Home Detention for Park Service Grave Robber
When NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was about to go into effect in 1990, the superintendent of the Effigy Mounds National Monument in eastern Iowa at the time, Thomas Munson, stole the bones of over 40 Native Americans. The monument also has a museum in its visitor’s center that displays Native artifacts found in the same burial mounds as the bones.
According to NAGPRA, if the artifacts could be linked to the bones, they would also be subject to repatriation. In other words, releasing the bones to the tribes for reburial meant also releasing the artifacts. But if the bones went away, the artifacts would remain museum property.
At least that’s how Munson understood it. So he took the bones of more than 40 ancient Natives who lived between 700 and 2,500 years ago, wrapped them in trash bags, stuck them in cardboard boxes, and shoved them in his home garage where they stayed for over 20 years. And what did he get for this heinous act of cultural larceny?
One year of home detention.
The new Mormon settlements in southwestern Utah rapidly brought an end to the Paiute’s traditional way of life. Their new settlements sat on vital Paiute hunting and gathering grounds and in the surrounding areas, livestock grazing destroyed many of the plants that were a staple of the Paiute diet. Paiutes were also denied access to their cultivating grounds near water sources, leaving them with areas mostly unfarmable.
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