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Man sentenced over bogus 'Alaska Native made' goods

Alaska Dispatch

Anchorage, the largest metropolitan ara in Alaska, is a hot spot for tourist looking to centralize themselves before venturing beyond, to other parts of the vast state. To kill time, many comb through downtown in search of the perfect keepsake, while others look for more "authentic" pieces of Alaskana through private vendors or handicraft makers. Sometimes, however, the authentic items are not as genuine as they purport to be.

Take the case of Alaska Bowhunting Supply LLC owner Edward Schlief who, on Wednesday, was convicted and sentenced to three years probation and a $75,000 fine for falsely advertising seal-skin archery finger guards, known as "tabs," as having been made by Alaska Natives.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice announcement, 69-year-old Schlief, who is not an Alaska Native or a member of any Indian tribe himself, "produced and sold bow hunting finger tabs made from seal skins by non-Native Alaskans" for a number of years.

Prosecutors successfully claimed that between August 2005 and October 2008, Schlief marketed the tabs to customers, including big-name retailers like Cabela's, as "made in Alaska by Alaskan Natives" with full knowledge that this was, in fact, not the case. Authorities estimated that retail and wholesale proceeds totaled nearly $17,000.

But Schlief's real crime, based on the charges, wasn't slimily misleading the public as much as it was illegally purchasing and possessing unaltered seal hides, which is why he lied about their handling in the first place.

A philosopher could comment here that 'authenticity' often depends on willing perception, so buyer beware. For tips on discriminating legit from bogus in the world of Alaska Native art and handicrafts, visit the state of Alaska's statutes establishing the "Silver Hand" program, and check out some more practical tips from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art and still more from the Federal Trade Commission.