Two Washington Artists Have Been Billed With Faking Indigenous American Identities to Promote Their Wares in Galleries

Yoshiko Yap

Two artists in Washington are facing federal expenses right after falsely symbolizing themselves as Native American to market their perform. 

Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, and Jerry Chris Van Dyke, 67, have each individual been accused of violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a law passed in 1990 criminalizing the marketing of counterfeit Native American artifacts, in accordance to the U.S. Attorney’s Office environment. The artists individually bought their wares, together with masks, totem poles, and pendants, at artwork galleries in downtown Seattle.  

“By flooding the current market with counterfeit Native American art and craftwork, these crimes cheat the client, undermine the financial livelihood of Native American artists, and impairs Indian culture,” claimed Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regulation-enforcement place of work, in a statement.

Grace’s place of work began on the lookout into Van Dyke in February 2019 following the Indian Arts and Crafts Board been given a idea that he was branding himself a Nez Perce tribe member, inspite of not becoming enrolled with the group. Functioning undercover, investigators acquired carved pendants dependent on Aleut masks designed by the artist at a gallery in Seattle’s Pike Area Marketplace, where he later admitted to marketing extra than $1,000 worthy of of goods. 

Van Dyke was hit with two counts of misrepresenting Indian-created products, each and every punishable by up to 5 decades in prison.

A very similar investigation targeting Rath was introduced just three months later, in Could 2019, following a further grievance submitted with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Obtaining both a carved totem pole and a necklace every from two different galleries—including the a single that bought Van Dyke’s work—agents uncovered that the objects ended up branded as goods of an artist belonging to the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

Rath now faces similar expenses as Van Dyke, as effectively as just one count of possessing golden eagle sections, and 1 of possessing migratory hen areas. The latter two prices every single have a optimum one particular-year jail sentence.

The two Rath and Van Dyke ended up due in U.S. District Courtroom last Friday. 

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