By Sarah Henning
Anchorage Daily News
Although the state Legislature has been contemplating a revision of the Silver Hand Program for four months, lawmakers adjourned Wednesday without acting and the program will remain as-is until next year.
The Silver Hand Program, which authenticates Alaska Native art, was established in 1961 to protect consumers from unknowingly purchasing fraudulent reproductions of Alaska Native art. The program has since expanded its goals to improving the economic position of Alaska Native artists.
Senate Bill No. 97 was introduced in February to update the Silver Hand program. Proposed changes include:
Current: Defines an Alaska Native person as someone with no less than 1/4 Native blood.
Proposed: Defines an Alaska Native person as a member of an Alaska Native tribe.
Current:A provision allows business owners who sell art to apply for Silver Hand tags, and then place tags on the work of eligible artists in their shop. The arts council stopped providing shops with tags in 1998, but is still technically allowable.
Proposed: Only Silver Hand artists have access to Silver Hand tags and stickers.
What qualifies What qualifies
Current: Works of art must be made at least partly of natural materials.
Proposed: Eliminates material requirements.
How it's enforced
Current: Criminal penalties exist. Misuse of Silver Hand stickers is a Class B Misdemeanor.
Proposed: The proposed bill builds in civil penalties, as well. It links the Silver Hand program to a consumer protection and fair trade statute, which strengthens the Alaska Council on the Arts’ ability to enforce Silver Hand regulations.
The Senate passed the new version of the program in April, but then the bill’s momentum stalled in a House committee after some Alaska Native leaders asked for more time to examine the bill and provide input.
The Alaska State Council on the Arts, which has managed the Silver Hand program since 1998, helped craft the proposed program changes based on recommendations from a Silver Hand Task Force made up of Alaska Native artists from around the state. Saunders McNeill, the council’s Native and community arts program director, said the council also conducted surveys and solicited feedback from more than 1,400 current and former Silver Hand permit holders.
Since the bill hasn’t been amended since it was written in 1961, the council took into consideration questionnaires and feedback from as far back as the 1970s.
The Legislature adjourned Wednesday, so the bill will marinate until next year’s session, where it will be picked up where it left off in the House committee for Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.
Committee chairman Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Wasilla, said the additional time will ensure that all concerned parties will have time to give input on the bill. He welcomes comments at 1-907-376-2679 and Rep_Mark_Neuman@legis.state.ak.us.
To see the full text of the bill, go here and do a bill search for SB 97.
Daily News reporter Sarah Henning can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4323.