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Feds accuse Missouri man of posing as Indian to sell art

Whetstone 3

By Tony Rizzo, The Kansas City Star

The tradition of Native American art is as rich and varied as the many tribes of North America.

And many collectors and aficionados willingly pay premium prices for it.

But that also makes buyers susceptible to counterfeiters — people willing to risk violating the federal law that prohibits non-Indian artists from marketing their creations as the handiwork of an Indian.

According to federal prosecutors, an Odessa, Mo., man did just that by falsely portraying himself as a Cherokee artist while selling his artwork online.

Federal prosecutors in Kansas City recently charged Terry Lee Whetstone, 62, with misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods and products, a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year imprisonment.

Neither Whetstone nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment, and he is not a member of the federally recognized Cherokee Nation, according to records of the Oklahoma-based tribe.

But he is an enrolled member of the Northern Cherokee Nation, according to Chief Kenn Grey Elk.

And while that nation is not federally recognized, it is officially recognized by the state of Missouri, according to Grey Elk.

That, according to Grey Elk, would qualify Whetstone as an Indian under federal law.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment about the charges beyond the information contained in court documents.

Whetstone’s website no longer functions. But for more than a decade, it cited his Cherokee heritage in advertising his music, painting, sculptures and jewelry.

He was raised in suburban Kansas City, according to his online biography, and performed flute music at numerous events around Kansas City. For years, his website claimed that his artwork could be found in many galleries and private collections — and even at The Smithsonian museum gift shop in Washington, D.C.

Whetstone 2

Federal prosecutors in Kansas City said they could not recall a similar case being filed in recent memory under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

But the phenomenon is enough of a problem nationwide that a special board under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior has monitored the art world since 1935 to ensure that art marketed as Indian is authentic.

“While the beauty, quality, and collectability of authentic Indian art and craftwork make each piece a unique reflection of our American heritage, it is important that buyers be aware that fraudulent Indian art and craftwork competes daily with authentic Indian art and craftwork in the nationwide marketplace,” the Indian Arts and Crafts Board states on its website.

Federal law does not prevent non-Indians from producing Indian-style artwork. But only a member of an officially recognized Indian tribe, or a person certified as an Indian artist by a tribe, is allowed to market products as Indian-produced.

The law covers a variety of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts.

According to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, items frequently copied by non-Indians include jewelry, pottery, baskets, carvings, rugs, Kachina dolls and clothing.

“These counterfeits undermine the market for authentic Indian art and craftwork and severely undercut Indian economies, self-determination, cultural heritage and the future of an original American treasure,” according to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

For legitimate Native American artists, the law is an important way to protect their cultural identity and livelihoods.

Counterfeiters “are appropriating a culture that’s not theirs,” said George Levi, an Oklahoma artist of Cheyenne-Arapaho descent.

Levi likened the crime to people who profit from counterfeiting the work of big-name fashion designers. Every piece of artwork sold as authentic by a non-Indian takes money away from a legitimate Indian artist, he said.

“They’re just trying to make a buck off of us,” Levi said.

The court documents filed in Whetstone’s case do not specify what type of artwork he sold.

But cached versions of the website listed in court documents featured his Indian-themed paintings and music. The site also showed pictures of Whetstone playing a flute and described him as a “self-taught, talented American Indian flute performer and multi-faceted artist.”

It said that he “reflects the history of his Cherokee heritage in his music and art.”

Last year, he received an award from the Indie Music Channel. In an award ceremony YouTube video, he identifies himself as “mixed-blood Cherokee.”

Whetstone listed his race as white on a 1997 Jackson County marriage license application that gave the option of marking white, black, American Indian or other.

For purposes of complying with the Indian art law, the artist must be an enrolled member of a tribe officially recognized by the federal government or a state. It is unclear whether Grey Elk’s assertion that Whetstone is a member with the Northern Cherokee Nation will have any impact on the federal case.

A person can be certified as a nonmember artist if they are “of Indian lineage of one or more members of a particular tribe,” and they have written authorization from the tribe’s governing body.

The Cherokee Nation carefully authenticates the tribal status of all artists whose work is displayed in galleries and gift shops, said Donna Tinnin, community tourism manager for the tribe.

Ensuring artwork’s authenticity is important for educating people about the specific traditions and history of each tribe, Tinnin said.

“Each tribe has their own story and their own styles of artwork,” she said.

Johnny Learned, president of the American Indian Center of the Great Plains, said he was glad to see the federal government taking action.

