CHECKING IT OUT – Fia Turczynewycz, a visitor from Ohio, walks her dog,  Mani, past the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center this morning. Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph’s newly completed yellow cedar Waas’go pole, pictured in the background, was moved out of the park’s carving shed Thursday to make room for Joseph’s latest project – carving a Tlingit canoe with the aid of an apprentice. Joseph’s Waas’go pole is the third version of the Haida pole in the past century – a reproduction of a reproduction made in the 1930s by George Benson, which is placed inside the visitor center. Rangers are working on approval for a location along the park’s trail system for the new pole. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Sealaska Sues Retailer Over ‘Ravenstail’ Coat

By RACHEL D’ORO
 
The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An Alaska Native cultural organization is suing luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, saying the Dallas-based company violated copyright and American Indian arts protection laws in selling a knit coat with a geometric design borrowed from indigenous culture.

In the federal lawsuit filed Monday, Sealaska Heritage Institute maintains the retailer falsely affiliated the $2,555 “Ravenstail” coat with northwest coast native artists through the design and use of the term, Ravenstail. 

The plaintiffs say the Ravenstail term and style has been associated for hundreds of years with Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes. According to the lawsuit, the coat also mimics a Ravenstail coat created by a Tlingit weaver nearly a quarter century ago.

Sealaska attorney Jacob Adams said the case is part of a larger movement to recognize the rights of indigenous people to their cultural items.

“For a very long time, they’ve been seen as kind of resources that anyone can use,” Adams said. “And that goes beyond inspiration to outright violation.”

TOP: Ravenstail robe created in 1996 by the late master weaver Clarissa Rizal, who was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, the country’s highest honor in traditional arts. BOTTOM: A Neiman Marcus coat which draws heavily on Rizal’s original Ravenstail design. (Photos courtesy of Sealaska)

Neiman Marcus representatives did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. It is unclear if the coat is still for sale. It did not appear in a search on the retailer’s website Monday.

Nieman Marcus has 43 stores throughout the U.S., none in Alaska. 

Sealaska says it discovered the retailer was selling the coat in 2019. Adams said the garment was still being sold last month.

According to the lawsuit, Neiman Marcus violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act that requires that products marketed as “Indian” are actually made by indigenous people. The Juneau-based nonprofit works to preserve and enhance the culture of southeast Alaska’s Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes.

Sealaska also says the Neiman Marcus robe violates the copyright of Clarissa Rizal, a late master weaver who created the Ravenstail robe in 1996. When she died in 2016, her family obtained the rights to the robe, Adams said.

Last year, Rizal’s heirs registered the robe with the U.S. copyright office, the lawsuit says. The copyright was then exclusively licensed to Sealaska, the lawsuit says.

Plaintiffs seek an injunction prohibiting Neiman Marcus or parent companies from selling the coat, as well as unspecified compensatory, punitive and other damages.

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 9-17-21)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:47 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 875

Total statewide – 96,002

Total (cumulative) deaths – 454

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 2,207

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 14 new COVID cases in the past 7 days, a rate of 187.73 per 100,000 population. Alert status will be high until the rate per thousand is below 100. Case statistics are as of Thursday.

New cases in Sitka – 5

Cases in last 7 days – 16

Cumulative Sitka cases – 946

Positive cumulative test results in Sitka, as of 9/10/21 – 1,090

Deceased (cumulative) – 3

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

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Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Friday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 6,132 (83.03%)

Fully vaccinated – 5,991 (81.12%)

Total population (12+) – 7,385

Sitka has vaccinated fully vaccinated 89.85 percent of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at: https://cityofsitka.org

 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2001

Alaska Pacific Bank has opened an account for donations to be directed to the families of the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11. The account has been opened with a $2,000 contribution from the bank and an anonymous donor.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1971

At the Sitka Historical Society’s meeting Sunday, Mrs. Esther Billman of Sheldon Jackson College presented a “surprise package” of recent donations to the Sheldon Jackson Museum by Mr. Hugh Brady, youngest son of former Territorial Gov. John Brady.

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