Law enforcement pushing to end looting on tribal public lands

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Law enforcement needs help to identify looting on tribal and public lands after an increase in stolen Indian artifacts.

A first-of-its-kind symposium between Kumeyaay Nation tribal leaders and homeland security investigators was held Thursday in an attempt to raise awareness and combat the looting of artifacts on tribal lands.

The day-long symposium started with a traditional Tribal opening ceremony.

Law enforcement was able to return a clay plot to the Sycuan Band.

“A simple pot that represents so much historical presence here,” Cody Martinez, Sycuan Band Chairman of the Kumeyaay Nation said.

“We got a lead on a pot, it wasn’t stolen it was just found,” Dave Shaw HIS Special Agent-in-Charge said. “Tuned out it belonged to Sycuan band. We went out to the individual. He turned it back over to us and now we’re turning it back over to Sycuan.”

It is illegal to take artifacts from public and tribal lands.

“In the illicit trafficking world, behind narcotics, arms and human trafficking, cultural artifacts is right there,” Shaw said.

The cultural artifacts that we’re talking as it relates to the Kumeyaay Nation include stone, tools for cooking and hunting or collections of clay pots, which are sometimes used as urns.

“The criminal side for us is the trafficking, but a lot of it is people that find it on a treasure hunt, find it on the beach,” Shaw said.

Some end up being worth a lot of money, however most experts say you can’t put a price tag on the cultural and historical significance of such objects.

Law enforcement and tribal leaders hope the symposium raises an awareness that such objects are tangible links from a tribe’s past to their current population.

“These types of objects allow us to say physically this is how the people lived and these are actual things being pulled out of the ground to show our people to prove our history,” Martinez said. “It’s not just in the books.”

Categories: Local San Diego News