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Congressman Young Continues to Seek Resolution for Traditional Alaska Native Artwork Containing Bird Parts

Young Bill Would Recognize Subsistence Needs and Allow Sale of Handicrafts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing today, Alaskan Congressman Don Young questioned Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Steven Guertin on legislation he introduced to address the sale of Alaska Native artwork containing non-edible migratory bird parts.

“For thousands of years, the inclusion of bones, feathers, and other non-edible bird parts in traditional handicrafts has been commonplace in the Alaska Native culture,” said Congressman Don Young. “However, an issue came to light  a couple of years ago when a widely celebrated Tlingit artist was cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for including feathers in a piece he offered for sale. While he could have served jail time or received a hefty fine, he ultimately settled with the Service for a —still significant— couple thousand dollars.”

 As a result, in 2012, the Alaska Federation of Natives passed a resolution supporting a legislative fix to a problem that many Native artists were previously unaware even existed.

Today, the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs convened a legislative hearing to discuss H.R. 3109, legislation introduced by Congressman Young that would amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to provide a commonsense fix for future incidents involving the sale of handicrafts by Alaska Natives. During his questioning, Congressman Young asked Fish and Wildlife Deputy Director Steven Guertin for clarification on the Administration’s opposition to his legislation, and demanded a quick and timely resolution to the issue affecting Alaska Native artists using non-edible migratory bird parts.

Congressman Young questioning Fish and Wildlife Deputy Director Steven Guertin on H.R. 3109, legislation to provide a commonsense fix for Alaska Native artists (Click here to watch).

“I would make a suggestion, don’t cite anybody in my state again until we work this issue out,” Congressman Young said to Deputy Director Steven Guertin. “If you don’t, we will do it legislatively. It’s silly to use a dead bird’s feather – that has no value to anyone – to cite a person, an individual citizen of my state, especially when they have a cultural background.”

Congressman Young’s legislation comes at the request of multiple Alaskan Native organizations, including the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Sealaska Heritage Institute, and will now continue through the House Natural Resources Committee legislative process.

"I applaud Congressman Young for his efforts in introducing this much needed legislative fix,” Rosita Worl, President of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, said following introduction of the legislation.  “Artists such as Archie have been making their artwork for ceremonial, for trade and for sale with others for thousands of years.  Today, arts and crafts sales are often the only way economically depressed villages can earn an income, and H.R. 3109 will allow them to continue to do so.”

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