Two Washington state artists have been accused of posing as Native American sculptors to sell works in galleries in downtown Seattle.
Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, and Jerry Chris Van Dyke, 67, have been separately charged by the federal government with violating India’s Arts and Crafts Act, which prohibits false declarations in the sale of items Native American and Alaskan arts and crafts, authorities said Friday.
The US attorney’s office said Rath falsely claimed to be a member of the Apache tribe of San Carlos, and Van Dyke claimed to be a member of the Nez Perce tribe. The products they put up for sale included masks, totems and pendants sold in 2019 at Raven’s Nest Treasure in Pike Place Market and the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop along the Seattle waterfront, authorities said.
“By flooding the market with counterfeit Native American arts and crafts, these crimes deceive the consumer, undermine the economic livelihoods of Native American artists and undermine Indian culture,” said Edward Grace, deputy director of the force office. of the order of the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States. , said in a press release.
The two men were scheduled to appear before a federal judge in the Seattle US District Court on Friday. Their lawyers declined to comment.
The investigation began after the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, an Home Office agency that promotes Indigenous art, received complaints that the two men were fraudulently claiming to be tribal members.
Rath, of Maple Falls, Wash., Is charged with four counts of misrepresenting products made in India, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Van Dyke of Seattle faces two counts of the same crime. Rath also faces one count of unlawful possession of parts of a golden eagle and illegal possession of parts of migratory birds.
Matthew Steinbrueck, owner of Raven’s Nest Treasure, told investigators the performers insisted they were members of the tribe and that he believed them, according to court documents. He said he had no idea that they were selling counterfeit Indian products.
“I’ve been doing this in good faith for many years – for over 30 years,” Steinbrueck told The Associated Press on Friday. “Our whole mission is to represent authentic Aboriginal art. We had over 100 genuine native artists. I always took them at their word.
Van Dyke, also known as Jerry Witten, told investigators it was Steinbrueck’s idea to portray his work as a Native American, but Steinbrueck denied this.
Neither Ye Olde Curiosity Shop nor Raven’s Nest has been charged in this case.
Gabriel Galanda, a native rights attorney in Seattle who belongs to the Round Valley tribes of northern California, said stores with products made by natives should check the designers’ legacy.
“These galleries have to show some diligence,” he told The Associated Press.
With post wire services.