Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_Statement on Etsy closing down Native artists' accounts

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Feb. 7, 2018

(SHI's Letter to Etsy) (U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan's Letter to Etsy)

Clarification: It has come to our attention that a portion of Alaska’s northern sea otter population is listed as threatened under federal law but the listing does not include southeast Alaska otters, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conversely, in Southeast Alaska, sea otters are extremely abundant and in some areas they are so populous they are decimating fish and shellfish populations. 

SHI President Rosita Worl has issued the following statement on Etsy banning certain Alaska Native products:

“Sealaska Heritage was contacted by artists alarmed that Etsy Marketplace, an e-commerce website through which many Alaska Native artists sell their arts and handicraft, had banned products made of ivory and marine mammals. The sale of Native arts and handicraft arises from ancient traditions of creating and exchanging Native handicrafts and has been a cornerstone of Native culture and societies for thousands of years. Today Native artists are dependent on the sale of arts and handicraft for their basic livelihood. Many Native artists live in communities where their economies are severely depressed or non-existent and the sale of handicraft is the only source of generating revenues.

Etsy’s policy restricting the sale of ivory and marine mammal products through its website is based on erroneous assumptions that marine mammal populations are endangered and that the sale of products made from ivory and marine mammals are illegal. SHI has been working with U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan to reverse this policy noting that the sale of these items is legal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and that the marine mammal populations are not endangered. In fact, Alaska has an over-abundance of sea otters that are feasting on our fisheries and shellfish and greatly endangering our subsistence and commercial economies.

Sealaska Heritage supports the protection of elephant populations and the restrictions on the sale of elephant ivory, but these well-meaning policies and efforts should not be at the expense of destroying Native cultures and livelihoods.”

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research and advocacy that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee. 


CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116