Wannabe Cherokee Artist Placed on Probation for Selling Fake Indian Art

Terry Lee Whetstone has claimed Cherokee ancestry for years

Terry Lee Whetstone has claimed to be Cherokee for years

Published September 16, 2015

KANSAS CITY— A Missoiuri man discovered it takes more than claiming to be a Cherokee to be one last week. Terry Lee Whetstone, 63, of Odessa, Missouri, pleaded guilty last Wednesday, September 9, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Kansas City to claiming to be a Cherokee artist to sell “Indian” art.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 is a federal law that prohibits non-American Indians from misrepresenting American Indian arts and crafts as being Indian-made when it is not. The 1990 law was enacted to stop non-Native people from profiting from American Indian culture under false pretenses.

Whetstone is not a member of a federally or state recognized tribe, but claims to be Cherokee. For several years, he has marketed himself as an Indian artist and flute player. He is a member of an organization called the Northern Cherokee Nation of Missouri. The organization is not recognized by the federal government and lacks recognition by the state of Missouri.

After his plea, Whetstone posted this message on his Facebook page: “Well just proves how news is one sided and no one ever finds out the facts. Nothing says I am not related to my ancestors of the originals.”

“Whetstone may not sell art during his term of probation unless he notifies buyers that he is not a member of an Indian tribe,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Whetstone must take down his Web site and refrain from advertising or promoting his artwork in any fashion during the term of probation. Whetstone is prohibited from performing flute music publically during the term of probation unless he notifies the audience that he is not a member of an Indian tribe.”

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