The videos, which have since been removed from the online sharing site, were instrumental in apprehending 30-year-old James Edward Truhls, who was booked into jail on suspicion of possession of stolen property, injury to historical objects and unlawful excavation of an American Indian site.
"In our hierarchy of crimes, you might say this ranks very, very high as one of the most despicable activities we can imagine," Yurok Tribe member Gene Brundin said.
Hall also found more videos online that were posted by the same user, one of which allegedly depicts Truhls showing off his collection of artifacts. In one scene, Hall said Truhls even picks up an arrowhead and says, "This is the one that gave me the itch for collecting."
Using the YouTube videos, Hall said he was able to pinpoint who was behind them. He said Truhls's face was visible in at least one of the videos, and with a search warrant, Hall was able to verify the IP address that was used to upload the content to the Web site.
For the Yurok Tribe, it's a crime that is considered one of the most offensive committed against ancestors.
”These items likely came from Yurok burial grounds and removing them from this sacred place is disrespectful and a violation of Yurok traditional law, as well as state and federal law,” Tribal Chairwoman Maria Tripp said in a prepared announcement.
Frank Lara, a member of the Yurok Tribe's Repatriation Committee, described the spiritual aspect of removing tools from a grave site. Say, he said, there's a crippled man whose job it is to make regalia, a responsibility that requires specific tools. When he dies, Lara said, he is buried with his tools so he may continue his work in the afterlife. Without the tools--such as when a looter steals them--the spirit wanders and doesn't belong anywhere.
Aren't these items priceless? Then let's give them a conservative value of $100,000 each. If you steal ten of them, you're as guilty as if you stole a million dollars' worth of diamonds. You go to jail for the same length of time.
For more on the subject, see US Ignores Indian Sites at Risk.
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