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

Seattle – A 67-12 months-outdated Western Washington artist was sentenced nowadays to 18 months of federal probation for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by representing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 had no tribal enrollment or heritage, introduced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jerry Chris Van Dyke aka Jerry Witten, of Seattle, pleaded responsible in March 2023. At the sentencing listening to, U.S. District Decide Tana Lin observed that this was not a a person-time mistake, but a 10-year period of “undermining a neighborhood and id.”

“Prosecuting circumstances of fraud in the artwork globe is a exceptional duty and element of our operate to help Tribal Nations,” explained U.S. Legal professional Nick Brown. “I hope this scenario will make artists and gallery proprietors consider 2 times about the repercussions of falsely calling an artist Indigenous and work Indigenous-developed. They really should consider the destruction to status, the authorized charges, and eventually a criminal document. Bogus Native art really should be stored out of the market since it harms the respectable Indigenous art group.”

The investigation of Jerry Van Dyke began in February 2019, when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board acquired a grievance that Van Dyke was representing himself as a Nez Perce Indian artist, when in reality, he is not an enrolled tribal member. Investigators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Support created undercover buys at a gallery in the Pike Place Market place area of Seattle that marketed pendants Van Dyke experienced produced as Indigenous American art. Van Dyke applied the identify Witten for these sales. When interviewed by agents, Van Dyke admitted knowing about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and admitted he was not a tribal member. Through the gallery Van Dyke experienced bought extra than $1,000 truly worth of carved pendants represented as Indigenous American artwork dependent on Aleut masks. According to the plea settlement, Van Dyke had worked with the gallery for a lot more than ten several years, with the gallery proprietor providing him with woolly mammoth ivory, antlers, animal bones and fossilized walrus ivory to make the pendants that it offered.

Talking in courtroom these days, Shannon F. Wheeler, Chair of the Nez Perce, explained “artwork is entire of our culture… it is a piece of who we are.” Chair Wheeler ongoing that the sale of bogus Native artwork “continues a course of action of devaluing us as a individuals.”

Indigenous art “speaks of the enduring partnership that we have with our landscape,” stated Nez Perce Cultural Source Director Nakia Williamson. “All we have remaining is our id, and that is under assault.”

“Jerry Van Dyke’s bogus tribal affiliation and marketplace saturation erodes the sustainability and financial perfectly-remaining of Indigenous American artists,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Business office of Regulation Enforcement. “Our devoted group of exclusive agents will work on behalf of the U.S. Division of the Interior and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to guard American Indian and Alaska Indigenous artists and the people who buy reliable Native American artwork and craftwork. This sentencing is vital in the ongoing energy to finish violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. We want to thank our partners at the U.S. Department 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 below the Indian Arts and Crafts Act for counterfeiting Alaska Native art is yet another critically crucial action 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 artwork market place in the Northwest and nationwide,” said IACB Director Meridith Stanton. “When folks and businesses industry artwork misrepresented as Indian made, they undercut Indian artists and Indian economies, and prey on unwitting shoppers. For people selling counterfeit Indian artwork and craftwork, anywhere you are we will diligently function to locate you and prosecute you underneath the Act.”

Van Dyke pleaded responsible in March 2023 to Misrepresentation of Indian Produced Items and Merchandise. The crime is punishable by up to a person calendar year in jail.

The circumstance was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Company. The circumstance was prosecuted by Assistant United States Legal professional and Tribal Liaison J. Tate London.