Sacred American Indian Site Harmed With Feds' OK

Officials ignored laws at Effigy Mounds monument: investigation

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 11, 2014 5:02 PM CDT

(Newser) – Over the course of a decade, one of the most sacred American Indian burial sites saw $3 million in construction—and though the projects were illegal, National Park Service officials approved them, the AP reports. Construction of trails and boardwalks at Effigy Mounds National Monument, in Iowa, required tribal approval and archeological investigation. But the park's former superintendent, Phyllis Ewing, and another official, Tom Sinclair, ignored such laws, documents released by the Park Service show.

The area, which contains 200 mounds linked to 12 tribes, was treated as a place "to walk your dog," a tribal leader says. Two of three boardwalks remain at the site; the construction was undertaken, Park Service workers say, to improve disabled access. In the process, artifacts were removed from the site. Ewing was fired in February—years after regional officials learned of the illegal activity in 2009. Sinclair has also left his position. A whistleblower-prompted investigation resulted in a 700-plus-page report which cites problems as early as 2001, National Parks Traveler notes. "We've tried to understand how a park can behave so badly. Wherever they had a chance to screw up, they did," a regional official said in 2011.

In this Nov. 8, 2010 file photo, hikers walk one of the trails at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa.   (AP Photo/The Des Moines Register, Justin Hayworth, File)
This Nov. 8, 2010 file photo shows the "Three Mounds" site at at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa.   (AP Photo/The Des Moines Register, Justin Hayworth, File)
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