Oregon Department of Justice environmental crimes unit leads prosecution
A Coos County judge on Wednesday sentenced a North Bend man to five years of probation and fined him $2,000 for intentionally disturbing a Coos County archaeological site.
David Gieselman repeatedly excavated Native American archaeological objects from a site on the north shore of Coos Bay despite multiple warnings that it violated the law. Coos County Circuit Court Judge Michael Gillespie also ordered Gieselman to forfeit 12 tribal artifacts in his possession and prohibited him from entering any Oregon state park for five years.
The Oregon Department of Justice environmental crimes unit prosecuted the case. The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and the Coquille Indian Tribe played key roles.
"Because they tell a significant part of Oregon’s story, these resources are important to Oregon’s tribes and all Oregonians," said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "The Oregon Department of Justice is committed to working closely with the tribes to vigorously enforce the laws protecting these sites."
Oregon law states "a person may not excavate, injure, destroy or alter an archaeological site or object or remove an archaeological object located on public or private lands in Oregon unless that activity is authorized by a permit issued in accordance with State law."
Officials of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians twice came upon Gieselman digging at the site in February and May 2010 and warned him against further collecting. Later that year, the Oregon State Police searched his house and found 180 artifacts.
Gieselman was spotted again by an Oregon State Police trooper at the same site in February 2012. He had 12 artifacts on his person. The state subsequently filed criminal charges against Gieselman that he knowingly removed archaeological objects and knowingly disturbed an archaeological site.
A 6-person jury found Gieselman guilty of the charges on Jan. 11.
Chief Warren Brainard of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians addressed the court before Gieselman’s sentencing about the historical importance of these archaeological sites. "Our social order was broken, we lost our traditions, tribal ways, and our language was forbidden," he said. "Our way of life forever changed, our history was lost, stolen and changed to what our masters told the next generation. Our only true history is what can lawfully be recovered from undisturbed archaeological sites."
The site in question was a gathering place for local Native Americans. They fished there and may have built canoes as well. Archaeologists with the tribe and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department determined that the artifacts collected by Gieselman were traditional tribal tools.
"Archaeological sites are part of our living legacy," said Howard Crombie, natural resources department director for the Confederated Tribes. "They are messages from our ancestors to our children. When an archaeological site is destroyed, we lose part of our past, our future, and ourselves."
Oregon law puts tight protections on archaeological sites. It is a violation of state law to knowingly dig in an archaeological site even if the landowner has given permission. More information about sensitive sites and obtaining permits is available at http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/HCD/Pages/contact_us.aspx -- the website of the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department Heritage Programs.
"The resolution of this case and involvement of the state Justice Department clearly demonstrates the importance of protecting artifacts of ancient tribal cultures, said Brenda Meade, chair of the Coquille Indian Tribe. "It is a strong message to amateur archaeologists to follow the legal requirements and consult with state and tribal authorities when encountering historical and cultural sites."
Rosenblum thanked Patrick Flanagan, Senior Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, for his role in prosecuting the case
The 1053 member Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians is headquartered in Coos Bay. The Confederated Tribes operate a Cultural Resources Protection Program, Tribal Historic Preservation Office, and two museums.
Jeff D. Manning, email@example.com, 503-378-6002