Bernalillo Indian Arts Festival returns

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BERNALILLO, N.M – The Bernalillo Indian Arts Festival made its return this year after COVID restrictions, giving Native American artists a chance to sell their jewelry.

After almost two years of no markets to sell their art, Dolores Lewis and her niece are happy to join dozens of other artists at the Bernalillo Indian Arts Festival.

"This is an all ancient pottery making that has been in our home,” said Lewis. "Literally carrying our past into the future by reusing our pot charts. The old pot charts are within this clay, which will make new pottery for future generations."

The festival makes sure the traditional items remain authentic against counterfeit jewelry being sold to Americans.

"It’s about a $2.5 billion industry. But unfortunately, you’re looking at close to half of it in a fake environment. So they can be representing themselves as Native American, or they’re not–or they’re representing that they handmade it, and they didn’t," said U.S. Department of Interior Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Nina Alexander.

Organizer of the Indian Festival, Sara Chadwick, said she always vets the artists and that classification standards and artist transparency prevents the sale of counterfeit items.

"If we find out an artist isn’t being authentic, then he isn’t invited back. Our reputation for having authenticity is what brings people here," said Chadwick.

Fake Native American-style art is a big problem. In 2020, two people pleaded guilty to faking jewelry. They got sentenced to 2 years of supervised release, and had to do community service for importing the fake jewelry from the Philippines, and selling it as authentic Native American jewelry.

"This is our livelihood, me and my niece right here. We just enjoy doing it and tell people that there’s us there, that we still do traditional pottery," said Lewis.