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-old Western Washington artist was sentenced currently to 18 months of federal probation for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by representing himself as a Native American artist, when he experienced no tribal enrollment or heritage, declared U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jerry Chris Van Dyke aka Jerry Witten, of Seattle, pleaded responsible in March 2023. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Choose Tana Lin noted that this was not a one particular-time error, but a 10-year interval of “undermining a local community and id.”

“Prosecuting instances of fraud in the artwork planet is a unique responsibility and aspect of our get the job done to help Tribal Nations,” reported U.S. Lawyer Nick Brown. “I hope this circumstance will make artists and gallery entrepreneurs imagine two times about the effects of falsely contacting an artist Native and operate Indigenous-generated. They need to look at the problems to popularity, the authorized fees, and in the end a criminal report. Faux Native art must be stored out of the market for the reason that it harms the legit Native art community.”

The investigation of Jerry Van Dyke started in February 2019, when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board received a criticism that Van Dyke was symbolizing himself as a Nez Perce Indian artist, when in simple fact, he is not an enrolled tribal member. Investigators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Support produced undercover buys at a gallery in the Pike Area Marketplace space of Seattle that marketed pendants Van Dyke experienced manufactured as Native American art. Van Dyke utilised the identify Witten for these product sales. When interviewed by brokers, Van Dyke admitted being aware of about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, and admitted he was not a tribal member. Through the gallery Van Dyke experienced offered additional than $1,000 worthy of of carved pendants represented as Indigenous American artwork based on Aleut masks. According to the plea settlement, Van Dyke experienced labored with the gallery for a lot more than 10 a long time, with the gallery proprietor furnishing him with woolly mammoth ivory, antlers, animal bones and fossilized walrus ivory to make the pendants that it offered.

Speaking in court currently, Shannon F. Wheeler, Chair of the Nez Perce, said “artwork is comprehensive of our culture… it is a piece of who we are.” Chair Wheeler continued that the sale of pretend Indigenous art “continues a course of action of devaluing us as a folks.”

Native art “speaks of the enduring romance that we have with our landscape,” reported Nez Perce Cultural Useful resource Director Nakia Williamson. “All we have still left is our identity, and that is below attack.”

“Jerry Van Dyke’s untrue tribal affiliation and market saturation erodes the sustainability and financial properly-getting of Native American artists,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Assistance Office of Regulation Enforcement. “Our focused team of distinctive agents operates on behalf of the U.S. Office of the Interior and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to protect American Indian and Alaska Indigenous artists and the shoppers who purchase reliable Indigenous American art and craftwork. This sentencing is significant in the ongoing work to conclusion 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 guidance with this investigation.”

“By statute, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) is liable for the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a fact-in-marketing law governing the sale of Indian art and craftwork. The prosecution of Jerry Van Dyke under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act for counterfeiting Alaska Native art is yet another critically vital stage in preserving the financial livelihoods and abundant cultural heritage of up to date and standard Indian artists, as effectively as preserving the vitality of the Indian artwork sector in the Northwest and nationwide,” mentioned IACB Director Meridith Stanton. “When people today and firms marketplace art misrepresented as Indian designed, they undercut Indian artists and Indian economies, and prey upon unwitting customers. For those advertising counterfeit Indian art and craftwork, wherever you are we will diligently do the job to come across you and prosecute you below the Act.”

Van Dyke pleaded responsible in March 2023 to Misrepresentation of Indian Made Items and Solutions. The criminal offense is punishable by up to one particular 12 months in jail.

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