‘Apache’ artist Tony Rath forged Indigenous heritage to sell his work, Feds Say

A state of Washington painter who has described himself as a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe for many years misrepresent his legacy, deceiving collectors into thinking they are buying the real thing Native Americans carving, according to federal investigators.

Lewis Anthony Rath, known for his wood carvings and totem poles, “admits that he is not a descendant or a registered member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe,” filed a criminal complaint November 23 reviewed by The Daily Beast. According to the filing, Rath, 52, told agents from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that “his biological mother told him he has some Indian blood that has maybe Apache. However, he explained that later through a DNA test he discovered that he had Mayan ancestry from Mexico.”

Rath, who passed? “Tony” is currently facing three counts of misrepresenting Indian-made goods and products and two counts of unlawfully possessing migratory bird parts, including golden eagle feathers. The top offense carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

NS Indian Arts and Crafts Act 1990 is a true advertising law that makes it a crime to sell collectibles and Native American artifacts. Items often counterfeited by non-natives include “Indian jewelry, pottery, baskets, carved stone jewelry, woven rugs, kachina dolls and clothing,” according to the US Department of the Interior (DOI).

In 2015, Kansas City artist Terry Lee Whetstone was found guilty of misrepresenting himself as Cherokee while marketing his work as a piece of indigenous art. Another famous “Cherokee” artist, Jimmie Durham, later discovered to be unrelated to the Cherokee. Earlier this year, the coalition cracked down on a multinational criminal ring dealing in Native American imitation jewelry sourced from a factory in the Philippines.

“Native American art fraud is a serious crime that hurts consumers and severely impacts the economic and cultural lives of Native American artists, craftsmen, and tribes. ,” Edward Grace official of the FWS said in a statement last April after a Texas man was prosecuted under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Rath’s current troubles can be traced back to July 2018, when DOI’s Department of Indian Arts and Crafts received a complaint that Rath considered himself the San Carlos Apache and sold his work with called “Made in India,” the lawsuit against him states.

FWS agents then contacted the San Carlos Apache Tribal Registry, which according to the lawsuit, Rath said Rath was not “a registered tribal member or Indian artisan registered with the Department lost.” The following year, secret agents of the FWS purchased a carved wooden totem pole. and a necklace that Rath made from an art gallery in Seattle.

“The gallery owner told Dealer that Rath was Native American and provided a copy of Rath’s biography, which states that Rath is the San Carlos Apache,” the complaint explains.

On the same day, undercover agents purchased a carved wooden mask and a column of Rath’s totem from another Seattle gallery.

“A store employee provided Dealer with a copy of Rath’s biography, which stated that he was the San Carlos Apache,” the complaint continued. “The employee told Agent she had written a biography based on information Rath had provided regarding his tribal affiliation.” FWS agents then established direct contact with Rath on Facebook and commissioned him to carve two wooden totem poles for $1,200. During the negotiations, Rath “misrepresented himself as a San Carlos Apache and that his artwork was produced by Indians,” according to the lawsuit.

On December 19, 2019, FWS agents raided Rath’s home. They seized carving tools, design notes, sales receipts for Rath’s artwork, and feathers of protected birds. In a handwritten note found at Rath’s residence, he allegedly described himself as “Apache Artist of 27 Years”. Rath “originally denied” to anyone that he was from the San Carlos Apache tribe, eventually confessing to agents that a DNA test he performed showed he did in fact have ancestry. Mayans, the lawsuit states.

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

Agents subpoenaed records related to three of Rath’s Facebook accounts and accused Rath of “inferring or claiming to be Apache and/or Native American” to the buyer more than two dozen times. One customer interviewed by agents said Rath told him he was “Apache, Mexican and Maya.” Another told Rath agents to call themselves “Apache and Maya.”

When agents interviewed the Seattle gallery owner, he denied aiding Rath’s alleged conduct.

Rath “told him he was indigenous and that he believed him,” according to the complaint.

Another Seattle gallerist said she “wrote Rath’s biography from information Rath provided.”

Rath, who was charged Tuesday and has not yet had an attorney listed in court records, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/apache-artist-tony-rath-faked-native-heritage-to-sell-his-work-feds-say?source=articles&via=rss ‘Apache’ artist Tony Rath forged Indigenous heritage to sell his work, Feds Say


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