City of Redding staff is meeting with representatives of the Native community and two local non-profits to discuss possible changes to policy and security after a recent disruption of a Native burial site near Turtle Bay.
The grave robbing incident was reported on November 14, after April Carmelo, a Native educator, interrupted two men trespassing onto land in the Turtle Bay area that is known to contain ancestral remains. Carmelo has shared with the Redding Police Department and Shasta Scout, pictures of the men, who were actively digging when she interrupted them. She says one of the men had already acquired Native cultural items from the ground before being interrupted.
Both federal and state law protect the remains of Native ancestors. It’s a felony offense in the state of California to willfully obtain or possess the remains of ancestors or cultural items removed from burial sites.
Security staff that work for Turtle Bay Exploration Park were on-site immediately following the incident but did not report it to the Redding Police Department (RPD) until the 20th. A call log of that report to RPD shows that it was documented as a trespassing, rather than grave robbing incident.
Redding’s police chief, Bill Schueller, declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation into the incident. Michael Warren, President and CEO of Turtle Bay Exploration Park has not responded to several requests for comments on why security staff did not report the incident to police for almost a week.
The exact location where the incident occurred has not been revealed to protect the security of the site, but the Turtle Bay area includes land managed by three different entities, the city, the McConnell Foundation and Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Shannon Phillips, Chief Operating Officer for the McConnell Foundation says representatives of those organizations, and RPD, are meeting with the Native community to be clear on the location and jurisdiction of the grave robbing incident.
“With a shared understanding,” Phillips said, “We can be more thoughtful about mitigation measures and communication.
You can read the original reporting on the incident here. Shasta Scout will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they are available. Do you have a correction to this story? Let us know.