Learned said he finds it “interesting” that more people seemed to claim to be Indians as economic opportunities such as casinos expanded for Native Americans.

“I think there should be even more stringent rules that prohibit that,” he said.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article25737253.html#storylink=cpy

A new ‘edge’ at Indian Market this year

People crowd the streets surrounding the Plaza during last year’s Santa Fe Indian Market. The market last year brought in an estimated 150,000 visitors, and had an $80 million economic impact on the city and state. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

People crowd the streets surrounding the Plaza during last year’s Santa Fe Indian Market. The market last year brought in an estimated 150,000 visitors, and had an $80 million economic impact on the city and state. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

By Jackie Jadrnak, Albuquerque Journal

Bouncing back from financial and staffing controversies last year, the Santa Fe Indian Market this August is promising a newly contemporary flavor.

It’s not that the standards are changing substantially for the main market on the Plaza, although last year and this year some rules have been loosened to allow some non-traditional materials and techniques – variations that must be disclosed, said Dallin Maybee, chief operating officer for the Southwestern Association of American Indian Arts.

“We want to protect the collectors, as well as the artists,” he said.

More important, this year’s market will see a new expansion called Indian Market Edge, which will offer indoor spaces at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center to galleries and Native American artists who create contemporary fine art, he said.

“I’m particularly excited about this,” Maybee said. “We can present some contemporary artists who don’t show with us now.”

While some artists who produce works in a contemporary style have complained in the past that they didn’t feel there was a place for them within the traditional bounds of Indian Market, Maybee said he felt that he had seen many artists include innovative works in their booths. Adding this contemporary showcase, though, will shine a spotlight on modern works being produced by Native artists, he said.

“The people I’ve approached about the concept are really excited,” Maybee said. “This will help us stay fresh. We have to change with the times or we lose aspects of our culture.” Contemporary art is an aspect of tribes’ cultural evolution, he noted, adding that he creates some contemporary works himself, as do many of his friends.

“I’d like SWAIA to be known not just for traditional mediums,” he said.

Shoppers look at Zuni fetishes at last year’s Indian Market on Santa Fe’s Plaza. Many Native American artists earn a substantial portion of their income during the two-day event. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Shoppers look at Zuni fetishes at last year’s Indian Market on Santa Fe’s Plaza. Many Native American artists earn a substantial portion of their income during the two-day event. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

The idea is to offer 12-15 spaces to galleries that represent Native artists to show their works, while SWAIA will review applications from independent artists and choose about six to eight to showcase in its own space. He said the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts has expressed an interest in participating.

Altogether, Maybee estimated that 30 to 40 artists will have their work in Indian Market Edge. Booth fees won’t be charged, but SWAIA will take a “small percentage” of any sales, Maybee said.

Some 900 artists take part in the outdoor Indian Market, slated for Aug. 22-23 on the Santa Fe Plaza. Those artists keep the proceeds of their sales, but pay a fee for their booths.

SWAIA, the organization that makes Indian Market happen, went through some turmoil last year when former operating officer John Torres Nez left with two other staffers to form the Indigenous Fine Arts Market, which presented artists in the Railyard on some days overlapping Indian Market and promised a greater voice to artists in how the market was produced.

According to its website, IFAM intends to present a market again this year Aug. 20-22.

That split came about when SWAIA was experiencing financial troubles and reduced work hours of some of its staff.

Maybee said this week that the organization no longer is experiencing financial woes. It paid off its loans after last year’s market and hasn’t taken out any new loans since, he said, partly due to the fact that last year’s gala auction raised a record amount of more than $400,000.

“We got a groundswell of support among the artists,” who donate artworks for the auction, Maybee said. “They wanted to support and protect the legacy (of Indian Market).”

And the Winter Market, which usually doesn’t make money, came out ahead this year, he said, “between the Festival of Trees and good business decisions.”

The Festival of Trees was a program in which various businesses and artists decorated Christmas trees that were auctioned off as a fundraiser.

Eventually, Maybee said, he would like to see Indian Market go from producing events to being a year-round presence – about 50 acres would be a good size for a site to establish a permanent presence with art on display and for sale, not unlike the Indian Pueblo Cultural Arts Center in Albuquerque, he said.

That’s all still in the talking phase, though, and would require a considerable amount of fundraising, Maybee said, adding that a new development director should be coming on board in a month or so. Santa Fe would be the location for such a project, if it came to fruition, he said.

