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Regional Indigenous Art is a Protected Economic Opportunity

Indigenous Arts Montana


Every day I see Indigenous artisans selling their art and craft goods online, at Indigenous events, or in a store parking lot. Growing up, there was always the lady who carried her handmade jewelry around in a box to hustle while out and about. We all remember that lady.

Creating art and art entrepreneurship has always been part of the Indigenous way of life in America. In the early days, we traded our art goods amongst ourselves, which is a cultural tradition still thriving today.

Our contribution to the original tapestry of American arts is so important that in 1990, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act was passed. This act is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresenting Indigenous arts and crafts products in the U.S. Doing so is illegal and can result in fines up to $250,000, a prison term or both.

This law was passed to protect U.S. Indigenous artists who are enrolled in state or federally recognized tribes, which is good news for Indigenous artisans and the international Indigenous art collectors who spend top dollar for Indigenous arts and crafts goods. 

In recent years, high-end mainstream fashion has featured many Indigenous jewelry artisans and fashion designers on the covers of their magazines. With this new growing interest in U.S. Indigenous-made goods an economic opportunity has taken root in the south eastern Montana region, home to the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations. 

Our region is home to many influential Indigenous artists like Kevin Redstar, Bethany Yellowtail, Ben Pease, Zackery Faraway and Alaina Buffalo Spirit to name a few. The level of exceptional Indigenous talent that grows in our region is ushering in a new era of economic growth and representation on the global arts stage. There is a global shortage of authentic U.S. Indigenous arts and crafts goods which are highly desired by art collectors.

I encourage all Indigenous peoples to seize this economic opportunity to showcase our region’s talent while making some extra cash on the side.

Charlene Sleeper
Charlene Sleeper

Charlene Sleeper, Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho, Crow and Chippewa Cree, is a non-traditional student at Montana State University Billings majoring in human services with a minor is criminal justice. She is currently working with the Global Peace Foundation on cross cultural relations and is multidisciplinary artist. Her favorite creative mediums are acrylic painting and poetry. Charlene lives in Billings with her dog Lotus who is a serious pee bag and likes to chew up everything.

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