I decided to sell the fur seal instead of cutting it up and making mittens or hats, but ebay pulled the listing after 2 hours because I violated their marine animals policy. I can only sell it if it's cut up and resown by a certified Alaskan Native who remakes it into an authentic Alaskan Native craft. ebay's message to me explained that there are many international laws and regulations that control the sale of marine animal products, they didn't cite an exact law, they just cited something called CITES.
So I did a search at CITES for fur seal resale and waded through this long list of species and gave up looking for the exact parameters for resale of sewn fur seal. CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES OF WILD FAUNA AND FLORA
International Environment House • Chemin des Anémones • CH-1219 Châtelaine, Geneva • Switzerland, Tel: +41 (22) 917 81 39/40 • Fax: +41 (22) 797 34 17 • Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Web: http://www.cites.org, Appendices I, II and III valid from 1 July 2008:
ebay's questions page suggested I visit Prince Phillip's benevolant World Wildlife Fund (which has a box on Big Mother's Game Plan: Checkmate) for further information on protected species.
"Marine Mammal Products: Marine mammal products, including but not limited to, sea otter, whales (baleen and ivory), porpoise, dolphins, and seals, generally may not be listed for sale unless the animal part has been first transformed into an authentic Alaskan Native article of handicraft or clothing. The export/import of marine mammals typically requires CITES as well as other state and/or federal permits. Users should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service before importing or exporting marine mammal products."
An amazing fact that came out of my little research hunt into this regulated fur seal coat is that what Tim told me about seal hunting is true; he said whenever the government banned the managed hunting, the seal populations grew too large and a bunch of them died of starvation. Of course the official account of this says the reason for their dying off since the 1970s is mysteriously unknown. (CITE appears to have more scholarly articles on this topic.)
So I went looking and found the Federal Fur Seal Act of 1966, which looks like it was more about taking over the people's lives on the Pribalof Islands than protecting the seals. When the federal government regulators say "subsistance" do they actually mean subsistance on government grants? Or do they just not know how many Alaskan Natives they helped to become dependent on their government programs? I wonder what life is like now in the Pribalofs compared to the 1950s. Probably be a lot like comparing the logging and fishing town of Ketchikan, a bustling center of commerce and trade in the 70s to what it looked like when I went back in 2004. It was a "living ghost town", like Chitina, like what's become of so many old towns and city commerce centers across America today. Our people see it, I know they do.
Gee, I must be a stupid American, but I just don't understand how my fur seal coat, authenticated as a Fouke Fur which was the U.S. Government's Fur Company until the 1960s does not have a white people grandfather clause or something. So what happened to all the fur seal coats in the world? Do people hide them in their closets? That could be why this one looks like it's never been worn. How can a fur hide that was tanned by an American fur company and then made into a coat by a tailor in Pittsburgh be authentic Native Alaskan? Maybe Ada Wilson will sew a couple beads on it for me.
Ah well, back to the drawing board. I've been putting on my marketing/fundraising hat and thought selling the coat was a pretty good idea. No wonder I'm always broke. I suck at marketing. I bet if I had been raised in Soviet Russia I'd know how to get around this kind of challenge. Is there a black market ebay? (just kidding!)
Wonder how many mothers will be just as stunned to learn they cannot even GIVE away their children's clothes and toys, let alone sell them on ebay or at garage sales. I hope this doesn't put me on ebay's "no buy" list. I hope all young mothers are buying up everything they can, may even be worth it to rent storage space to keep it "safe."