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3 arrested for disturbing indian burial site

March 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some of those arrowheads and artifacts you may come across could get you in trouble. In Ventura County, three men were arrested for disturbing an American-Indian burial site. Beyond the wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, there are treasures in the hills. The most cherished possessions of the Chumash Indians. Ventura County sheriff's deputies seized several items that were taken by suspected looters.

"Before they had the bow and arrows they actually made spears," said Deputy Julie Novak, Ventura County Sheriff's Dept.

Deputies displayed relics found with three Newbury Park men, Noah Erickson, John Watson and Fredrick Villela. A tip led deputies to private property in the coastal range where they say they found the men scavenging.

"They were very cooperative. They said they were collecting some things yet in the dark with flashlights," said Novak. "For them it was a hobby. They had been collecting and it had been in their family for generations."

There are legal ways to pursue archaeology as a hobby. This is not one of them. Scientific information is lost when objects are moved, said archeologists.

"It could be an object found we can't date," explained Professor Colleen Delaney-Rivera, Cal State Channel Islands.

The arrowheads were used to hunt elk, deer and marine mammals and are 1000 to 2000 years old. The beads show the Chumash travelled and traded with populations on Catalina and beyond.

"By finding out where artifacts come from we can see the population," said Rivera. "We are now finding Southern California beads in Colorado and the U.S. southwest."

The case has been turned over to the DA's office. The offenses are both misdemeanors and felonies. If convicted the suspects could serve time in prison. The incident is a warning to any hiker. Finding several items in one spot is a likely burial site, sacred to the Chumash and illegal to disturb.

"Enjoy it where you can see it but don't take it with you," said Rivera.