S. Lake Tahoe Man Charged After Destroying Native American Artifacts

Mar 4, 2019

A South Lake Tahoe man has been sentenced to jail time after illegally digging at a Native American archaeological site and destroying artifacts. KUNR’s Paolo Zialcita spoke to a Washoe Tribal member to learn more about the impact of this crime.

Timothy Brian Harrison was caught digging at two Native American archaeological sites. Authorities say he essentially destroyed these sites, after collecting tens of thousands of artifacts. 

Darrel Cruz is the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office director. He says that most, if not all, of Washoe Tribe’s archaeological sites have been ransacked.

“We try to take our youth to these places, so they have a cultural identity in that it builds a foundation that they know who they are,” Cruz said. “So, when he's taking away all these objects, he's pretty much taking away that ability for us to transmit that information to the youth.”

Cruz finds solace in knowing this crime will not go unpunished. He believes this case and its outcome is important for all tribal entities.

“This is not just related to the Washoe Tribe but all of the tribes across the country this has happened to. We're not just fighting for our tribe, but it's a fight for all the tribes across America,” Cruz said.

Despite the damage already being done, Cruz sees this as a learning opportunity. He is calling for a greater understanding and respect of Native American land.

“There's an opportunity to educate the public that stealing artifacts is wrong; it's illegal. You know, those objects belong there. It's part of our history, but it's the history of the United States,” Cruz said.

The destruction occurred on federal lands in Alpine and El Dorado Counties. Harrison faces a year in prison, in addition to a restitution fee of 113,000 dollars.