Two get jail term for artifacts offense
October 21, 2012
Two Southwest Colorado residents received short jail sentences Thursday for disturbing a burial site while hiking with a seniors’ group last year in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
The incident occurred May 7, 2011, in an area called Pedro Point, on Bureau of Land Management land north of Cortez.
Howard H. Drake, 76, of Silverton, was sentenced to 10 days in jail for picking up a human skull and showing it to a group of hikers.
Harry Hance, 81, of Montezuma County, was sentenced to three days in jail for helping organize the hikes.
They were facing a maximum of one year in jail for the misdemeanor charge.
Both men were handcuffed and led out of the courtroom to immediately begin serving their sentences. Magistrate David L. West oversaw the hearing.
Both were taking part in a hike with Seniors Outdoors!, a social club for active adults age 50 and older.
On at least three occasions, Drake and Hance led seniors on a four- or five-hour hike to view archaeological sites that culminated with a visit to a shallow grave where a skull was exposed.
An undercover officer with the BLM attended the hike in May 2011 and asked to see the skull.
Drake laid on the ground and dug up the skull using his hands and a stick and showed it to the group of four people, according to an arrest affidavit.
Drake said he would pick up the skull and show it to the group while discussing the ancient culture. He didn’t realize that by touching it and picking it up, it was considered excavating and removing under federal law, said his lawyer, Anthony Edwards of Silverton.
He never damaged or stole anything from the site, Edwards said.
Drake apologized for anyone he offended.
“I’m of Native American ancestry, and I’m very sorry about this,” he said through tears.
West asked Drake how many times he handled the skull and how he would feel if someone unburied and handled his mother’s skull.
“I assume I would be very, very upset,” he said. “I never thought about it.”
Drake has a master’s degree, a keen interest in science and was a lifelong teacher.
But he created his own set of rules to guide scientific discovery on public lands and “violated common decency,” West said.
Hance served as a volunteer site steward for Canyons of the Ancients, monitoring ancestral Puebloan sites to make sure artifacts were not damaged or stolen.
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