Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.

Help support the publication of case reports on MoreLaw

Date: 05-17-2023

Case Style:

United States of America v. Jerry Chris Van Dyke aka Jerry Witten

Case Number: 2:21-cr-00216

Judge: Tina Lin

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (King County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Seattle

Defendant's Attorney:

Click Here For The Best Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer Directory

Description: Seattle, Washington criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by representing himself as a Native American artist, when he had no tribal enrollment or heritage.

The investigation of Jerry Van Dyke, age 67, from Seattle, began in February 2019, when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board received a complaint that Van Dyke was representing himself as a Nez Perce Indian artist, when in fact, he is not an enrolled tribal member. Investigators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made undercover purchases at a gallery in the Pike Place Market area of Seattle that advertised pendants Van Dyke had made as Native American art. Van Dyke used the name 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 had sold more than $1,000 worth of carved pendants represented as Native American artwork based on Aleut masks. According to the plea agreement, Van Dyke had worked with the gallery for more than ten years, with the gallery owner providing him with woolly mammoth ivory, antlers, animal bones and fossilized walrus ivory to make the pendants that it sold.

Speaking in court today, Shannon F. Wheeler, Chair of the Nez Perce, said “artwork is full of our culture… it is a piece of who we are.” Chair Wheeler continued that the sale of fake Native art “continues a process of devaluing us as a people.”

Native art “speaks of the enduring relationship that we have with our landscape,” said Nez Perce Cultural Resource Director Nakia Williamson. “All we have left is our identity, and that is under attack.”

“Jerry Van Dyke’s false tribal affiliation and marketplace saturation erodes the sustainability and economic well-being of Native American artists," said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. "Our dedicated team of special agents works on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to protect American Indian and Alaska Native artists and the consumers who purchase authentic Native American art and craftwork. This sentencing is important in the ongoing effort to end 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 responsible for the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a truth-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 another critically important step in protecting the economic livelihoods and rich cultural heritage of contemporary and traditional Indian artists, as well as preserving the vitality of the Indian art market in the Northwest and nationwide,” stated IACB Director Meridith Stanton. “When individuals and businesses market art misrepresented as Indian made, they undercut Indian artists and Indian economies, and prey upon unwitting consumers. For those selling counterfeit Indian art and craftwork, wherever you are we will diligently work to find you and prosecute you under the Act.”

Van Dyke pleaded guilty in March 2023 to Misrepresentation of Indian Produced Goods and Products. The crime is punishable by up to one year in prison.

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

Misrepresentation of Indian Produced Goods and Products - 18:1159(a) and 2

§1159. Misrepresentation of Indian produced goods and products

(a) It is unlawful to offer or display for sale or sell any good, with or without a Government trademark, in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.

(b) Whoever knowingly violates subsection (a) shall-

(1) in the case of a first violation, if an individual, be fined not more than $250,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, and, if a person other than an individual, be fined not more than $1,000,000; and

(2) in the case of subsequent violations, if an individual, be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than fifteen years, or both, and, if a person other than an individual, be fined not more than $5,000,000.

(c) As used in this section-

(1) the term "Indian" means any individual who is a member of an Indian tribe, or for the purposes of this section is certified as an Indian artisan by an Indian tribe;

(2) the terms "Indian product" and "product of a particular Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization" has the meaning given such term in regulations which may be promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior;

(3) the term "Indian tribe" means-

(A) any Indian tribe, band, nation, Alaska Native village, or other organized group or community which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians; or

(B) any Indian group that has been formally recognized as an Indian tribe by a State legislature or by a State commission or similar organization legislatively vested with State tribal recognition authority; and

(4) the term "Indian arts and crafts organization" means any legally established arts and crafts marketing organization composed of members of Indian tribes.

(d) In the event that any provision of this section is held invalid, it is the intent of Congress that the remaining provisions of this section shall continue in full force and effect.

Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 18 months o probation.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


Find a Lawyer


Find a Case