We can help you to determine the legal status of Native American art in your collection for estate planning, donation, sale, or other possible transfers.
Introduction to Native American Art Law
The American Indian art trade is legal, an ordinary business that operates openly, in storefronts or on the Web, where people buy and sell using credit cards and checks, and where business owners pay taxes and social security. The situations in which people overstep the law are specific.
Sometimes, these situations occur on the borders of ordinary business and at times people may not even be aware that a law is being violated.
The vast majority of Native American art and artifacts in the market were made as trade goods. Examples are Navajo rugs, Pueblo and other ceramics, baskets, jewelry, and fetishes made for sale. These are unquestionably legal to trade ... so far. And if they don’t include endangered species materials, which many jewelry items do.
What are the benefits of collecting legally, besides not going to jail?
When you collect legally you can insure your artworks and transfer the things you have collected to other persons or institutions without having to worry about not having good title.
Proper documentation is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to future generations who will appreciate the art collected in the past. It is also an obligation that we have to the works. As advisers, telling your clients to document their collections is the best possible advice.
There is a problem with much of the antique Indian material in circulation on the market. Most objects don’t have a documented history.
Why? Is it because everything is illegal? No!
It is because documentation was not an issue in the past. Documentation wasn’t required in order to buy or sell a work of art, and it still isn’t. Auction houses, for example, rarely provide a collection history.
The net result of more than one hundred years of non-documentation is a huge body of objects for which very little is known – and for which probably, there is a significant subset that did come illegally out of federal or Indian lands many years ago. Recent US federal and state laws “look back” to earlier laws and it can be unlawful to sell something that has been circulating freely in the market for 50 or even 100 years.
Don’t be left in the dark. Call us to find out more about how these laws can impact inheritance, gifting, donation and sale of Native American art and artifacts: 505-412-2209.
This is a communication for the purpose of providing information and a legal advertisement.