Two artists in Washington are going through federal expenses soon after falsely symbolizing themselves as Indigenous American to sell their function. 

Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, and Jerry Chris Van Dyke, 67, have every single been accused of violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a law passed in 1990 criminalizing the offering of counterfeit Native American artifacts, in accordance to the U.S. Attorney’s Place of work. The artists independently bought their wares, like masks, totem poles, and pendants, at artwork galleries in downtown Seattle.  

“By flooding the industry with counterfeit Indigenous American art and craftwork, these crimes cheat the client, undermine the economic livelihood of Indigenous American artists, and impairs Indian tradition,” said Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s law-enforcement office environment, in a statement.

Grace’s business began wanting into Van Dyke in February 2019 after the Indian Arts and Crafts Board received a tip that he was branding himself a Nez Perce tribe member, even with not remaining enrolled with the team. Operating undercover, investigators bought carved pendants primarily based on Aleut masks made by the artist at a gallery in Seattle’s Pike Location Current market, wherever he later admitted to selling additional than $1,000 value of merchandise. 

Van Dyke was strike with two counts of misrepresenting Indian-generated products, each punishable by up to 5 many years in prison.

A very similar investigation targeting Rath was launched just three months afterwards, in May well 2019, pursuing another criticism submitted with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Obtaining equally a carved totem pole and a necklace each individual from two independent galleries—including the one particular that offered Van Dyke’s work—agents discovered that the objects were branded as solutions of an artist belonging to the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

Rath now faces comparable costs as Van Dyke, as very well as one particular rely of possessing golden eagle sections, and one of possessing migratory fowl components. The latter two fees each individual have a utmost a single-12 months prison sentence.

The two Rath and Van Dyke had been owing in U.S. District Court previous Friday. 

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By Indana