In this Feb. 26, 2018 photo, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, gives a thumbs up while speaking about the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling during his annual speech to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this Feb. 26, 2018 photo, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, gives a thumbs up while speaking about the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling during his annual speech to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

US Senator questions Facebook over policies surrounding ivory sales

Sullivan requested clarity on the scope of prohibited items for Alaska Native craftsmen

Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan targeted Facebook Tuesday in an open letter discussing questionable offenses by the social media giant against Alaska Natives selling art on Facebook Marketplace.

Late last week, Sullivan said in a press release, he was made aware of the policy issue by the Juneau-based Sealaska Heritage Institute, which informed him 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. Facebook has since indicated the removal of these ads was a mistake. However, 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,” Sullivan wrote in his letter. “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.”

Last February, Sullivan worked with Alaska Native artists to resolve an issue with Etsy – an online marketplace of crafts and handmade items – that initially refused to sell Alaska Native artists selling products or artwork with sealskin, sea otter and ivory.

[Etsy.com stops letting Alaska Native artists sell ivory work]

Previously in October 2016, he convened a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee field hearing at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention to discuss a series of reported problems and confusion surrounding state laws across the country that prohibit ivory sales and harm Alaska Native artisans.

Following the hearing – working with Alaska Native leaders and those negatively impacted by these bans – Sullivan introduced S. 1965, the Allowing Alaska IVORY Act. This legislation, co-sponsored by Alaska’s senior U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski would have preempted states from banning walrus ivory or whale bone products that have been legally carved by Alaska Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in addition to preempting states from issuing bans on mammoth ivory products.


• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at mbarnes@juneauempire.com or 523-2228.


More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 20

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, July 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Buttons on display at a campaign event Monday, July 8, 2024, in Juneau, urge supporters to vote against Ballot Measure 2, the repeal of Alaska’s current election system. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Ranked-choice repeal measure awaits signature count after Alaska judge’s ruling

Signatures must be recounted after judge disqualifies almost 3,000 names, citing state law violations.

The offices of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development in Juneau are seen on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska demographers predict population drop, a switch from prior forecasts

For decades, state officials have forecast major population rises, but those haven’t come to pass.

Neil Steininger, former director of the state Office of Management and Budget, testifies before the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol in January of 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neil Steininger, former budget director for Gov. Dunleavy, seeking District 1 Juneau Assembly seat

Downtown resident unopposed so far for open seat; deadline to file for local races is Monday.

A mother bear and a cub try to get into a trash can on a downtown street on July 2, 2024. Two male bears were euthanized in a different part of downtown Juneau on Wednesday because they were acting aggressively near garbage cans, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Two black bears in downtown Juneau euthanized due to aggressive behavior around people

Exposed garbage, people insistent on approaching bears contribute to situation, official says

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, July 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Cars arrive at Juneau International Airport on Thursday, July 11, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau seems to have avoided major disruptions following global technology-related outage

911 centers, hospitals, airport, and public safety and emergency management agencies are operating.

Most Read