The By-Laws of the Indian Arts & Crafts Association (IACA) state its purpose as:
To honestly represent American Indian arts and crafts as to nature and origin within the realm of my control and to offer return privileges for articles found by the Indian Arts and Crafts Association to have been misrepresented by me; To abide by all federal, state, local and tribal laws pertaining to Indian Arts and Crafts, artifacts and natural resources; To abide by ethical business conduct regarding advertising, appraising, pricing and guarantees offered by me; To respect and support ethical business activities of all Indian Arts and Crafts Association members; To encourage consumer confidence in the authenticity of all articles identified with the IACA seal; and, To cooperate with the law enforcement agencies and the IACA in the investigation of crimes involving Indian arts and crafts and to promote proper identification of Indian arts and crafts.
In 2018, after 44 years, the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, an organization devoted to the preservation, promotion, and protection of American Indian Art, has come to an end.
In the 1970’s the business of American Indian art, especially American Indian jewelry, was booming. There was a phenomenal demand for authentic American Indian art and crafts at this time. Sadly, along with this popularity, came the exploitation of American Indian Art through false advertising, fakes, imitations and out and out fraud.
It was at this time that third generation Indian trader, John D. Kennedy, became concerned about the threat to the industry and started to develop a trade organization to protect and enhance the market for authentic American Indian art and crafts. Starting out as a small fledgling organization without even a name, by 1974 the Indian Arts and Crafts Association (IACA) was formed, a board was elected, and a logo developed. The IACA developed guidelines for the ethical marketing of Native American Art. In 1974 the National Park Service adopted those guidelines for its concessionaires.
Since its founding the IACA had become the world's leading American Indian Arts Alliance. The only association of its kind, the IACA served many constituents including artists, American Indian art wholesalers and retailers, and American Indian art collectors.
Over the years, the IACA became a powerful voice in terms of protecting and preserving authentic American Indian Art including testifying before the U.S. Congress on matters of expanding the powers of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to enforce and prosecute the laws protecting American Indian art.
The association provided large wholesale markets for its artist, wholesale and retail members. It provided seminars and educational materials for its members and created new markets for hundreds of American Indian artists. For 35 years, the IACA recognized a single artist as the IACA Artist of the Year, one of the most admired and respected honors an American Indian artist could receive. The IACA seal became the hallmark of integrity for all that were fortunate enough to earn the famed seal. Membership was loyal throughout the years, with the average having been an association member for over 23 years. As long time member and award-winning potter/sculptor Pahponee (Kickapoo-Potawatomi), put it:
“IACA, what an amazing organization! Many artists and many businesses benefitted by their efforts to assist and enhance. As an artist, I learned much. We all learned. Thank you IACA!!”
The Indian Arts and Crafts Association provided a place for all members to gather, make friendships and conduct the wonderful business of American Indian Art. Although there were always differing ideas about exactly what standards IACA should stand for, how it should go about enforcing those standards and what sorts of opportunities and markets IACA should provide, there was always a consistent deep commitment to ensuring that the IACA would stand by its mission statement; to promote, protect and preserve American Indian Arts and Crafts.
Over time the market model for the buying and selling of American Indian art changed dramatically, most notably with the advent of Internet sales, allowing more direct contact between artists and buyers. The need for and interest in wholesale markets declined and finally was determined to no longer be a viable avenue for the IACA to continue. As renowned Cherokee sculptor and long-time exhibitor Eddie Morrison put it:
“IACA was really good in its early years especially in Denver, lots of galleries and collectors. I think with the advent of the Internet people could order what they wanted online. Business went down at IACA then.”
During its almost half-century of existence, the Indian Arts and Crafts Association was guided by, and carefully tended, by volunteers with a deep passion for the association and the principles for which it stood. From the very beginning, however, there was more interest and support for the organization than there were people who were willing to work at it. Sadly, in the end, the IACA was unable to continue without such committed volunteers.
The need for education remains and the mission at the heart of the IACA continues. Cultural appropriation as well as fraud and fakery are as much of a problem as ever.
The void that will be left with the close of the Association will be difficult to fill.
As Cliff Fragua, Jemez Pueblo sculptor, stone carver, and past president of the IACA stated:
“With the closure of IACA, Native artists must now take the lead in confronting fraud, appropriation, and misrepresentation of Native arts. Indigenous art communities must take control of the marketing of Native arts and crafts and implement programs to protect and repatriate the cultural and economic values of Native made products.”
As the Association comes to an end, it is working with the Heard Museum, the Heard Museum Guild, and the Heard Museum Library and Archives, toward an agreement with this prestigious institution which will honor the work that IACA has accomplished over the last 44 years, and promote, preserve and protect authentic American Indian art through awards given at The Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. In addition, all historic records will go to the Heard Museum Library and Archives for their permanent archives.
The mission and ethical beliefs of the IACA remain an important guideline for the world of American Indian Art, Indian artists, craftspeople, traders, dealers, collectors, museums and others concerned with the image and marketing of American Indian arts and crafts. These include: abiding by all federal, state, local and tribal laws pertaining to Indian Arts and Crafts, artifacts and natural resources; abiding by ethical business practices; cooperating with law enforcement agencies in the investigation of crimes involving Indian arts and crafts; promoting proper identification of Indian arts and crafts, and honestly representing American Indian arts and crafts as to their nature and origin.
The Board of Directors of the IACA wish to thank all those who kindly volunteered to serve IACA and to acknowledge our members and wish them the best for success in the years to come.