Meanwhile, Maybee said this year’s Indian Market, in its 94th year, also will include:

  • The Native Cinema Showcase, starting earlier that week, along with the Classification X winners for submitted films.
  • A Thursday-night private preview reception where donors and tribal leaders can mingle and view the Best of Show winners; jeweler Raymond Yazzie, whose family currently has a show at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, will conduct a book-signing.
  • The Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit law firm from Denver that defends Native sovereignty and other issues, will offer panel discussions exploring various Native issues in Cathedral Park on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Fashion events to showcase both contemporary and traditional fashions produced by Native designers.
  • An auction that will feature many artworks, including a four-place table setting that will be auctioned off en masse with everything from place mats to wineglasses produced by a bevy of Native artists.
  • A farewell party, by ticket purchase, Sunday night at La Mesita Ranch past Pojoaque, organized in collaboration with Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, with music, food, wine, spirit tastings and more.

15th Annual Indian Market & Powwow

By Lynne Valencia, KUSA-TV

(Photo: Carolyn Doran)

(Photo: Carolyn Doran)

KUSA – Tesoro’s annual Indian Market & Powwow features premier Native American artists from all over the country, primarily with roots in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

The 15th annual Indian Market & Powwow is on Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17, 2015 on the grounds of The Fort at 19192 Highway 8 in Morrison.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and features American Indian art, cuisine, dance, music and hands-on educational activities for kids.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students with a valid ID. Seniors, Tesoro members and children under 12 are free.

This year’s Indian Market & Powwow will feature the art of:

• Pahponee – Woodlands-style traditional and contemporary pottery

• Eddie Morrison – contemporary wood and stone sculptures

• Nelson Garcia – hand-designed and handmade jewelry

• Carol Snow – pen and ink, watercolor and oil paintings

• Lynn Burnette Sr. – watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings, bronze sculptures and more

New artists include Karen-Lyne Hill of the Onondaga Nation Snipe Clan, who is skilled in the traditional form of Iroquois raised bead work and Ronnie-Leigh Goeman. Goeman grew up on the Onondaga Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy located in Upstate New York. She began making baskets as a teenager and, as she grew older, many traditional Iroquois women taught her the importance of balancing old traditions with individuality.

Over 50 inter-tribal American Indian dancers and drum groups will share their heritage through traditional dance and regalia.

Alongside celebrations of art, dance and other cultural heritage, Tesoro’s Indian Market & Powwow honors outstanding American Indian Veterans each year. This year’s honoree is Bob Iron, Pawnee-Crow. Iron served in the United States Army, SP4, from 1968 to 1971 and is a Vietnam combat veteran. He is a treasured member of the Indian Market & Powwow family – his family drum group, Pawnee Spotted Horse, has performed at Indian Market & Powwow for many years. Iron will be honored for his service and sacrifice in a ceremony during Sunday’s festivities.

For more information: Tesoro Cultural Center

150 Native American Artists Converge on Tulsa for Cherokee Art Market

By: Cherokee Nation

TULSA, Okla. – The ninth annual Cherokee Art Market will feature 150 inspirational and elite Native American artists from across the nation Oct. 11-12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Sequoyah Convention Center at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

Admission is $5 per person.

The finest Native American artwork, representing more than 45 different tribes, will be displayed and sold at the Cherokee Art Market. Pieces include beadwork, pottery, painting, basketry, sculptures and textiles. Guests can also enjoy a variety of cultural and art demonstrations.

“Year in and year out, the Cherokee Art Market has proven to be one of the most prestigious Indian art shows in the country,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Every year our market continues to grow bigger and better. The Cherokee Art Market is a second-to-none showcase featuring world-class artisans in a variety of mediums.”

RELATED: Sculpture “Halfbreed” Wins Grand Prize at Cherokee Homecoming Art Show

As part of the two-day event, there will be public demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Demonstrations include jewelry stamp work technique, katsina doll making, pottery, painting and basket weaving.


Alvin Marshall’s sculpture, 'A Little Girl’s Dream,' was named Best of Show at the eighth annual Cherokee Art Market.
Alvin Marshall’s sculpture, ‘A Little Girl’s Dream,’ was named Best of Show at the eighth annual Cherokee Art Market.


An awards reception will be held in The Sky Room on Friday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in honor of the Cherokee Art Market prizewinners, with $75,000 in overall prize money awarded across 22 categories. The public is welcome to attend the awards reception for $25 per person. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door.

