November 22, 2016

Fighting For Native American Artists Rights

By Fighting For Native American Artists Rights

Pacific Legal Foundation’s Harold Johnson interviews PLF Attorney Caleb Trotter and his client Peggy Fontenot about her challenge in Fontenot v. Pruitt.

Peggy, a renowned American Indian artist and a member of a state-recognized tribe, cannot market her beaded jewelry, photographs and other art as “Indian Made” in Oklahoma because state law prohibits anyone other than a member of a federally recognized tribe from marketing their art as “Indian Made.” PLF argues that the Oklahoma law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Commerce and Due Process clauses.

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Fontenot v. Hunter, Attorney General of Oklahoma

Peggy Fontenot is an award-winning American Indian photographer and artist, specializing in hand-made beaded jewelry and cultural items. A member of Virginia’s Patawomeck tribe, she has made her living for 30 years traveling the country to show and sell her American Indian art. She regularly participated in Oklahoma art festivals until local, politically-connected tribes convinced the state legislature to restrict the definition of “Indian tribe” to include only those tribes recognized by the federal government. The restriction was ostensibly to prevent the marketing and sale of art fraudulently described as “American Indian-made.” However, as a result of this law, Ms. Fontenot – a legitimate member of a state-recognized tribe – may no longer truthfully describe her art as “American Indian-made” in the state of Oklahoma.

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