December 4, 2021

‘Apache’ Artist Tony Rath Faked Native Heritage to Promote His Work, Feds Say

4 min read


A Washington State artist who portrayed himself as a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe has for years misrepresented his heritage, deceiving collectors who thought they had been shopping for genuine Native American carvings, in response to federal investigators.

Lewis Anthony Rath, who is thought for his wooden carvings and totem poles, “admitted that he’s not a lineal descendant or an enrolled member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe,” states a Nov. 23 criminal complaint reviewed by The Daily Beast. In keeping with the submitting, Rath, 52, informed brokers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that “his start mom informed him he had some Indian bloodlines which may be Apache. Nonetheless, he defined that he later found via DNA testing that he had Mayan ancestry from Mexico.”

Rath, who goes by “Tony,” is now dealing with three counts of misrepresentation of Indian produced items and merchandise, and two counts of illegal possession of migratory chicken components, together with golden eagle feathers. The highest cost carries a most sentence of 5 years in jail.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 is a truth-in-advertising legislation that makes it against the law to promote counterfeit Native American artifacts and collectibles. Ceaselessly knocked-off objects by non-Natives embody “Indian-style jewellery, pottery, baskets, carved stone fetishes, woven rugs, kachina dolls, and clothes,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

In 2015, Kansas Metropolis artist Terry Lee Whetstone was convicted of falsely portraying himself as Cherokee whereas advertising his work as Native artwork. One other widespread “Cherokee” artist, Jimmie Durham, was later discovered to have no Cherokee relatives at all. Earlier this 12 months, the feds dismantled a multinational crime ring promoting imitation Native American jewelry sourced from a factory in the Philippines.

“Native American artwork fraud is a critical crime that hurts customers and severely impacts the financial and cultural livelihood of Native American artists, craftspeople and Tribes,” FWS official Edward Grace said in a statement last April after a Texas man was indicted beneath the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Rath’s current troubles might be traced again to July 2018, when the DOI’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board acquired a grievance that Rath was holding himself out to be San Carlos Apache, and promoting his work as “Indian produced,” the grievance towards him states.

FWS brokers subsequently contacted the San Carlos Apache Tribal Enrollment Division, which, in response to the grievance, stated Rath was not “an enrolled tribal member or Indian artisan registered with the Tribe.”The next 12 months, undercover FWS brokers purchased a carved wood totem pole and a necklace Rath had constituted of a Seattle artwork gallery.

“The gallery proprietor informed Brokers that Rath was a Native American and offered a written copy of Rath’s biography, which said Rath was San Carlos Apache,” the grievance explains.

The identical day, the undercover brokers bought a carved wood masks and a totem pole by Rath from one other gallery in Seattle.

“A retailer worker offered Brokers a duplicate of Rath’s biography, which said he was San Carlos Apache,” the grievance continues. “The worker informed Brokers that she had written the biography primarily based on data Rath had offered relating to his tribal affiliation.”FWS brokers then established direct contact with Rath on Fb, and commissioned him to carve two wood totem poles for $1,200. In the course of the negotiations, Rath “misrepresented himself as a San Carlos Apache and his paintings as Indian produced,” in response to the grievance.

On Dec. 19, 2019, FWS brokers raided Rath’s dwelling. They seized carving instruments, design notes, receipts for gross sales of Rath’s artwork, and feathers from protected chicken species. In a handwritten be aware present in Rath’s residence, he allegedly described himself as an “Apache Artist of 27 years.” Rath “initially denied” telling anybody he was from the San Carlos Apache tribe, ultimately confessing to brokers that the DNA check he took confirmed he actually had Mayan ancestry, the grievance states.

U.S. District Court docket for the Western District of Washington

Brokers subpoenaed data linked to Rath’s three Fb accounts, and allege Rath “inferred or recognized himself as Apache and/or Native American” to patrons greater than two dozen instances. One buyer interviewed by brokers stated Rath informed him he was “Apache, Mexican and Mayan.” One other informed brokers Rath billed himself as “Apache and Mayan.”

When brokers interviewed the Seattle gallery proprietor, he denied abetting Rath’s alleged deceptions.

Rath “informed him he was Native and that he believed him,” in response to the grievance.

One other Seattle gallerist stated she “had written Rath’s biography from data Rath had offered.”

Rath, who was charged Tuesday and doesn’t but have a lawyer listed in court docket data, didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.



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