fbpx
 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office – Western Washington has charged two non-Native artists in separate cases of selling Native art under false pretenses in two different art galleries in the popular Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, Wash.

The two men are charged with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by representing themselves as Native American artists, when they have no tribal membership or heritage, according to U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.  

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, of Maple Falls, and Jerry Chris Van Dyke, 67, also known as Jerry Witten, of Seattle, appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday.

"By flooding the market with counterfeit Native American art and craftwork, these crimes cheat the consumer, undermine the economic livelihood of Native American artists, and impair Indian culture," Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, said in a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The charges stem from investigations made after two separate complaints were to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 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 sold in 2019 at Raven's Nest Treasure in Pike Place Market and at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront.

Undercover agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made purchases of a carved totem pole and necklace for more than $1,334. An internet sites used by Rath to market his artwork also claimed he was a tribal citizen of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, located in Arizona.

When agents executed a search warrant on Rath’s Whatcom County home and studio, they found he also possessed feathers from protected birds: golden eagles and other migratory birds such as hawks, jays, owls and more. 

Rath is charged with four counts of Misrepresentation of Indian Produced Goods and Products, one misdemeanor count of Unlawful Possession of Golden Eagles Parts and one misdemeanor count of Unlawful Possession of Migratory Bird Parts.


VanDyke’s artwork was purchased by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service undercover agents. He sold more than $1,000 worth of carved pendants marketed as Native American artwork based on Aleut masks. VanDyke represented himself as a Nez Perce tribal citizen, which he is not.

Van Dyke is charged with two counts of Misrepresentation of Indian Produced Goods and Products,

Misrepresentation of Indian Produced Goods and Products is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.  The misdemeanor counts related to bird parts are punishable by up to 1 year in prison.

The cases are being investigated by the National Fish and Wildlife Service.  The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London.

The galleries were not charged in these cases.

More Stories Like This

NCAI's 2022 Executive Council Winter Session to be Virtual Again This Year
US Supreme Court Will Not Consider Overturning McGirt Decision; Will Rule on Scope of the Landmark Ruling
Former Gov. Bill Richardson Promotes High-tech Jobs at Navajo Technical University; Donates 200 pairs of Nike Shoes to Crownpoint Students
Navajo Nation to Utilize Drones to Deliver Critical Supplies to Community
Teddy Roosevelt Statue Removed from American Museum of Natural History--In the Middle of the Night

The truth about Indian Boarding Schools

This month, we’re asking our readers to help us raise $10,000 to fund our year-long journalism initiative called “The Indian Boarding School Project: A Dark Chapter in History.”  Our mission is to shine a light on the dark era of forced assimilation of native American children by the U.S. government and churches.  You’ll be able to read stories each week and join us for Livestream events to understand what the Indian Boarding School era has meant to Native Americans — and what it still means today.

This news will be provided free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts.  Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.