Property between Shishmaref and Wales designated by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act as a cemetery or historic site was looted this summer. The land belongs to the Bering Strait Native Corporation, which is currently working with federal agencies to determine the extent of the damage on its lands and to formulate methods for enforcement of statutes prohibiting such activity.
Disturbances on historic sites are far from uncommon. BSNC Vice President of Resources and External Affairs Matt Ganley said that each summer BSNC receives many calls about looting. Instances of looting have risen “exponentially” since 2010. “Unfortunately, within the past seven years, the pace of destruction has accelerated, with dozens of sites along the coast from Cape Wooley to Cape Espenberg being dug up,” Ganley wrote.
Affected lands include Native Allotments, National Park Land, Bureau of Land Management lands, and village and regional corporation properties. Several of these entities launched a program to fly over and document sites, which BSNC continues to do annually in heavily affected areas.
Ganley believes the increase in looting activity on federal lands and Native allotments since 2010 can be attributed in part to a lack of enforcement. Erosion caused by climate change compounds the problem.
Thawing permafrost and erosion caused by rising sea levels naturally uncover previously buried artifacts around Alaska. While this provides archeologists with the opportunity to learn about an area’s past, it also makes it easier for people to remove the newly visible items.
Since this particular site is on the Bering Sea coast, it is very vulnerable to erosion. However, Ganley notes…
click here to read more.