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Leave artifacts where they lie

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s aboriginal territory spanned nearly 4 million acres across the region. For thousands of years, our ancestors before us centered their lives on Lake Coeur d’Alene and its tributaries, leaving evidence of their lives in the region. Our tribe works hard to preserve our cultural resources and we are very concerned by those in our community who use metal detectors to search for and potentially remove historic artifacts from the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

We know there are many in our community who do not understand the damage that is done when an artifact is removed. Furthermore, we know many people may be unaware that it is illegal, so we’d like to take this opportunity to correct the misinformation that is out there.

Removing artifacts from public lands throughout Idaho, including the shores and bottom of Lake Coeur d’Alene, is illegal, thanks to a number of tribal, state and federal laws that prohibit the removal of historic artifacts from public lands. For example, Idaho state code prohibits looting on public lands, so those searching the lake bottom near Coeur d’Alene are breaking state law. And those looting in tribal waters or on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation may be subject to tribal or federal laws that protect historic artifacts. One such law that often applies on federal lands is the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, which was put into place to protect public archeological sites. To avoid criminal charges, do not take or remove artifacts including bottles, tin cans, arrowheads, etc. from public lands and do not use a stick or a tool to dig, probe or remove any artifact from the ground.

Violators may be prosecuted and may be subject to fines and jail time. In fact, just a few years ago, there was a man who was arrested in Newport, Wash., for looting and for illegally possessing and selling historic artifacts he had taken from public lands and Indian reservations over a period of several decades. 

We encourage everyone to get more information from state, tribal or federal historic preservation offices. One opportunity to learn more is through an exhibit opening this week at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene. “Many Cultures, One World” will explore the culture and history of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and features artifacts such as saddles, regalia and various other items. Our tribe’s Culture and Language Departments plan to offer several workshops at HREI this spring and summer to supplement the exhibit, including workshops on beading, weaving, and archeology and artifacts. In addition, please join us and North Idaho College for “The Facts on Artifacts” on Tuesday, Feb. 19, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Driftwood Bay Room in the Edminster Student Union Building. State and tribal officials will be present to talk about the historical importance of artifacts found in the area and answer any questions.

In the meantime, the tribe would be happy to provide additional resources to answer any questions and we hope in the future everyone will be aware of the cultural implications and laws that prohibit looting and collecting artifacts. To reach the tribe’s Culture Department, call (208) 686-1800.

Chief Allan is a Coeur d’Alene Tribal member and the chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.


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