Angry Nez Perce tribal members say they want tougher penalties levied against people convicted of illegally digging up Indian artifacts.
Tribal leaders are irate because last Thursday a federal magistrate sentenced Richard R. Williams of Lewiston to a year's probation for illegally digging during 1988 at a historic site along the Clearwater River. Williams will perform 120 hours of community service. He will spend no time in jail and won't be fined.He had faced maximum penalties of up to a year in jail, a $10,000 fine or both for the misdemeanor crime. Williams was convicted in July by a jury in U.S. District Court at Moscow of knowingly digging, altering and damaging archaeological sites along the Clearwater River between July 1 and Nov. 28, 1988.
The sentence he received from U.S. Magistrate Stephen M. Ayers of Coeur d'Alene drew criticism from Nez Perce representatives, who called Monday for stiffer sentences for violators of laws protecting cultural resources.
"It's just mostly ignorance and disregard for these archaeological sites. They don't realize the importance of the data that could be extracted,' ' Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Allen V. Pinkham said at a hastily assembled news conference at the despoiled site.
Pinkham said NPTEC will press law enforcement and court officials to pursue such crimes more seriously and hand out strict punishment.
The tribe's effort will be assisted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, even though the bureau has no official jurisdiction in the Williams case. The site lies just west of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation boundary and is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We plan to help assist the tribe in achieving that," said Gordon E. Cannon, BIA superintendent at Lapwai.
Williams' sentence wasn't stiff enough to deter anyone from repeating the crime, Cannon said.