Verify authentic Alaska Native handicrafts through the Silver Hand program
Alaska Native art and crafts are an important and unique part of Alaska’s economy, especially in rural areas. Many buyers of traditional Native art travel from all over the United States and abroad to find it. The Silver Hand program helps ensure that buyers receive authentic, one-of-a-kind pieces in Alaska from Alaskan artists.
The history of the Silver Hand program dates back to 1935 when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board was established as a separate agency under the Secretary of the Interior, and four years later, the U.S. Department of the Interior required all handmade Native products be stamped with a trademark to guarantee their “genuineness.” This stipulated that an article had to be handmade by an Alaska Native, using predominantly indigenous raw materials. Because some of the materials used in certain items originate from regulated or protected species (whale baleen, for example), the trade of many traditional Native art forms is closely monitored and regulated.
Applicants for the Silver Hand program must be full-time residents of Alaska and must be able to verify Alaska Native tribal enrollment. Permits to use the Silver Hand emblem are awarded to applicants who are 18 years of age or older and are producing art exclusively in Alaska. These permits must be renewed every two years to remain active in the Silver Hand program and are only issued for original artwork that is not reproduced.
Authentic Native art is available for purchase throughout Alaska, including retail stores, museum gift shops, galleries and farmers markets. Sales associates are usually able to relay the artist’s name and village of origin, but if authenticity is ever in question, visitors need only check for the Silver Hand sticker for verification. Other attributes to keep in mind when shopping for genuine Native collectibles are a clean design and finish to the piece. Stitches in items such as beadwork or skin sewing should be neat and straight. Carvings should have a finish that works with its own medium, whether it’s ivory, bone or wood, and should enhance the finished product whether smoothed or textured. It’s important to take note of the skill level reflected in certain pieces as well. For example: the tighter the weave of a handcrafted basket, the higher the quality.
For more information about Alaska Native art, click here.