A Eureka, California man received a light sentenced in late October for illegally removing artifacts from a cultural site of the Yurok tribe. After pleading guilty in September to illegally excavating a Native cultural site, James Edward Truhls, 30, was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 60 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $350 fine for illegally removing artifacts from a cultural site of the Yurok tribe. Truhls could have received up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine. A judge had previously dropped a grave-looting charge which potentially carried a stronger sentence.
Truhls had removed arrowheads and an awl and had many other artifacts in his home when it was searched. He had posted a YouTube video of himself looting the site. The site that Truhls looted was a former Yurok village that had been inhabited over 400 years before European contact according to archeological evidence presented at the trial.
Yurok elders issued a statement that "Disturbing burial sites is considered one of the most offensive crimes committed against Yurok ancestor. Yuroks are commonly buried with items that represented the personality of the deceased, while he or she was alive. These items follow them into the afterlife. If they are removed, it literally steals a part of the identity for the deceased on the other side."(Eureka Times Standard, March 20, 2009, September 15, 2009, October 24, 2009, Indianz.com)
Chuck Tanner is a co-coordinator of Borderlands Research and Education. Borderlands is committed to using strategic research to support indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights and environmental justice.
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