Western District of Washington | Artist who falsely claimed Native American heritage sentenced for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act

Yoshiko Yap

Seattle – A 67-calendar year-aged Western Washington artist was sentenced now to 18 months of federal probation for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by symbolizing himself as a Indigenous American artist, when he experienced no tribal enrollment or heritage, announced U.S. Legal professional Nick Brown. Jerry Chris Van Dyke aka Jerry Witten, of Seattle, pleaded guilty in March 2023. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Choose Tana Lin noted that this was not a just one-time error, but a ten-yr period of “undermining a group and identification.”

“Prosecuting situations of fraud in the artwork world is a exclusive duty and component of our function to help Tribal Nations,” claimed U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “I hope this situation will make artists and gallery homeowners imagine two times about the implications of falsely contacting an artist Indigenous and get the job done Indigenous-generated. They ought to contemplate the hurt to popularity, the legal expenses, and in the end a criminal file. Pretend Native artwork really should be held out of the market since it harms the respectable Indigenous art local community.”

The investigation of Jerry Van Dyke commenced in February 2019, when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board received a criticism that Van Dyke was symbolizing himself as a Nez Perce Indian artist, when in simple fact, he is not an enrolled tribal member. Investigators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Company created undercover purchases at a gallery in the Pike Spot Current market region of Seattle that advertised pendants Van Dyke experienced manufactured as Indigenous American artwork. Van Dyke made use of the title Witten for these profits. When interviewed by brokers, Van Dyke admitted recognizing about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and admitted he was not a tribal member. Through the gallery Van Dyke experienced marketed additional than $1,000 truly worth of carved pendants represented as Indigenous American artwork centered on Aleut masks. According to the plea agreement, Van Dyke had worked with the gallery for more than ten several years, with the gallery owner furnishing him with woolly mammoth ivory, antlers, animal bones and fossilized walrus ivory to make the pendants that it bought.

Speaking in court docket now, Shannon F. Wheeler, Chair of the Nez Perce, mentioned “artwork is whole of our culture… it is a piece of who we are.” Chair Wheeler ongoing that the sale of faux Native art “continues a method of devaluing us as a individuals.”

Indigenous art “speaks of the enduring connection that we have with our landscape,” mentioned Nez Perce Cultural Resource Director Nakia Williamson. “All we have still left is our id, and that is less than assault.”

“Jerry Van Dyke’s untrue tribal affiliation and marketplace saturation erodes the sustainability and financial perfectly-becoming of Native American artists,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Assistance Workplace of Law Enforcement. “Our committed workforce of exclusive agents is effective on behalf of the U.S. Division of the Interior and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to shield American Indian and Alaska Native artists and the shoppers who obtain reliable Native American art and craftwork. This sentencing is important in the ongoing effort and hard work to stop violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. We want to thank our partners at the U.S. Office of Justice and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board for their assistance with this investigation.”

“By statute, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) is dependable for the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a truth of the matter-in-marketing regulation governing the sale of Indian artwork and craftwork. The prosecution of Jerry Van Dyke underneath the Indian Arts and Crafts Act for counterfeiting Alaska Indigenous artwork is a further critically crucial stage in protecting the financial livelihoods and wealthy cultural heritage of modern day and regular Indian artists, as well as preserving the vitality of the Indian art sector in the Northwest and nationwide,” said IACB Director Meridith Stanton. “When individuals and firms market place artwork misrepresented as Indian produced, they undercut Indian artists and Indian economies, and prey upon unwitting people. For those marketing counterfeit Indian art and craftwork, wherever you are we will diligently operate to obtain you and prosecute you below the Act.”

Van Dyke pleaded responsible in March 2023 to Misrepresentation of Indian Created Goods and Goods. The criminal offense is punishable by up to one particular year in prison.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Company. The scenario was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney and Tribal Liaison J. Tate London.

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