Press Release

Oklahoma restrictions on American Indian artists’ rights put on hold

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA; January 5, 2017:  In a court-approved stipulated agreement, Oklahoma officials agreed this week to stay enforcement of Oklahoma’s American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act.  This restrictive law forbids American Indian artists from describing their work as “American Indian-made” unless they are members of a select group of specified tribes that enjoy the state’s favor.  The stay on enforcement will continue while Pacific Legal Foundation’s constitutional challenge to the law proceeds.

The controversial law requires that in order to market artwork as “American Indian-made,” an artist must belong to a tribe recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.  This excludes scores of tribes that enjoy recognition by states across the country.  Further, it contradicts the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which defines “Indian” artists to include artisans who are members of either state- or federally recognized tribes, or who are certified by tribes.

This past November, PLF filed a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of Peggy Fontenot, an award-winning, nationally renowned American Indian artist.  She is harmed by the law because she belongs to a state-recognized tribe — the Patawomecks, a historic tribe that is one of 11 recognized by Virginia.

“This stipulation is an encouraging development as we prosecute our challenge to Oklahoma’s restrictive and unjust law,” said PLF attorney Caleb R. Trotter.  “What this stipulation means is that while the case moves forward, Peggy Fontenot and every other American Indian artist in compliance with the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act may market and describe their art as ‘American Indian-made,’ just as they were free to do before the unconstitutional Oklahoma law was enacted last year.

“The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office deserves credit and thanks for being willing to stipulate to the stay,” Trotter continued.  “PLF and Peggy Fontenot will not relent, however, in litigating for a permanent vindication of the constitutional rights of all American Indian artists who work in Oklahoma.

“In the meantime, we will celebrate this small but tangible win for artists, art lovers, and the Constitution,” he said.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights, and free enterprise, in courts across the country.  PLF represents all clients free of charge.

Case Attorneys

Anastasia P. Boden

Attorney

Anastasia Boden is an attorney in PLF’s Economic Liberty Project, where she challenges anti-competitive licensing laws and laws that restrict freedom of speech. Anastasia’s practice largely consists of representing entrepreneurs … ›

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Caleb R. Trotter

Attorney

Caleb Trotter joined Pacific Legal Foundation in September 2015. He primarily litigates cases involving economic liberty, the First Amendment, school choice, and the administrative state. After growing up in Oklahoma, … ›

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Meriem L. Hubbard

Senior Attorney

Meriem Hubbard has been an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation since January 2000.  She litigates cases involving property rights, public finance issues, and preferences in government hiring, contracting, and education. … ›

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Case Commentary

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By Caleb R. Trotter

New ReasonTV video showcasing our American Indian art case

ReasonTV released a new video that showcases our client Peggy Fontenot and her case against the Attorney General of Oklahoma. If you’ll recall, last year, Oklahoma enacted a new law that limits who may market art as American Indian-made.

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By Caleb R. Trotter

Oklahoma cannot stop American Indian artists from calling their art American Indian-made

For over 30 years, Peggy Fontenot has made, displayed, and sold American Indian art, often traveling the country to participate in American Indian art shows and festivals. Her specialty is … ›

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By Anastasia P. Boden

PLF hosts discussion on occupational licensing reform in California

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Bottleneckers describes the phenomenon whereby interest groups harness government power to limit competition  Occupational licensing is one of the most egregious examples; today, nearly 2/3 of Americans need government permission in the form of a license just to do their job  Yet many licensing requirements have no relationship to protecting public safety, and instead exist for the simple purpose of protecting existing businesses from new competition 

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