By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Judge orders Denali tourist shop to stop selling fake souvenirs

 

August 2, 2023



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

According to a complaint filed by the Alaska Department of Law on July 20 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 July 24.

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. 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.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.

 

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