Looting of Native American archaeological sites
Jack Lee Harelson looting Elephant Mountain Cave in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
Throughout the history of the United States Native American archaeological sites have been looted, destroying religious sites and relics that date back several hundred years. Many Indian burial sites and sacred grounds have been systematically plundered and destroyed until the 1957 dispute about the Gasquet-Orleans Road. The GO road in what is now the Six Rivers National Forest in the Siskyou Mountain Range was the first logging project that raised public Indian opposition. After several legal disputes and lawsuits, including the 1978 Indian Religious Freedom Act, the case was decided at the Supreme Court.
in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) became the primary federal legislation pertaining to graves and human remains in archaeological contexts. The act "establishes definitions of burial sites, cultural affiliation, cultural items, associated and unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, cultural patrimony, Indian tribes, museums, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, right of possession and tribal land.
In 2002 Federal grand jurors have accused two men, Steven Scott Tripp, 40, of Farmington, and William Thomas Cooksey, 53, of Union, of looting and violating the integrity of an American Indian burial site at southeast Missouri's Wappapello Lake. The looters "illegally excavated, removed, damaged and defaced archaeological resources, and that by doing so they caused at least $1,000 in damage. Gary Stilts, the Army Corps' operations manager there, estimated the damage to be about $14,000". Stilts said about the looting:
“ It's a sacred thing. None of us would want anyone digging in our ancestor's grave".
In 1995, authorities were informed about the looting of Elephant Mountain Cave, located on government property in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Jack Lee Harelson, a former insurance agent, looted the site for years, uncovering two burial sites, grave goods, obsidian blades and deer-hoof rattles. Harelson decapitated the two 2000 year old corpses and buried the heads in plastic garbage bags in his backyard. In 1996 a federal court in Oregon found Harelson guilty of corpse abuse and possession of stolen property, resulting in a $20,000 fine and 30 days in jail. (The conviction of corpse abuse was later revoked because the statute of limitations had expired.) In 2002 a federal administrative judge issued a civil penalty of $2.5 million for Harelson for destruction of archaeological resources. 
James Patrick Barker, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) archaeologist for the state of Nevada, describes the Elephant Mountain Cave as one of the most significant sites of the Great Basin. One pair of sandals plundered by Harelson was later estimated to be 10.000 years old, making them one of the oldest pieces of footwear worldwide.
On December 5, 2005 six Ohio residents, Daniel Fisher, 41, and Thomas J. Luecke, 40, of Cincinnati; Richard Kirk, 56, of Stout; Joseph M. Mercurio, 44, and Tanya C. Mercurio, 43, of Manchester; and David Whitling, 47, of Bellefontaine, entered federal ground to dig for artifacts, using "rakes and digging implements to disturb the surface of the ground, creating holes and displacing archaeological sediment in violation of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act". The looted site at Barren River Lake includes Early Woodlands ceramics dating back roughly to 1500 to 300 B.C. They looters were sentenced to probation by Judge Thomas B. Russell in federal court after pleading guilty.
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