The Cherokee Nation Foundation will also host its live art auction at the reception to raise funds for scholarships for Cherokee youth. Artists interested in donating should call the foundation at 918-207-0950.

“Best of Show” for the eighth annual Cherokee Art Market went to Alvin Marshall for his sculpture “A Little Girl’s Dream.”

For more information about the Cherokee Art Market, visit www.cherokeeartmarket.com.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240. For more information, visit www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com or call (800) 760-6700.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/09/17/150-native-american-artists-converge-tulsa-cherokee-art-market-156937

Inaugural Indigenous Fine Art Market to Launch August 21-23 2014


Juried art show in Santa Fe’s Railyard Arts District will feature more than 400 acclaimed Native American artists. Three-day event includes live performances, traditional music and dance, youth art, skateboarding exhibition, literary booths and more


Source: JLH Media
June 26, 2014; Santa Fe, NM: More than 400 acclaimed Native American artists will show and sell their art at the first annual Indigenous Fine Art Market (IFAM) at the Santa Fe Railyard on August 21-23, with more award-winning talents juried in every day. Participating artists include jeweler Darryl Dean Begay (Navajo), clothing designer Sho Sho Esquiro (Kasa Dene), jeweler Tchin (Narragansett/Blackfeet), Apache Skateboards founder Douglas Miles (San Carlos Apache), photographer Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), writer Sara Marie Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), jeweler Kristen B. Dorsey (Chickasaw), bead worker Summer Peters (Saginaw Ojibwe), jeweler Victor P. Beck, Sr. (Navajo), painter Rhett Lynch (Navajo) and weaver Melissa Cody (Navajo).

“IFAM is about our narrative and our art, it is not about old versus new or traditional versus contemporary,” said John Torres Nez, President of the Indigenous Fine Art Market. “It is designed for all communities, from tribal lands throughout North America to our local Santa Fe area and collectors from all over the globe. We want to share our culture with everyone, not just those who can afford an award-winning $20,000 necklace. Along with spectacular jewelry, paintings, beadwork, and pottery, IFAM includes music, dance and literary performances and native foods for everyone to enjoy.”

Guided by artists who want a voice in how their market is produced, IFAM was formed to share the Native American narrative with the world through relationships made with those who experience Native art. A juried art show, IFAM will maintain the highest quality of standards expected with a fine art show.


IFAM’s events were chosen to create a greater understanding of the diversity and beauty of Native American culture and people as they evolve and exist today. IFAM features performances by Native bands, traditional music and dance, spoken word, skateboarding exhibitions, installation art, mural painting, youth art, and literary booths.

Special events include:
  • IFAM Kickoff Glow Dance Party: Wed., Aug. 20, 8pm. Location TBD
  • IFAM Art Show & Celebration: Thurs., Aug. 21 – Sat., Aug. 23 Santa Fe Railyard
  • IFAM Stage, Thurs., Aug. 21 – Sat., Aug. 23, Santa Fe Railyard
  • Youth programming, Wed., Aug 20 – Sat.,Aug. 23, Warehouse 21
  • Film programs
IFAM is currently looking for major sponsorships of all kinds for the stages, programming, facilities, and events. To discuss sponsorships, contact Linda Off at linda@indigefam.org.

IFAM’s list of participating artists is updated daily at www.indigefam.org.

The first comic book with an all-Native American superhero team returns

Conversation with Jon Proudstar about the return of his comic book series, ‘Tribal Force.’

by Bryn Bailer, High Country News

We recommend using the gallery view to read the comic book pages excerpted from the next issue of Tribal Force.

Comic books may be meant for kids, but they’re not child’s play. So says Jon Proudstar, creator of Tribal Force – the first comic book to feature an all-Native American superhero team.

Time spent counseling child-abuse victims and violent youth offenders – often from the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham reservations near his Tucson, Ariz., home – taught Proudstar the value of cultural awareness. He didn’t learn about his own Yaqui heritage until his maternal grandmother told him when he was 5.

Tribal Force, released in 1996, was critically well received – even making it into “Comic Art Indigène,” a pop-culture exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Several large comic-book publishers sought to buy the rights, but Proudstar wanted to retain control of the storyline and the characters’ unhappy, all-too-real backstories. Unfortunately, he lacked funding, so the project went dark for more than a decade.

The new Tribal Force, from the small independent publisher Rising Sun Comics, continues the saga. An online preview is already available, with the print version expected in April.

