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

Seattle – A 67-calendar year-old Western Washington artist was sentenced now to 18 months of federal probation for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by representing 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 listening to, U.S. District Choose Tana Lin observed that this was not a 1-time error, but a 10-12 months period of “undermining a community and identity.”

“Prosecuting scenarios of fraud in the art environment is a exceptional responsibility and component of our perform to support Tribal Nations,” reported U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “I hope this circumstance will make artists and gallery homeowners think two times about the implications of falsely calling an artist Indigenous and do the job Indigenous-made. They really should contemplate the injury to track record, the legal charges, and in the long run a prison document. Phony Indigenous artwork must be stored out of the market due to the fact it harms the reputable Indigenous art group.”

The investigation of Jerry Van Dyke started in February 2019, when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board obtained a grievance that Van Dyke was representing himself as a Nez Perce Indian artist, when in point, he is not an enrolled tribal member. Investigators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Provider built undercover purchases at a gallery in the Pike Place Current market region of Seattle that marketed pendants Van Dyke had built as Indigenous American art. Van Dyke utilised the title Witten for these revenue. When interviewed by brokers, Van Dyke admitted realizing about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and admitted he was not a tribal member. Through the gallery Van Dyke had marketed far more than $1,000 truly worth of carved pendants represented as Native American artwork primarily based on Aleut masks. According to the plea arrangement, Van Dyke had worked with the gallery for additional than 10 years, with the gallery proprietor delivering him with woolly mammoth ivory, antlers, animal bones and fossilized walrus ivory to make the pendants that it marketed.

Talking in court docket right now, Shannon F. Wheeler, Chair of the Nez Perce, reported “artwork is full of our culture… it is a piece of who we are.” Chair Wheeler ongoing that the sale of bogus Indigenous artwork “continues a approach of devaluing us as a folks.”

Indigenous art “speaks of the enduring partnership that we have with our landscape,” claimed Nez Perce Cultural Useful resource Director Nakia Williamson. “All we have remaining is our identification, and that is less than assault.”

“Jerry Van Dyke’s fake tribal affiliation and marketplace saturation erodes the sustainability and economic properly-getting of Native American artists,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Support Workplace of Legislation Enforcement. “Our committed staff of unique brokers performs on behalf of the U.S. Division of the Inside and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to guard American Indian and Alaska Indigenous artists and the people who invest in genuine Native American art and craftwork. This sentencing is crucial in the ongoing exertion to finish violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. We want to thank our associates at the U.S. Division of Justice and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board for their aid 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-advertising and marketing regulation governing the sale of Indian artwork and craftwork. The prosecution of Jerry Van Dyke less than the Indian Arts and Crafts Act for counterfeiting Alaska Indigenous artwork is an additional critically vital stage in shielding the financial livelihoods and prosperous cultural heritage of up to date and regular Indian artists, as very well as preserving the vitality of the Indian artwork current market in the Northwest and nationwide,” mentioned IACB Director Meridith Stanton. “When individuals and enterprises marketplace art misrepresented as Indian made, they undercut Indian artists and Indian economies, and prey upon unwitting buyers. For these promoting counterfeit Indian artwork and craftwork, anywhere you are we will diligently perform to uncover you and prosecute you less than the Act.”

Van Dyke pleaded guilty in March 2023 to Misrepresentation of Indian Generated Merchandise and Goods. The criminal offense is punishable by up to one particular calendar year in jail.

The circumstance was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Assistance. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Lawyer and Tribal Liaison J. Tate London.

By Indana