Birch bark texture.

Ahtna Kanas Spring 2022

Help Protect Ahtna’s Cultural Resources

By Taña Finnesand, Cultural Resource Technician, AI Land Department

What is a cultural resource? A cultural resource can include an archeological site, artifact, old structure, or even a natural feature that is significant to a group of people traditionally associated with it. Copper River people’s cultural resources leave an extraordinary record of their remarkable heritage. This heritage is often threatened by construction work, looters, vandals, or people who pick up and take home artifacts. When artifacts are stolen and archeological sites are destroyed, important clues and reminders about the past are gone forever. This lost history hurts all Ahtna people.

There are laws to protect artifacts and sites on federal, state and Native American lands.

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) protects against looting, vandalism and other harmful acts on public lands, Indian lands and private land. Section 6(c) prohibits interstate or international sale, purchase, or transport of any archeological resource excavated or removed in violation of a state or local law, ordinance, or regulation. First-time felony offenders can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for up to one year. Second-time felony offenders can be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for up to 5 years. Section 8(b) of the statute allows the court or civil authority to punish convicted violators through forfeiture of vehicles and equipment used in the violation of the statute.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) addresses human remains, prohibiting the intentional excavation and removal of Native American human remains and certain cultural property from federal or tribal lands without a permit and without consultation with or permission from Indian Tribes when required.

Finally, artifact looting and disturbance of cultural and archeological properties are governed by Alaska state laws. Protections are strongest for burials. AS 11.46.482(a)(3), enacted in 2001, provides that the “intentional and unauthorized destruction or removal of any human remains or the intentional disturbance of a grave” by an unauthorized person is a class C felony. Theft of artifacts and desecration of cultural sites are subject to penalties under trespass and property laws.

Leave the artifacts where you find them! Please don’t pick it up, move it, bury it or take it home. Note where you are. Take a picture of the artifact where you found it.