Ted S. Warren/AP
SEATTLE — Two artists are experiencing federal prices that they faked Native American heritage to market works at downtown Seattle galleries.
Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, of Maple Falls, and Jerry Chris Van Dyke, 67, also recognized as Jerry Witten, of Seattle, have been charged separately with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which prohibits misrepresentation in marketing American Indian or Alaska Indigenous arts and crafts.
The U.S. Attorney’s Business stated Rath falsely claimed to be a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and Van Dyke falsely claimed membership in the Nez Perce Tribe. The goods included masks, totem poles and pendants bought in 2019 at Raven’s Nest Treasure in Pike Position Current market and at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront.
“By flooding the market with counterfeit Native American art and craftwork, these crimes cheat the consumer, undermine the financial livelihood of Native American artists, and impair Indian society,” Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Assistance Office of Regulation Enforcement, claimed in a information launch.
Rath and Van Dyke were thanks to surface in U.S. District Courtroom on Friday afternoon. Their lawyers, federal public defenders Gregory Geist and Vanessa Pai-Thompson, stated in an electronic mail Friday they did not have any fast remark on the rates.
Authorities stated the investigation commenced when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, an Interior Department agency that encourages Native artwork, obtained grievances that the two were fraudulently keeping them selves out as enrolled tribal users.
Rath is charged with four counts of misrepresentation of Indian-made products, which is punishable by up to five many years in jail. Van Dyke faces two counts of the exact same criminal offense.
Rath also faces one misdemeanor depend of unlawfully possessing golden eagle parts, and a person of unlawfully possessing migratory fowl components.
According to charging documents, an personnel of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, which has been in enterprise for much more than a century, told investigators that she wrote an artist biography of Rath based mostly on facts he delivered about his tribal affiliation.
Matthew Steinbrueck, the operator of Raven’s Nest Treasure, explained to investigators that the artists instructed him they were tribal associates and that he considered them, according to the documents. He mentioned he did not knowingly provide counterfeit Indian goods.
“I’ve been carrying out this on great religion for lots of decades — for a lot more than 30 yrs,” Steinbrueck informed The Related Press on Friday. “Our whole mission is to represent reliable Native art. We have had much more than 100 reliable Native artists. I’ve constantly just taken their term for it.”
He reported his relatives experienced a prolonged appreciation for American Indian society, relationship to when his good-grandfather adopted a tribal member. Steinbrueck’s father, Victor Steinbrueck, an architect credited with supporting maintain Pike Place Sector and Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square community, introduced him up to revere Indigenous lifestyle, he reported.
Van Dyke explained to investigators that it was Steinbrueck’s concept to depict his do the job as Indigenous American.
Steinbrueck denied that, indicating Van Dyke appeared to be trying to lessen his individual culpability. He referred to as Van Dyke “a wonderful carver” who created artwork in the fashion of his wife’s Alaska Native tribe, which include pendants carved from fossilized mammoth or walrus ivory.
Neither Ye Olde Curiosity Store nor Raven’s Nest has been billed in the case.
Gabriel Galanda, an Indigenous rights lawyer in Seattle who belongs to the Spherical Valley Tribes of Northern California, mentioned that if outlets provide merchandise as Native-produced, they must be verifying the heritage of the creators, this sort of as by inspecting tribal enrollment cards or federal certificates of Indian blood.
“There has to be some diligence accomplished by these galleries,” Galanda stated.