SEALASKA HERITAGE, RIZAL FAMILY SETTLE LAWSUIT AGAINST SEVERAL DEFENDANTS
March 3, 2021
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the heirs of the famed Tlingit weaver Clarissa Rizal have settled their lawsuit against several defendants regarding a retail item that was marketed as a “Ravenstail Knitted Coat.”
In the lawsuit, SHI and Rizal’s children, Lily Hope, Kahlil Hudson and Ursala Hudson, claimed that the sale of the “Ravenstail Knitted Coat” violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, infringed their rights in the “Ravenstail” term and design and was a copy of a genuine Ravenstail robe created by the renowned Tlingit artist Clarissa Rizal. Defendants filed for dismissal of the lawsuit, claiming that the “Ravenstail” term and design are in the public domain and that the “Ravenstail Knitted Coat” was truthfully advertised.
Though the parties disagree on the merits of the lawsuit, they acknowledge the cultural significance of the issues underlying the development, sustainability and survival of Native cultures, as well as the importance of encouraging creative endeavors through freedom of expression and artistic design. The parties have agreed on terms to resolve all disputes between them under U.S. and Tlingit law.
Through this settlement, while the defendants admit no fault, wrongdoing nor liability, the parties have agreed on terms that have resolved all claims between them. As part of the settlement, the defendants have agreed to work with SHI to ensure the necessary actions can be taken to fully resolve the issue under Tlingit law and cultural protocols.
Sealaska is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. Sealaska is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee, and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.