fbpx
 

BROWNING, Mont. — On Oct. 3, an employee for the Museum of the Plains Indian on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont. pleaded guilty to stealing Native American artifacts from the museum, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana.

The museum is managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board. As a result, the crime is being investigated as “theft of government property” and the employee, 31-year-old Preston Jay Spotted Eagle, faces a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The theft was originally discovered in August 2021, when a museum curator noticed that a grizzly bear claw necklace was missing from the display that Spotted Eagle had recently been assigned to inventory. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was charged with investigating, and “a review of security system video ultimately led to Spotted Eagle,” according to the Department of Justice. The necklace, upon return, was significantly damaged, a museum employee noted in the report.

Further investigation and a renewed inventory from the museum identified additional missing items, including loose bear claws, moccasins, a war bonnet, and 26 golden eagle feathers.

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 
 

“The investigation further determined that Spotted Eagle removed artifacts, photographed them with his cell phone and tried on [a] historic clothing item, some of which were very old and delicate,” the Department of Justice wrote. “Spotted Eagle also rummaged through many sacred bundles.”

The government’s appraisal of the damaged and lost items amounts to more than $11,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, with sentencing set for Feb. 8, 2023. Spotted Eagle was released pending further proceedings.

More Stories Like This

CASTING CALL: Do You Want to Play Jim Thorpe in an Upcoming Feature Film?
Here's What’s Going On in Indian Country: Dec. 1 —Dec. 8
Five More Native Americans Who Shaped Culture
Producers of Jim Thorpe Movie Select Mohawk Citizen Tracey Deer to Direct Film
Five Native Americans Who Shaped American Culture

Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news? 

For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $25 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected]