the mood and the sky; rugs with bold geometric designs; sandpaintings; basketry; intricate beadwork and carved fetishes. For the serious collector or the casual buyer, these crafts are not just beautiful objects. They are tangible expressions of the culture and traditions of the Native Americans of the Southwest.


But are all items sold as "Indian made" authentic?

The casual buyer may not be able to tell handcrafted jewelry from machine made, genuine turquoise from plastic, or hand-coiled pots from poured pottery or greenware. Sometimes even the experts are fooled—imitations made in the Philippines or Taiwan may look like the real thing.

For more than twenty years, the Indian Arts and Crafts Association (IACA) has tirelessly promoted authentic Native American arts. The nonprofit Association was formed in 1974 by a group of dealers who knew that cheap imitations and imports were undermining America's only indigenous art form. Headquartered in Albuquerque, IACA now has more than 700 member artists, wholesale and retail dealers, museums and collectors throughout the United States and in five foreign countries. IACA works to promote authentic Native American arts and crafts through public education and through common standards for the industry. IACA's annual wholesale markets feature only handcrafted items produced by Indians with tribal registration. IACA maintains a Buyer's Guide to help buyers locate artists and dealers of authentic arts and crafts.

Consumer awareness is the key to protecting buyers and producers alike. Reputable dealers will tell customers whether an item is hand- or machine-made. Buyers should feel free to ask dealers for written verification of the origin of a piece and the processes used in making it. IACA has worked closely with federal and state agencies to strengthen consumer protection legislation requiring items sold as "Indian made" to be accurately represented. All IACA members must pledge to represent honestly American Indian arts and crafts. Most are only too happy to tell buyers about the artist and his or her tribal affiliation as well as the techniques and contents of a handcrafted Indian work of art. The unique characteristics and meaning of the jewelry, pot or other craft add to its value.

Why is "authenticity" important? If you're a souvenir shopper, perhaps it isn't. But if you're a serious buyer, authentic Native American arts and crafts represent centuries-old craftsmanship, reflect the traditions, symbols and values of the Native American culture and religion, and promise enduring value. It's the real thing.

For membership, publications or other information about IACA and its programs:

Indian Arts and Crafts Association remote site
4010 Carlisle NE, Suite C
Albuquerque, NM 87107
505-265-8251 FAX

By Georgiana Kennedy, Kennedy Indian Arts
Member, Indian Arts and Crafts Association

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Albuquerque Metro Area - Volume 10

New Mexico Members of IACA


House of the Shalako rem By Appointment in Peralta | 505-242-4579
Wright's Indian Art | 505-266-0120


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