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Alaska charges a gift shop with peddling phony Native American artwork and goods from "Yakutat alpacas" | Juneau Empire


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    A state judge has ordered a tourist shop outside Denali National Park to stop selling products labeled as “made in Alaska” after the state of Alaska accused the shop of repeatedly selling fake souvenirs and art.

    According to a complaint filed by the Alaska Department of Law on Thursday in Fairbanks, the owners of a shop known variously as The Himalayan and Mt. McKinley Clothing Company repeatedly attempted to mislabel foreign products as Alaska-made.

    At one point, the owners of the store told an undercover investigator “that an alpaca poncho depicting a Native American chief in a feather headdress reflected Alaska’s traditions.”

    According to the complaint, “the defendants made the false claims that the store was a nonprofit that was owned by the Yakutat Village Council, that they were volunteering at the store, that the alpaca products were made from Yakutat alpacas, that products in the store were made by Alaska Natives in Yakutat, and that proceeds were returned to the Village Council to be used for charitable purposes such as building schools and building a rehabilitation center.”

    Alaska has no native alpacas, and the Yakutat Village Council does not exist.

    In response to the complaint, Superior Court Judge Patricia Haines issued a restraining order and preliminary injunction against The Himalayan and its owners on Monday.

    The order requires that the store not sell products labeled as made in Alaska or made by an Alaska Native unless those products are approved by the state.

    As the state’s tourism industry rebounds after the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, state and federal officials have been cracking down on fake Alaska Native art.

    This spring, federal investigators prosecuted the owners of a Ketchikan store selling fake Native art, and at the start of this year’s tourist season, the Department of Law sent a warning letter to almost four dozen tourist shops statewide, warning them to not remove country-of-origin labels from imported souvenirs.

    Passing off a foreign-made souvenir as Alaska-made is a violation of state law, and if a store falsely claims that an item was made by an Alaska Native or a member of a Native tribe, it may be a federal crime as well.

    In a written statement about the restraining order, Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said, “My office will not tolerate false claims that products were made by Alaska Natives or that proceeds from sales will be used for charitable purposes. We will not allow businesses that lie to consumers to gain an unfair competitive advantage over the many excellent stores that sell legitimate Alaska-made or Alaska Native products.”

    • James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This article originally appeared online at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

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