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

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

David Holmes digs through a pile of boardgames during Platypus Gaming’s two-day mini-con over the weekend at Douglas Public Library and Sunday at Mendenhall Public Library. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Good times keep rolling with Platypus Gaming

Two-day mini-con held at Juneau Public Library.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau man indicted on child pornography charges

A Juneau man was indicted Thursday on charges of possessing or accessing… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Juneau’s municipal and state legislative members, their staff, and city lobbyists gather in the Assembly chambers Thursday meeting for an overview of how the Alaska State Legislature and politicians in Washington, D.C., are affecting local issues.
Local leaders, lawmakers and lobbyists discuss political plans for coming year

Morning meeting looks at local impact of state, national political climates.

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 27, 2023

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

Captain Anne Wilcock recieves the Emery Valentine Leadership Award at the 2022 CCFR awards banquet on Saturday, Jan. 14. (Courtesy Photo / CCFR)
CCFR honors responders during annual banquet

Capital City Fire/Rescue hosted its 2022 awards banquet earlier this month as… Continue reading

A resident and his dog walk past the taped off portion of the Basin Road Trestle after it suffered damaged from a rockslide earlier this week. The trestle is open to pedestrians, but will remain closed to vehicular traffic until structural repairs are made, according to city officials. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Rocky road: Basin Road Trestle open to pedestrians, remains closed to vehicles

City officials say repairs are currently being assessed after damaging rockfall

Most Read