A Kettle Falls man who collects historic artifacts was sentenced Tuesday for stealing American Indian artifacts from the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.
A federal judge sentenced Sandie R. McNeil, 45, to three years probation and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine and an additional $2,000 in restitution. The judge also ordered McNeil to serve 30 days home detention and banned him from the recreation area for three years.
According to court documents, McNeil took the artifacts from the area between June 2004 and April 2005.
In May 2005, federal agents found several protected artifacts in McNeil’s Kettle Falls home, including projectile points, stone weights and tools, stone flakes and a gun cartridge and flint. McNeil told a ranger he thought is was legal to remove the items.
The items taken were forfeited to the federal government. McNeil was not charged at that time and was allowed to go back to the park, where he had two more encounters with authorities.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice said that while the artifacts were not found on an American Indian reservation, “They would certainly be from the ancestral grounds of the Colville and/or the Spokane tribes.”
He said the artifacts will be forfeited to the federal government, and under the Archeological Resource Protection Act, will be repatriated to interested tribes.
The court found McNeil, who had no criminal record, has engaged in a “pattern of misconduct involving cultural heritage resources,” although rangers did not find any protected artifacts on McNeil during those encounters.
In court documents, McNeil’s lawyer, Roger J. Peven, described his client as a tire shop employee and a lifelong Kettle Falls resident who “has seriously pursued his passion for collecting historical artifacts there.”
“He knows the area as few do,” McNeil’s lawyer wrote. “He loves the area as few do.”
His lawyer added McNeil’s interest in historical artifacts was not financial and he never sought to profit from them.
“His reverence for the historical importance of Native American culture in Kettle Falls is every bit as sincere as the framers of these laws,” he wrote.
However, U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby said McNeil pillaged Native Americans’ history and cultural sites and his actions are “reprehensible.”
“It is nothing less than stealing the cultural heritage of our ancestors,” Ormsby said in a prepared statement.
It is a federal crime to excavate, remove, damage, alter or deface any archaeological resources and sites that are in protected areas. Protected resources include all archaeological remains of past human life or activities that are at least 100 years old.
World staff writer K.C. Mehaffey contributed to this report.