Plan on historic Native American artist portal draws fire

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Native American artists are attacking a plan that would impose more regulations to sell their jewelry at New Mexico’s historic Palace of the Governors portal in Santa Fe.

The Native American artists say proposed changes are burdensome and disruptive to rules already in place, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports .

Proposed changes by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs address a variety of topics, from day-to-day vendor oversight to which artists can sell their goods in front of the historic building on the Plaza. Those changes could add four pages to the existing seven pages of regulations.

“Our old regulations and guidelines are still real good and we go by them,” said Rodey Guerro, an artist. “We don’t (want) anybody telling us to run things differently.”

The portal is reserved for the sale of Native American crafts to preserve the culture of New Mexico’s pueblo and tribal cultures.

Existing regulations state only that the applicants must demonstrate their craft for the director of the Palace of the Governors and one or more committee members.

The draft regulations state that applicants must demonstrate their craft at their residence, using their own tools, in the presence of at least two committee members. The committee members who examine those skills may not be related to the applicants, according to the draft. The proposals also include a call for a formal report on an applicant’s demonstration and allow for a second demonstration.

The draft regulations also create three tiers of rule violations. They range from being absent from an assigned site at the portal to selling unauthorized products to sexual harassment and criminal conduct. Proposed penalties range from a two-week suspension from the portal for a minor violation to banishment for a third serious offense.

“It seems like a set of rules aimed at a penal colony rather than an artists’ community,” said Michael Gorman, a Navajo silversmith and chairman of the portal committee.

Seth McFarland, operations director at the museum and coordinator of the portal program, said the museum made an effort to involve the portal committee since the changes were contemplated in 2016.

“We cannot offer any comment on this because we don’t have any details of the committee’s specific concerns,” McFarland said. “In addition, it would be inappropriate to offer a comment on these concerns, or any concerns, until all public comments have been received and the rulemaking process has concluded.”

The museum board of regents is expected to vote on the proposed changes in May.

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