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SHI Condemns FaceBook Ban on Sale of Products with Animal Parts, Fur



February 04, 2019
Monday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is condemning a Facebook ban on legal sales of products made from any "part, pelt or skin from an animal, including fur," according to the site's commerce policy.

The ban will have a devastating effect on Native artists throughout the state, who sell through Facebook and are dependent on the proceeds from arts and handicraft made from animal parts for their basic livelihood, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

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"It runs counter to SHI's efforts to establish sustainable arts-and-craft economies in rural communities where opportunities to earn a cash income are limited or non-existent," said Worl, who noted support for a sustainable sea otter harvest and sale of handicrafts is also a priority of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce.

SHI became aware of the ban after Sitka skin sewer Robert Miller posted a sea otter hat for sale on Facebook and received a message last week saying it was not approved because it didn't meet Facebook's commerce policies. The artist then contacted Sealaska Heritage.

"This fur was harvested legally under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and this art practice has been part of our indigenous culture for more than 10,000 years," Miller said. "I don't understand why Facebook has put this ban in place."

Worl has reached out to Alaska's Congressional delegation to help advocate for a remedy to the issue.

Today, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)wrote the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, to clarify Facebook Marketplace’s policies regarding the sale of products or artwork made with any “part, pelt or skin from an animal, including fur.” 

Late last week, Senator Sullivan was made aware of the policy issue by the Sealaska Heritage Institute – which informed the Senator that Sitka skin sewer Robert Miller posted a sea otter hat for sale on Facebook and received a message saying it was not approved because it didn’t meet Facebook’s commerce policies.

According to Sen. Sullivan's news release today, Facebook has since indicated the removal of these ads was a mistake. However, Senator Sullivan is requesting greater clarity on the scope of prohibited items for Alaska Native craftsmen and their customers around the world.

“The Alaska Native community has for thousands of years used animal products for survival, subsistence, and as a key means of cultural expression,” Senator Sullivan wrote. “Inhibiting the sale of these items not only limits the cultural exchange Facebook has empowered the Alaska Native community to share, but also threatens one of the key economic opportunities in remote Alaska villages.

Sullivan said, “Going forward, I hope we can work together to positively use the power of Facebook to the benefit of Alaska Native people and their communities. An important part of my work in the Senate is to try to correct the problems caused when public officials and entities like online vendors do not fully understand the unique circumstances of my constituents.”

"The sale of Native arts and handicraft arises from ancient traditions and has been a cornerstone of Native culture and societies for thousands of years," said U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan. "Facebook has connected the world, and in particular remote Alaska communities and Alaska Native cultures. Unfortunately, Facebook's ban, without recognizing or accommodating the legal right of Alaska Natives to produce and sell handicrafts, threatens to reduce the site's positive impacts for the Alaska Native community. I would urge Mr. Zuckerberg to draw on his experiences traveling in our great State and his respect for our Native organizations, and amend Facebook's policy to account for Alaska Natives' traditions and legal rights." (Download and Read Senator Sullivan’s full letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO FaceBook pdf)

Sealaska Heritage Institute also contacted Zuckerberg through his Facebook account, asking him to at least consider allowing an exemption for Alaska Native and Indigenous peoples.

The sale of fur and other animal byproducts by Alaska Natives is a statewide practice. In Southeast Alaska, approximately one-quarter (23%) of all artists identify themselves as Alaska Native artists, according to The Arts Economy of Southeast Alaska, a study released by the Southeast Conference in 2014. In ten Southeast Alaska communities, Alaska Native art is the dominant art form, with 75% to 100% of survey respondents identifying themselves as Alaska Native artists.

The 10 communities with higher proportions of Alaska Native artists also have fewer employment opportunities, the study found. A lack of conventional jobs-especially in the winter-underlies the higher value of art income to the overall economy in these areas.

The study also found that independent Southeast Alaska Native artists rely more heavily on art to augment their annual incomes than other regional artists. Moreover, those who make Alaska Native art were twice as likely as non-Alaska Native artists to report that art provides all of their personal income.


On the Web:

Download and Read Senator Sullivan’s full letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO FaceBook pdf


Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan

Sealaska Heritage Institute

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 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.


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