Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


In May 2000, in Capitol Hill hearing testimony Andy Abeita described the "threat"," largely coming from South of the border as an "onslaught" creating "significant losses" because of ''unfair competition." He further described the situation as a "takeover" causing "economic harm" against which those in the U.S. should be "protect[ed]." Abeita's choice of vocabulary was not out of the ordinary.1 As a number of authors have pointed out, Mexican workers are often described as an invasionary force.2 megal and legal Mexican migration and work in the U.S. or in the maquiladora manufacturing plants that have sprung up along the border from Tijuana in the West to Nueva Leon in the East, are frequently framed in just this manner in public discourse. What made Abeita's Senate testimony unusual was his target-- not migrant farm workers in California or Ciudad Jaurez automobile plant workers, but crafters some of , whom, at least for the case of "Mexican" textiles sold in galleries and gift shops throughout the U.S., are Native American artists. In the case of the "Navajo-like" woolen textiles sold throughout the American Southwest, many of these indigenous Americans live in the Southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.3

The Capitol Hill hearings in which Abeita and others testified were part of a long-standing effort to deal with the problem of "fake Indian" art and craft items. Formed in 1935, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board was established to both promote and regulate commerce in these items.4 The act of congress that founded the Board also established a number of guidelines for the sale of "Indian" crafted items, including the creation of the "Board's trademark" for identifying indigenous crafts and the promulgation of penalties for both foreign and domestically made "counterfeit" items.