The god Thunder Eagle, determined to create a Native superhero team from North America’s various First Nations, helps Nita, a Navajo child-molestation survivor, transform into the goddess Earth. Meanwhile, Gabriel Medicine Dog, a Hunkpapa Sioux left mute by fetal alcohol syndrome, metamorphoses into the fearsome Little Big Horn following a fatal bar fight. Together, Nita and Gabriel seek out other Native supernaturals, fighting high-tech government entities and supervillains along the way.

A onetime Hollywood chauffeur and bodyguard, Proudstar, 46, currently works as a screenwriter and independent-film actor. In 2012, he co-starred with Booboo Stewart of the Twilight franchise in the award-winning coming-of-age film Running Deer. He formed Proudstar Productions to represent and finance deserving projects, including the forthcoming Wastelander, an apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Arizona’s Angelo Lopes. HCN contributor Bryn Bailer caught up with Proudstar recently in a Tucson coffee shop.

High Country News Why did you create Tribal Force?

Jon Proudstar I think Native children need to know who they are. They forget why we fought so hard in the beginning, and why we continue to fight: to fulfill the promise we made with our God to protect this land and take care of it. When you have that strength of knowing where you come from, the greatness your people once had, it’s like you’re Superman. You feel the power.

HCN Where did the idea come from?

Proudstar The superhero comic books that I was so into (as a kid) taught me the whole thing about good and evil. I saw the bad things that were going on, that gangs were doing, and … I know it sounds silly, man, but I was like: “Spider-Man wouldn’t do that,” or “Batman wouldn’t do that.”

HCN Traditionalism vs. modern life is a big theme, isn’t it?

Proudstar That’s definitely entrenched in Tribal Force. They’re all traditional heroes – meaning that their powers come from Native tradition – but their enemies are all high-tech: guns, lasers, cannons, invisible ships. That’s what they’re up against.

It’s hard to keep values and traditions when you’re amalgamating with such an advanced society. You walk two roads: Failure in one world is success in the other, and vice versa. … My dream is to give Native American kids heroes. I didn’t have that.

HCN The members of Tribal Force aren’t your typical superhero team.

Proudstar The characters are very young and flawed, and not into their culture. They’re the last people you’d pick to have super powers in your community. They’re the jerkoffs who are in jail every frickin’ weekend.

Nita’s a punk … and the gods won’t take it from her any more. Spiderwoman – the Navajo goddess who taught her people how to weave – takes Nita to the past, and shows her what the Navajo have been through. When she sees the sacrifices that her people made, she starts to become more

serious about learning. If she learns how to weave, she’ll get more powers. If she goes through her Kinaaldá (a Navajo coming-of-age ceremony) she’ll increase her powers.

HCN If the members of Tribal Force were here today, what would they be most upset with?

Proudstar Tribal Force looks at the same issues that rez kids have to deal with. When I was younger, I remember thinking, “We’ll always be poor, struggling, seeing relatives being arrested.” That was kind of crushing. But I educated myself by reading a lot, and in broadening my horizons, I realized that things will change – and that you can change them.

The first issue I’m dealing with in the book is the epidemic of child molestation on Indian reservations. Seven out of 10 girls – it’s a huge cancer. Gabe has fetal alcohol syndrome … and he’s into weed and drinking, and struggles with learning what it truly is to be a warrior. A lot of kids misinterpret what a warrior is. It has nothing to do with war. A warrior takes care of his village, makes sure the old ones are taken care of, and that the children are safe.

But for the most part, it’s a comic book. There’s action and aliens, and weird stuff.

HCN Given all the injustices Native Americans have experienced, what keeps you fighting the good fight?

Proudstar To know I have that blood running through me definitely gives me strength. That’s what I’m hoping when kids pick up my book – that somewhere in there, they will find a window that opens up to them, too. We give kids the information in a non-threatening way. It’s not like a textbook.

HCN Is it intended to be controversial?

Proudstar The books that influenced me, like X-Men, were very controversial at the time, because they talked about homosexuality, racism, suicide – topics that were taboo in comic books. If an educator reads (Tribal Force), they definitely would be worried. (It has) a lot of violence and controversial subject matter.

But I’m not writing it for adults. I’m writing it for young people, in a medium they’re used to. It’s the art of “fighting without fighting.”

The last thing I want is teachers or organizations saying, “Children, you should read this.” If anything, I want them to say, “Stay away from this book.”