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IRS to Auction 16-Piece Collection of American Indian Art Today

On Jan. 31, the Internal Revenue Service will auction off 16 pieces of Native American art belonging to the nonprofit American Indian Services to satisfy $118,157 in tax liens filed on the property between 2011 and 2012. The auction is scheduled to take place at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, S.D. where the collection had been on display for several years before the IRS seized it in September.

The art works were donated by artists to support the North Plains Tribal Arts show, which American Indian Services started in 1988. About 10 years ago, AIS transferred the show over to Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. Sinte Gleska renamed the show the Northern Plains Indian Art Market and it is now the largest art market devoted to work from the Northern Plains tribes, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012 at the Center for Western Studies at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.

High Plains Warrior, by David J. Dragonfly

Exactly how American Indian Services of Sioux Falls (not to be confused with the nonprofit American Indian Services in Provo, Utah) came to owe the IRS almost $120,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties is something the IRS cannot disclose, and at press time American Indian Services had not returned calls seeking information. The organization states on its website: "American Indian Services of Sioux Falls provides a range of services, the highlights of which include: direct emergency services, tribal parent education, Northern Plains Tribal Arts, Okiciyapi [an afterschool program], advocacy, and information & referrals."

(Tax records show that American Indian Services in 2008 took in $156,750, most of that in gifts, grants and other donations. The organization gave out $2,800 in grants and spent $181,064 on salaries and other employee compensation, professional fees, rent, utilities and other office expenses, with $135,000 of that going to direct program services, and showed a loss of $26,248 for the year. In 2009, the organization took in $160,500 in grants and donations and recorded total revenues of $201,486. It gave out $1,089 in grants, spent $141,696 on salaries and other expenses, with $96,115 going to direct program services, and reported a deficit for the year of $23,415. In 2010, American Indian Services took in $208,224, spent $199,324 and showed a gain of $9,012 for the year.)

We Painted Our Faces, by Arthur Douglas Amiotte

The amount the organization owes the IRS amounts to 56 percent of total revenues for its best year for which records are available. For 2010, the organization listed $43,036 in total assets and $38,191 in total liabilities, so even if it liquidated everything, it would have only $4,844 with which to pay the IRS.

The minimum price the IRS has set on the 16-pieces collection is $24,750. The Washington Pavilion has been conducting a campaign to raise the money to buy and house the collection. David Merhib, director of Visual Arts at the Washington Pavilion, pointed out that the IRS valuations of the work do not represent an appraisal, but an assessment. "The collection has been assessed by the IRS, but need to know that IRS looks at art work the same way it looks at cattle, cars or land. It's an asset. They are not there to sell artwork," he says.

Turtle Hand Drum, by Carl Winters

If bids do not reach the IRS's minimum, the pieces will be sold individually, according to Merhib. It the individual prices do not add up to the minimum, the collection will not be sold at this venue but will be auctioned at a site more likely to attract national attention, he said.

Artwork to be auctioned:

Kingsley "King" Kuka, Blackfeet, 1946-2004, "Up Holy Mountain," lithograph 1988

Charles Chief Eagle, Oglala Sioux, "Traditional Male Dancer," buckskin, mixed media 1989

Jackie Larson Bread, Blackfeet, 1960- , "Many Horses," contemporary bead work 2000

Carl Winters, Standing Rock Sioux, 1954- , "Turtle Hand Drum," rawhide, wood, acrylic 1991

Roger Broer, Oglala Lakota, 1945- , "Elk Dreamer III," collagraph 1992

JoEsther Parshall, Cheyenne River Lakota, "His Spirit is Caught," porcupine quillwork on buckskin 1993

Francis Yellow, Lakota, 1954- , "Hanta Po" bronze 1994

Ina Mae Sounding Side-Espinosa, Oglala Sioux, 1956- , "Pair of Parfleshe," rawhide containers 1995 -

Arthur Douglas Amiotte, Lakota Sioux, 1942- , "We Painted Our Faces," collage 1996

Claire Packard, Sioux, and Catherine Grey Day, Sioux, "Honor Shirt," textiles, 1997

David J. Dragonfly, Blackfeet and Assiniboine, "High Plains Warrior, collagraph. 1998

Sam English, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, "Red Buffalo Constellation: I Hope You're Painting Wherever You Are," watercolor 1999

Alice New Holy, Lakota Sioux, "Woman's Quilled Breast Plate," porcupine quillwork on rawhide, 1990

Donald F. Montileaux, Oglala Sioux, "Yellow Horse's Journey," acrylic on watercolor paper 2001

Jim Yellowhawk, Cheyenne River Sioux, "Hanging Loose in Hawaii-A Lakota Aloha," acrylic on canvas, 2002

Linda Szabo, Rosebud Sioux, "Untitled (Camp)," silk batik 2003

For more information on Washington Pavilion's fundraising effort: