A Missouri man pleaded guilty Wednesday to falsely claiming to be a Cherokee artist to sell his artwork.
Terry Lee Whetstone, 63, of Odessa, was placed on probation for three years as part of a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.
If Whetstone sells any artwork while on probation, he is required to tell the buyer he is not a member of a tribe. Likewise, he cannot publicly perform his Indian-style flute music without first notifying the audience that he is not a tribe member.
Whetstone was charged earlier this year with violating the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Under the law, only members of federally recognized tribes, or those given permission from the tribe, can sell artwork that claims to be Indian-made. Non-Indians can legally sell Indian-style art, but they cannot claim it is Indian-produced.
According to the charges, Whetstone portrayed himself as a Cherokee artist on his website but was not an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation or any other federally recognized tribe.
According to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, people who falsely claim to be Indians to sell art “undermine the market for authentic Indian art and craftwork and severely undercut Indian economies, self-determination, cultural heritage and the future of an original American treasure.”